Exodus 30: 19 And Aharon and his sons will wash their hands and feet from it.
Gemora Zvevachim (21a) From it and not “in it”.
Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #33:
If the Cohanim [priests] were to place their hands inside the laver and [wash their hands by] shaking them, this would be unacceptable. Read the Tosafot in Gemora Chullin 107a where Tosafot quote the Baal Halachos Gedolos as saying that if one were to wash one’s hands for eating in this manner [inserting your hands in the washing cup and shaking them], that would be acceptable. The reason for the difference between the Cohen’s washing [kiddush yadaim] and washing for eating is due to our posuk explicitly saying “from it” meaning absolutely not “in it”. However, regarding the washing for eating there is no posuk and therefore no exclusion regarding “in it”.
However, Tosafot argue with the Baal Halachos Gedolos and say that he is wrong. They say this because, in their opinion, the reason why “in it” is not acceptable for the Cohanim is because washing must be done intentionally by a person’s actions (koach gavra). Further Tosafot state that shaking one’s hands within the laver would not constitute “person’s actions.” Tosafot state that perhaps the Baal Halachos Gedolos is of the opinion that the Cohanim’s washing does not require “person’s actions”. This issue of whether the Cohanim’s washing must be done by a person’s actions is the discussion [argument] between Rabbi Yehuda and the Rabbanim in the Gemora. The Rabbanim think that “person’s actions” is not required; and Tosafot say that the Baal Halachos Gedolos must agree with the Rabbanim. However, the understanding of this section of the Gemora is that the halacha is according to Rabbi Yehuda.
Note that in the Orach Hachim Section 159, subsection 7[VALIDATE THIS] the decision is that in the case of a dire need it would be allowable to rely on the Baal Halachos Gedolos. Look also in the Taz and the Magen Avraham.
It seems to me [however] that the Baal Halachos Gedolos thinks that in this case [of shaking one’s hands within the vessel] is also called “person’s actions”. [Really], what difference would it make if he pours the water over his hands or puts his hands into the vessel and shakes them? Isn’t it so that in either case the washing that results is from a person’s actions?
However, when water flows of its own without any action by anyone at the time of the pouring such as from a drainpipe or a faucet[it would not be called ‘washing as a result of a person’s actions.] The proof [that putting your hands and shaking them in a vessel] and shaking them is called “person’s actions” is from the fact that if the washing for the Cohanim absolutely requires “person’s actions” why would I need the posuk to explicitly say “from it” when I would have known logically [that putting one’s hands in the laver and shaking them is unacceptable.] Therefore, we have to conclude that certainly putting one’s hands in the laver and shaking them is called “person’s actions” according to the rationale that we described above. Therefore, you need the posuk to explicitly teach us that nevertheless, this method is unacceptable for the Cohanim.
Please note that the Beis Yosef in his Orach Chaim Section 4 mentions that the Rashba also agreed with the Baal Halachos Gedolos.
The Rashba says as follows, “shaking one’s hands inside of a vessel whether for morning [prayers] or for eating is acceptable as we see from the posuk that says that for the Cohanim they must wash ‘from it’ and not ‘in it.’ Hence we can conclude that in general [not relating to the Cohanim in the temple] it is acceptable to shake one’s hands inside a vessel. “
Regarding this Rashba, the Beis Yosef comments that from the fact that he explicitly mentions morning prayers, we see that the Rashba would not find this method acceptable for the initial washing that a person does in the morning upon waking to remove the bad spirit. In fact, for the initial washing it is only acceptable to pour water on one’s hands three times [each.] The Shulchan Aruch also agrees with this.
In my opinion, however, this requires further investigation. If the Rashba meant that shaking one’s hands in a vessel is acceptable for prayer, and the source for washing for prayer is from the Cohanim and yet the Rashba permits shaking one’s hands in a vessel for prayer since the comparison with the Cohanim is only a hint and a general sign [I cannot understand why it would not also be acceptable for the initial washing in the morning.] This requires further investigation.
Editor’s Note: It seems to me that the Torah Temimah’s logic in this note is crystal clear and disagrees with the logic of the Tosafot. To me this illustrates how it is that Talmudic learning continues to excite and motivate students even after thousands of years.