We are beginning siman 10. The Chayei Adam writes that it is a mitzvah to wash one’s entire body and be tovel in a mikvah in preparation for Shabbos. Neither the Shulchan Aruch nor Mishnah Berurah mention tevillah here (siman 260), but in hilchos Tisha B’av (siman 551) the Mishnah Berurah mentions those who have a minhag to be tovel on erev Shabbos and what they should do during the nine days. While the Mishnah Berurah seems to assume tevilah depends on a person’s minhag, the Chayei Adam seems to hold that anyone who has the opportunity to be tovel should do so.
The Chayei Adam wrote a sefer on hilchos Shabbos called Zichru Toras Moshe. It parallels many ideas written here, but is written in a different style. There, he discusses the concept of tevilah as well. It is interesting to note that although many assume the concept of tevilah on erev Shabbos is a chassidish concept, the Aruch Hashulchan mentions it as well.
A story is told about Rav Elchonon Wasserman hyd. He was tovel in a mikvah every erev Shabbos, and people once asked him why he did so. He said that if tevilah in a mikvah has the power to take someone who is not Jewish and make them Jewish, and that is the final step of the geirus process, it must certainly help our neshama in some way.
That being said, many do not have this minhag, but it is clearly something which is not limited to the chassidish community.
Either way, the halachic requirement is rechitza, washing oneself. The primary chiyuv is to wash one’s entire body in warm water. If the situation is such that a person does not have water, or only minimal water, they should minimally wash their face, hands and feet. The Chayei Adam mentions feet because he is discussing a place in which people tended to walk barefoot. Some poskim suggest that nowadays, where we wear shoes, this point does not apply. When one is washing their entire body, the discussion about feet is irrelevant, but if one does not have water, it would apply.
The Chayei Adam continues, and writes that it is a mitzvah to shampoo one’s hair, and to cut one’s fingernails for Shabbos. There is a preference in halacha to cut one’s nails on erev Shabbos, rather than earlier in the week, because they will begin growing back if one cuts them earlier in the week. The Mishnah Berurah points out that it is inappropriate to cut one’s nails on Thursday, because that is clearly an affront to Shabbos.
One rationale for this is based on the Gemara that, according to one opinion, the material used to cover Adam and Chavah before they sinned was the same material as our nails. Since Chavah was the instigator of the cheit, the nails act as a reminder of the cheit. When a woman becomes pregnant, since pregnancy is one of the punishments for the cheit, the presence of nails acts as an accuser against the woman, and it can cause her to lose her pregnancy, chas veshalom. Therefore, one should remove the nails once they have been cut. The Gemara says that one who keeps cut nails around is called a rasha. One who destroys them by burning or burying them is a tzaddik. The assumption of the poskim is that flushing them down the toilet is equivalent to burying them. The Gra writes that the concern for the danger associated with the nails only applies in the place where the nails fall. If they are subsequently swept away, they do not cause danger and there is no concern. Although this concept is esoteric, the source for this concern is the Gemara, rather than the Zohar.
The Chayei Adam writes that one should not cut both the nails of the fingers and toes on the same day. This is based on the Gemara as well, the reason being that it is akin to the preparation of a deceased individual (taharah), whose fingernails and toenails are cut at the same time in preparation for kevurah. Therefore, it is appropriate for a living person to separate them, and cut the toenails on Thursday and fingernails on Friday.
- One is required to wash their entire body for Shabbos, but minimally their face and hands if they do not have water.
- It is appropriate to tovel in a mikvah if possible
- One should cut their fingernails and toenails for Shabbos. However, one should not cut both on the same day, so they should cut their toenails on thursday and fingernails on erev Shabbos.
- One should be careful to destroy the nails after cutting them.
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