The Jewish Rules of Pooping | Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes

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This piece is a part of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Notes Series.

Just warning: you’re about to read about pooping, peeing, farting, and nakedness. Yep, the Jewish law of farts is real. Proceed with caution.

Siman/Chapter 4 & 5

I love that there are chapters of halacha (daily ritual Jewish law) about poop, pee, farts, and nakedness. Say hello to chapter four and five of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch! Man, I love studying Jewish texts. Nothing is off limits.


Chapter 4

  • It’s best to poop in the morning.
  • Don’t hold in your pee.
  • Don’t mess around in the bathroom. It’s a place of business.
  • Don’t poop in a crowd, though you can pee in a crowd…because you shouldn’t hold your pee. (Gee, I hope the music festival people don’t find out about this.)
  • Don’t poop standing straight up. Wow, ok.
  • Don’t push too hard when you poop or you could hurt yourself.
  • Don’t pee on your shoes.
  • Don’t even THINK about Torah in the bathroom. Think about business dealings instead…unless it’s Shabbat…then think “of interesting events that you saw or heard.”
  • Don’t say holy things with a dirty butt.
  • If you’re right-handed, wipe your butt with your left hand. If you’re left-handed, vice versa.
  • When you’re done, wash your hands and say asher yatzar, aka: the “Thanks for allowing me to poop and therefore continue living” blessing (I’m paraphrasing, obviously).
  • You don’t need to say that blessing if you think you have diarrhea…because you’ll be baaaack.

Chapter 5

  • Flush the dang toilet. (Ok, it literally says to bury what you did, but I think flushing is the modern equivalent.) 
  • Don’t even think about holy things if you’re somewhere where it stinks.
  • Wash your pee off of stuff you pee on.
  • Don’t say holy things while you have poop or pee on your clothes.
  • Don’t say holy things if poop is anywhere on you…unless you have chronic hemorrhoids. (Because people would start to wonder why you’re so quiet?)
  • Don’t pray in a house where there is poop in the attic. (Was this a problem back in the day?)
  • Poopy infant diapers aren’t as gross as human poopy stuff…unless the baby has started eating solid food…then watch out (can confirm).
  • Stay away from poop or dead stuff…even if it doesn’t stink.
  • If you find poop in your synagogue, you can’t pray until it’s removed.
  • If you unknowingly prayed in a synagogue that contained poop, the prayers need to be said again in a place without poop. However, if it’s just pee…eh, you’re fine.
  • If someone farts, they can’t pray until the fart cloud dissipates.
  • If someone else farts while you’re studying Torah, you can continue to study through their fart cloud. (But that’s gotta kill the vibe, ya know?)
  • Stay away from the bathroom or bedpans made of wood or earthenware while praying, but clean metal or glass bedpans are ok.
  • Don’t say or even think about holy things while in the shower.
  • Don’t talk about holy things while you’re naked or you’re around nakedness…even if your eyes are closed.
  • The more traditional interpretation of this lumps women’s singing voices together with nakedness…but really? Still, you can pray if you hear women’s “naked” singing voices…as long as you concentrate really hard.
  • This last one, I don’t quite know what it means: “If your heart sees your own nakedness, even if your private parts were covered, as when wearing a robe, it is also forbidden to recite any sacred text. You must either wear trousers, which cling to your body, or put on a belt, or place your arms against your robe, in order to create a separation between your heart and your nakedness. A woman is not required to do this.” So, don’t look at your own nakedness…with your heart?

There are two reasons why I structured this post in this way:

  1. I find bodily functions hilarious. Poop jokes, fart jokes — I still laugh. I guess that makes me tremendously immature.
    Even though most of these guidelines can go unspoken, they are discussed anyways.
  2. There is no part of our lives that isn’t subject to intentionality (even if we’re intentionally trying to spark a chuckle with a poop joke). When we start to do things solely because it seems like the way they should be done, we run the risk of living aimless, profane lives.

The word “holy” comes from the Hebrew word “kadosh” — “set apart.” Purposeful. Intentional. I know it sounds slightly juvenile, but when we mix our discussions on our most treasured concepts with sitting on the toilet, they’re no longer set apart. They’re bathroom chatter. Then the holiness is gone.

And you never really appreciate what you’ve got until its gone.
Exhibit A: toilet paper.

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