Speaking Torah in Unclean Places

  1. It is permitted to say words of Torah and kiddushah before
    a garbage can from which there issues no bad smell if it is ten tefachim high
    (which sets it apart as a separate domain) and if the garbage is not visible,
    as when it is contained in plastic bags. The garbage can itself is not
    considered unclean and offensive.

  2. If a bad smell issues form a garbage can, a person is not
    permitted to say words of Torah unless he is standing at least four amos from
    the point from which the smell is not noticeable. According to the Grach,
    four amos is 1.92 meters. According to the Chazon Ish it is 2.32 meters. A
    person whose ability to smell is impaired because, for example, he has a cold,
    is forbidden to say words of Torah, just as he would be if he could smell
    normally.

  3. When there is no bad smell and the garbage can is covered,
    it is permitted to say words of Torah while standing next to it even if the
    garbage be seen through the covering. But if it is not covered, since it is
    likely that there is a diaper in it, it is considered like a shovel of
    excrement and it is forbidden to talk Torah within four amos of it. (It makes
    no difference that the diaper has its own plastic wrapping, for it is part of
    the diaper.) Even though it is sufficient to be four amos away when the
    garbage can is to the side, it is best to stand so that it is four amos
    behind. A person who is facing the garbage can must be far enough away so that
    he does not see the garbage can. At night, when a person does not see so well,
    he must stand as far away from it as he would during the day. The distance
    required is determined by the sight of an ordinary person. Turning away or
    closing the eyes does not allow a person to stand any closer. Also, a person
    whose eyes are weak cannot stand any closer.

  4. If the garbage can is viewed from an open window, the
    Rashba is machmir (and we follow this ruling) and forbids speaking Torah even
    though the garbage can is in a separate domain. But in case of dire need it is
    permissible if a person closes his eyes or if it is nighttime, if he cannot
    turn away. But if the window is closed, speaking Torah is permitted, even
    though the garbage can is visible. The glass creates the necessary separation.
    Eyeglasses cannot do that because they are worn and—like clothing—considered
    part of his body. That is why there is no reason to remove glasses for reading
    the Torah and saying Kiddush Lavana.

  5. Wherever it is forbidden to say words of Torah, it is
    forbidden to have Torah thoughts. Similarly, it is forbidden to say Shalom
    because it is a name of G-d. Nevertheless, it is permitted to contemplate the
    existence and the greatness of G-d.

  6. It is permitted to talk Torah before a child who is
    clothed, even if his diaper may be dirty, so long as there is no bad odor.
    Similarly, it is permitted to answer “amen” to his blessings.

  7. If a person who is standing in an unclean place where he is
    forbidden to speak Torah, hears the blessings recited by someone who is
    standing in a place that is clean, he may answer “amen” if he is not
    fulfilling an obligation to recite a blessing through the recitation of the
    other. If he is, he may not say “amen” because, in that case, it would be
    as though he were reciting the blessing.