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Washing the Hands in the Morning

Washing the Hands in the Morning


1. Because every morning one must rededicate himself to the service of G‑d, he must purify himself and wash his hands out of a vessel, just as the Priest was commanded to do prior, to his service in the Holy Temple.

2. Another reason is this: When a man is asleep, the unclean spirit comes down upon it. When he rises from his sleep, the unclean spirit does not depart completely unless he spills water on his hands three times alternately.

3. One is not permitted to walk four cubits1 before washing his hands.

4. Before his morning hand-washing, one must not touch his mouth, nose, eyes, ears, anus; nor his clothes; nor any food; nor any place where a vein is open.

5. The hands are washed in the following manner:

a) The water filled vessel is taken in the right hand and placed in the left.

b) Water is poured on the right hand and then on the left hand.

c) Repeat twice. (Altogether each hand is washed three times: right, left, right, left, right, left.)

6. The water should be poured as far as the wrist except on Tisha b’Av and the day of Atonement, when the water should cover the fingers only.

7 One must also wash his face, and rinse his mouth of saliva, since he must utter G‑d’s name- in purity.

8. Then, he should dry his hands, and carefully dry his face.

9. One must wash his hands into a vessel only, and not direct onto the ground.

10. The water used for washing must not be used for any other purpose, but must be spilled in a place where people do not go.

11. The hands should be washed by human effort. That is that he himself or some other person spill the water upon his hands.

12. If another person is pouring the water over his hands, that person must have washed his hands first.

13: If there is a river or a sea nearby, he could dip his hands therein three times, and recite the blessing.

14. In the latter instance, if the person found water later, he should wash his hands properly, omitting the benediction.

15. A man must worship G‑d in purity. Therefore, he is forbidden to pray until he has moved his bowels and urine.

16. Therefore, upon washing the hands, one should not pronounce the benediction, unless he has already cleaned himself. After leaving the toilet he washes his hands again and makes the benediction.

17. In the following cases, a person should wash his hands, but should not make the benediction:

a) If he awoke during the night, washed his hands, and said the benediction — after dawn the hands should be washed again (whether he slept again in the interim or not) but the blessing is not repeated.

b) Similarly, if he stayed awake the whole night, in the morning the hands are washed without the recitation of a blessing.

c) If he slept a half hour or more during the day.

18. The hands must be washed on the following occasions, but it need not be in the above mentioned manner of three alternating pours:

a) On awaking from a daytime nap.

b) On leaving the lavatory or bath, even if he did not use them.

c) On cutting the nails.

d) After hair-cutting.

e) After taking off the shoes with the hands.

f) After washing the hair.

g) After touching vermin.

h) After searching the clothes for vermin, even if he did not touch any.

i) After touching his bare feet.

j) After touching the body in places usually covered.

k) After leaving a cemetery.

1) After accompanying the dead.

m) After leaving a house where a corpse lies.

n) After blood-letting.2


One cubit = 18-22 inches, according to different authorities.


This list is taken from Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 4:18.
Nevertheless, it is customary to be more stringent in some of these cases. In Ketzot Hashulchan, Rabbi Chaim Noeh writes that one should wash three times (intermittently) after sleeping during the day or attending a funeral.
It is also common custom to wash three times after clipping nails.

Translated by Nissan Mindel
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Eliezer Zalmanov for December 20, 2016

Re: washing face The face is washed in order to remove all remnants of sleep before facing G-d. Reply

ron salatrik davisburg December 20, 2016

why is washing of the face when you first get up, necessary also ? Reply

Shaul Wolf January 21, 2016

Re: 3 times The Talmud explains that there is a certain "impure spirit" that remains after sleep, and is only removed by washing the hands 3 times. Reply

Anonymous New York January 18, 2016

3 times whats the significance of three times ?

any source for it or just the standard chazaka logic ? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for February 21, 2012

To Anonymous from Manchester: Hand-washing for bread is indeed different. Please see Meal Hand-Washing for details. Reply

Anonymous Manchester, U.K February 21, 2012

Hand Washing Before eating bread is the hand washing technique the same? Someone told me it is not. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for February 15, 2012

Re: Obligation for women? Yes, the laws of handwashing apply to both men and women (the term "man" used in the article is a broad reference to mankind). Reply

Anonymous Chicago February 15, 2012

Obligation for women? Its says "he" and a "man." Do women have the same obligation? Reply

Dvorah Lakeville, PA October 6, 2011

soap? What about washing with soap? I do not feel clean until I have washed with soap. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for January 4, 2011

Re: hand washing The minimum amount of water is a Revi'it (approximately 3.5 oz.) per pour on each hand to ensure that the hands have been completely washed. Reply

Anonymous Manchester, U.K January 3, 2011

hand washing Is there a minimum amount of water that one must use? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for January 3, 2010

Re: 18. The hands must be washed on the following The sleep referred to in section 18 is during the day. See footnote #2 where the author explains that although it is not required to wash each hand 3 times intermittently, it is still customary to do so.

The text of the article has now been amended to reflect this response. Reply

Anonymous Melbourne, Australia January 3, 2010

18. The hands must be washed on the following occa This seems a bit strange. Is it a mistake or am I misunderstanding it. In the morning upon awakening, plus all the other occassions, we wash our hand, but not by pouring water alternately...
I would appreciate your clarification.
Many thanks, and may we have the redemption now. Reply

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