You're up, you're dressed, you even thanked G‑d for returning your soul—what more do we want? Wait: Did you wash your hands before getting out of bed?

The Reasons:

  1. In the Holy Temple, the priests would wash their hands before their daily service. Every individual is a priest in the temple of his or her home and heart.
  2. While the body rests, the soul ascends heavenward to recharge. Only the most basic soul-powers are left in place—those required for basic bodily functions. The resulting void allows for a negative spiritual state called tumah. Upon awakening, we wash our hands to remove the remaining vestiges of that tumah.
  3. During the night, the hands often touched private areas; we therefore wash before praying.

The Procedure:

  1. Before sleep, prepare a cup of water and an empty basin and place it beside your bedBefore sleep, prepare a cup of water and an empty basin and place it beside (not beneath) your bed.
  2. When you wake, after reciting the Modeh Ani, wash the right hand until the wrist and then the left hand; repeat, and then repeat again. This washing is called Netilat Yadayim (or, in Yiddish, Negel Vasser).
  3. Say the blessing: Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.
  4. Discard the water ASAP.


  • Chabad custom: After washing hands, getting dressed, and using the restroom, wash a second time (using same procedure) at a sink, and only then recite the blessing—in a more presentable state of mind and body. (Note: Water should be poured on to the hands from a vessel, not a faucet.)
  • Before Netilat Yadayim we do not: walk four cubits (approx 6 feet); touch clothing, food, or any body orifice; recite any blessings or prayer.
  • Didn't wash at your bedside? Wash at first possible opportunity.
  • Wash anytime you sleep more than 60 minutes. If it's a daytime nap, no need to prepare the water beforehand, just walk to nearest sink—and no blessing.