Holy bathroom talk, that would be an appropriate summary of the Ben Ish Ḥai’s discussion for this week’s parashah. Much of his discussion is based upon Kabbalistic sources, so if you are interested in Kabbalistic interpretations of body parts and functions associated with the bathroom, you can read more here.
One of the issues that the Ben Ish Ḥai discussed was names that it is forbidden to mention in a bathhouse because they include the name of God. He brings three examples, one the name Shalom, another the Arabic name Abdalla, and the third Shabbat.
ויזהר במרחץ שלא יזכיר שם אדם הנקרא שלום או אדם הנקרא עבד אליה״ה שהוא שם שמים בשלשון ערבי וכן לא יזכיר שם שבת…
One should be careful in the bathhouse not to mention the name of a person who is called “Shalom” or a person who is called “Abdallah,” which is the name of heaven in Arabic, and also one shouldn’t mention the name “Shabbat.”
Coincidentally, this week on H-Judaic there was a discussion about Jews with the name Abadalla in Medieval Egypt and Yona Sabar wrote the following:
I can answer only partly: Yes, Abdalla (Arabic “Servant of God”) or shorter forms, Abdal, were very common among the Jews of Iraq, e,g. the famous Chief Rabbi, Abdalla Somekh (1813-1889). Among Iranian Jews, other such names (e.g., Izzatullah “Glory of God”) are common. After emigrating to Israel, Many Abdallahs changed their name to Ovadyah.
And guess what, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef was named after Rabbi Abadalla Somekh.
In Halichot Olam Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef addressed a number of issues, two of which I will mention. The first is the difference between the bathrooms of late antiquity and bathrooms today. The question is whether all of the laws that applied to bathrooms in the Talmud are still applicable today. Numerous authorities have wondered whether modern plumbing and hygeine affects the halakhah. Rav Ovadiah wrote that “הרוצה להקל לדבר בבית הכסא שבזמנינו…יש לו על מה לסמוך,” (“Someone who wants to be lenient and speak in the bathroom in our day…he has [sources] on which he can rely.”)
Another issue discussed by Rav Ovadiah is kevod ha-briyot, the dignity of the individual. The specific question is whether a person should refrain from urinating even when they cannot find a bathroom in order to locate a more appropriate place to relieve themselves. The Ben Ish Ḥai described how someone should urinate in a location that is less than private because in his opinion holding it in was dangerous. Rav Ovadiah wrote that:
ולפע״ד בזמן הזה שרבים חושבים זאת למיעוט דרך ארץ, ויש מקומות שמונעים זאת בחזקת רשות הרבים, אדם שממתין קצת למצוא מקום צנוע, אין בזה איסור, שגדול כבוד הבריות.
In my humble opinion, in the present day when many see this as inappropriate, and there are also places that forbid this in public, a person who waits until he finds a modest location, there is no prohibition, since the dignity of the individual is great.