Contact Us

The Laws of Using The Right Side

The Laws of Using The Right Side

 Email

• We find in Leviticus in a number of verses the Torah gives preference to the right side of the body. We find similar preference in the laws dealing with the laws of Chalitzah. Therefore it is proper that the right side of the body be given honor and preferential treatment.

Dressing

• Thus, when one gets dressed one puts on the right sleeve first. Similarly, one puts on his right sock and the right foot is put in his pants first. Likewise the right shoe should be put on first. Additionally when one is washing, soaping, putting on lotions, etc. to both hands, preference is given to the right side. However, when we remove our shirts, shoes, socks, etc. one should remove the left first (since by doing so, he honors the right)1.

• However, when it comes to tying, the left is given preference. The reason being that, we find in the torah the idea of tying in relation to Tefillin. Since the Tefillin is bound on the left hand, one should tie knots and bows on the left side of the body first. Therefore, the shoelaces on the left shoe should be tied first. Thus, one puts on his right shoe first (without tying them), then the left shoe, ties the left shoe and then the right shoe2.

• The same would apply to sleeves which are tied with laces. Since left-handed individuals wear their Tefillin on the right hand, they tie their right shoe first3.

• According to Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, since women do not wear Tefillin, they should always tie their right shoe, etc. first4.

Washing of the Hands

• The proper way to wash hands upon awakening and give honor to the right side is: He picks up the vessel containing the water with his right hand. He passes it over to his left hand and then pours it over the right hand first. He then passes the vessel to the right hand and washes the left hand. The vessel is then passed again to the left, pouring the water over the right hand. The vessel is again passed to the right and the water is poured over the left hand. This process is repeated one more time5.

Left Handed Person

• Regarding a left-handed person, he should do the reverse, because his left hand (the stronger hand) is considered as the right hand and thus take the vessel in his left hand first, pass it to the right and wash the left hand first6.

Prayers

• When taking the three steps back at the end of the the Amidah one should first walk back with his left foot. Since one is taking leave of G‑d, the left foot (which is the weaker foot and not so natural to move) is raised first to indicate that is is difficult to take leave of G‑d. Hence, one who is left-footed would first step back with his right foot, which is his weaker foot7.

Meals

• When one says Kiddush over wine, or leads the benching -- grace after the meal (and a cup of wine, Kos shel Bracha - "a cup of blessing," is being used), the cup of wine should be held in the right hand only. A left-handed person holds the cup in his left hand8.

• Regarding Kiddush, the Chabad custom is as follows: The cup, which is already filled with the wine is lifted up with the right hand and passed over to the left hand. One then lowers the cup into the right hand, which is already cupped, resembling a vessel by having the four fingers (other than the thumb) raised. The thumb is just resting on the side9.

• Based on what we said in the earlier paragraph, a left-handed person would do everything in the reverse manner, picking it up with the left hand and passing it over to the right hand and lowering it into the left hand.

• When one is saying a blessing over food, it is proper that the food be held in the right hand while saying the blessing10. A left-handed person should hold the food in his left hand (see footnote)11.

Footnotes
1.
Alter Rebbe's Sulchan Aruch, O.C. 2:4,6, Be'er Moshe 2:3.
2.
Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch O.C. 2:4.
3.
Shaarei Teshuvah O.C. 2:2.
4.
Halichos Shlomo 2:20.
5.
Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch O.C. 4:10.
6.
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch im Piskei Admur Hazaken (2:3) quotes from the Tzemach Tzedek.
7.
Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch O.C. 123:5.
8.
Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch OC. 183:7, 271:18.
9.
Sefer Haminhagim pg. 28 - Heb. edition, page 55 - Eng. edition.
10.
Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch O.C. 206:8.
11.
The Mishna Brura (206:18) understands from Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Magen Avraham that he should hold the food in his left hand. From the Sdei Chemed it appears that the food should be held in his right hand. Rabbi Doniel S. Wise in his Shulchan Oruch HaKotzer (Vol. 2, 53:7) learns out from the Alter Rebbe's ruling regarding a lefty holding the Lulav in his left hand, that the same applies for holding food in his left hand when saying a blessing.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
8 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous December 14, 2015

Wrong Is it OK to not get this all right. Also, when putting on a t-shirt, do you do the head, then sleeves Reply

Juda January 29, 2015

Re: Sholomo But who is taking away your free will? free will or choice does not mean that we say "do whatever you want." It simply means that while there is a right and wrong path, you have the ability to choose whichever you wish, as the Torah itself states Deuteronomy 30:15, "I have set before you life and goodness, and death and evil... And you shall choose life." Reply

Shlomo January 16, 2015

Sorry, but this if off the wall. When do we get to live our lives and choose free will as he has supposedly given us? Reply

Kate March 2, 2014

What verses in Leviticus please? Reply

Eldon Summers Palmer February 27, 2014

When we are told that we will be holding the right hand of G-d, does that not make it so, that we are holding his right hand with our left hand? Reply

Laura, England, UK February 26, 2012

being confused finally over!! as a left handed girl having been confused so much over the left and right handed business i am finally able to understand this!
toda raba! :D Reply

Anonymous Brick, NJ December 31, 2010

Right hand of God If G-d is powerful in all ways and is ambidextrous, what does it mean to choose the path or the right side of God? Reply

ariella seattle, wa. July 28, 2008

left handedness being left handed, i am so happy to see these clearly explained in one spot. Reply

Related Topics