One of the issues of air travel is how one can wash his hands for eating bread. For one thing, you need a keli for netillas yadayim of bread: there are those that say that a disposable kli is no good (see Sharei HaBracha 2:3, but see Teshuvos Igros Moshe OC III 39 who is mattir, and Halacha Berura 159-3). But the main problem is that the bathroom on a plane might have the halacha of a beis hakisei, which means you can't wash there. On the contrary, walking in there mandates washing one's hands after walking out. So how do you wash on a plane? Some say to dry your hands outside the bathroom, since the drying is the more important part of the process. This does not appeal to me at all. Even if the drying is important, that doesn't make it like a netilla. Some say it's not a problem at all. Others say you should wash in the galley. There is no generally accepted halacha on this matter. For example, here's what the OU says:
What does one do on an airplane? If possible, netilas yadayim should be performed in the galley. If, this is not feasible, contemporary poskim (note 12) have ruled that netilas yadayim may be performed in a bathroom, when no other options are available. Drying of the hands and recitation of the brochah should be done outside the bathroom.
Minchas Yitzchok, wI. 1, #60, IInd wi. 4, #/36, and Yabiya Omer, vol. 3, #1.
On the other hand, here is what the Koph K says:
Many poskim say that the bathroom on an airplane does not have the same status as a regular bathroom in a house or office. Therefore, one may wash his hands for a meal there. (note 17) Similarly, one who went into the bathroom to get something (and did not use the facilities) would not be required to wash his hands upon exiting the bathroom. (note 18)
Maharam Brisk 1:117, Eretz Tzvi 1:110-111, Masef Lechul Hamachanus 4:96, Chelkes Yaakov 1:205, see 2:174, Minchas Yitzchok 1:60, 4:36, Darchei Chaim V’sholom 91;page 35, Be’er Mordechai 1:1, Be’er Moshe kuntres electric 7:114:8, Rivevos Ephraim 2:6, Halichos Shlomo Tefilla 20:24, Ohr L’tzyion 2:1:10, Sheiros Yosef 1:4:20, Minchas Gidiyon 2:9:page 175:footnote 22, V’ihiy B’nsoa 1:10:page 6:footnote 17, V’yan Yosef 1:2, Sharei Ha’beracha 1:foootntoe 112. The V’lechticha B’derech 8:2:footnote 68 says one should cover the seat beforehand. Some say the bathroom on an airplane has the same dinim as the bathroom in one’s house
Ohr L’tzyion 2:1:10, see Nekius V’kovod B’tefilla page 14:14
So the poskim at the OU advise to view the airplane facilities as more chamur than a bathroom in a house, and the Koph K advise the opposite. I tend toward the OU's opinion. To avoid the entire issue, here's what I suggest.
Eat less than a kezayis within kdei achilas pras, and you won't have to wash at all.
In other words: The din of washing for bread is associated with a concern of imparting tuma to the bread. Bread smaller than a certain volume is not susceptible to Tumah. Therefore, there is no requirement to wash before eating such bread. Practically speaking, the amount is a kezayis, and only if eaten within kedei achilas pras. The Mishna Berura says (158 SK 10) that lechatchila, one should wash without a bracha. The Aruch Hashulchan says (158:3) that even lechatchila you can eat without washing. It's funny, though, that the Aruch Hashulchan paskens that way partly because it seems to him that the oilem does that way. What a different oilem he had: in our day, not one in fifty knows about the difference between a kezayis and less than a kezayis for Netilas Yadayim.
So: practically, this is how it goes. Set aside less than a kezayis. The definition of kezayis should be easy to remember from the seder. Eat it, and wait a ke'dei achilas pras. How long is ke'dei achilas pras? Reb Moshe holds that nine minutes should be used for Yom Kippur because of the terrible chumra of Yom Kippur, but he holds that the shiur is most likely three minutes. So it's up to you. I would say three minutes is fine for the derabanan of netillas Yadayim. My father in law says you should wait the entire nine. On the other hand, you have Rabbi Heineman's shittah, that a kezayis is the size of a golf ball, and achilas pras is two minutes.
One might argue that eating other foods along with the bread extends the time of kedei achilas pras, or is added to the bread to be called a kezayis. But Reb Moshe holds, as is assumed in my suggestion, that kedei achilas pras is for the bread alone, irrespective of what is eaten along with it.
I know that not every halacha should be publicized. For example, if your shul gets to mussaf at a time that you can already daven mincha, the halacha is that you should daven mincha first and then mussaf, but Rabanim do not tell people to do that, because it will confuse and perplex them, since they're not familiar with the dinim of tadir and so forth. Here too, maybe it's not good to tell people that you don't have to wash for less than a kezayis, because it will diminish the importance of netillas yadayim. Baruch hashem the people I have to worry about stopped reading this a long time ago.
On the subject of eating, I would like to share a story from my time in Israel, in the style of Damon Runyon.
At two thirty in the morning, I find myself awake due to my wife looking for her antacids. Although she is trying to be quiet, I am not sleeping soundly anyway. We do not find the antacids, and as I know how unpleasant an acid stomach is, I gallantly insist, over her strenuous protest, that I go out to a 24 hour store not far from the hotel and get some Rolaids or whatever they have there. So, at three in the morning I am standing in the SOS 24 on George Washington off Keren Hayesod. I look and look, but no luck. Actually, there was some luck, but it is only the kind you wish upon your parole officer. The clerk speaks almost no English. You have to visualize this: it is chilly, and he is behind the counter, half asleep, possibly stoned, with a Russian winter aviator's hat with flaps hanging down over his ears. I try to explain what I want with what I am thinking is my perfectly adequate Hebrew. But how do you say antacid pills in Hebrew? So I start to slowly and clearly explain to this befuddled clerk that I am in need of something נגד חמצן . I choose this word because I recall that acid, in Hebrew, is חמצן. He is looking at me oddly, and I see that I have to make myself clearer, so I say I need pills. I need פילים נגד חמצן. It is clear that I am not getting through, so I try again- I need- not פילים... I need טילים! I need טילים נגד חמצן! This does not clear things up at all. So I give up and go to another 24 hour store, and I strike out again, so I just buy apple sauce and cottage cheese, which helps a little. I later realize that I am expending a great deal of energy trying to explain to the poor clerk that I want anti-oxygen elephants. Or, if not elephants, then missiles. Anti-oxygen missiles. Or, you might say, anti-aircraft missiles. For my wife's stomach.
For future reference, pills are כדורים and acid is חומצה. Is it my fault that oxygen and acid are so close?
Anyway, here's a picture of two of the characters from this week's post: