We have finished siman 2, in which the Chayei Adam listed some examples of the proper age to begin chinuch in specific mitzvos. We have discussed the examples of lulav, talmud torah, birchas hamazon, brachos in general, kiddush, shema and tefillah. Today, we will discuss netilas yadayim; specifically what we know as negel vasser.
We left off with a question regarding the chiyuv chinuch for ketanim to wash netilas yadayim. The Shulchan Aruch discusses the halachos of netilas yadayim in siman 4, where he mentions the concept of ruach raah, and the opinions of the Rosh and Rashba. In his mahadura tinyana, the Shulchan Aruch Harav discusses ketanim. He mentions the concerns of Chazal, as brought in the Shulchan Aruch. He adds that when someone has ruach raah on their hands, it is a problem for them to touch an opening on their body and to touch food, as found in the Gemara.
However, the Shulchan Aruch Harav writes that one does not need to be concerned about non-Jews who have not washed their hands touching food, because ruach raah only rests on a place where there was kedusha which departed and created a vacuum. The body of a Jew, which merits a nishmas yisroel, has a high level of kedusha, and is therefore more attractive to the ruach raah when the neshama leaves (to a certain extent) overnight. When the neshama returns in its full form in the morning, the tumah leaves but remains on the fingers. A non-Jew, who does not have the same level of kedusha, does not receive any ruach raah from the void of its neshama overnight, so, inherently, there are no remainders on their fingers when they awake.
The Shulchan Aruch Harav continues, and adds that for the above reason, we are lenient on a katan who has not yet reached chinuch. When a child is under the age of chinuch, they do not have the same level of kedusha as even a katan who has reached the age of chinuch. He explains that the primary point at which the neshama joins the guf, and infuses it with its special kedusha, is bar or bas mitzvah, when a child becomes chayav in mitzvos. It follows, therefore, that when a child becomes chayav in chinuch, they receive some level of kedusha as well. In other words, chinuch begins the process of the neshama further attaching itself to the guf in a way which brings more kedusha into the guf. Therefore, before the age of chinuch, we are not concerned about a child who has not washed netilas yadayim
The Shulchan Aruch Harav points out that at the time of the bris milah, the child also receives an increase in kedusha. Therefore, if one wishes to be makpid to wash their child’s hands from their bris milah, it would be incredibly praiseworthy and pious, but it is not a chiyuv.
This is the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch Harav, and the poskim follow it as halacha.
One does not have to wash their child’s hands in the morning until they are of the age of chinuch. If one wishes to do so even before the age of chinuch, it is praiseworthy, but one does not need to be careful about doing it as soon as the child wakes up.