Halacha for Wednesday 8 Sivan 5781 May 19 2021

Washing One’s Hands in the Morning

When one awakens in the morning from one’s sleep, one must wash one’s hands and recite the blessing, “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Al Netilat Yadayim” (this law is discussed in Berachot 60b). The order of this washing is, as follows: First, one should take the washing vessel in one’s right hand and when it is full, one should transfer it to one’s left hand and use it to pour water on one’s right hand. Then, one should transfer the vessel into one’s right hand and use it to pour water on one’s left hand. This process should be repeated three times. After doing so, one should then recite the blessing of “Al Netilat Yadayim,” and then proceed to dry one’s hands.

There are several reasons given for why one must wash one’s hands in the morning:

The first reason is based on what the Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (108b) teaches us that an evil spirit rests upon one’s hands at night and it does not depart until one properly washes one’s hands. This does not have to do specifically with sleep; rather, it is something linked with the essence of nighttime.

The second reason is discussed in the holy Zohar (Parashat Vayeshev) that when one goes to sleep at night, the soul departs from one’s body (to a certain degree) and one tastes the taste of death causing an evil spirit to rest upon one’s body. When the soul returns to the body upon awakening from one’s sleep, the evil spirit still rests on one’s hands and in order to remove it, one must wash one’s hands properly.

The third reason is quoted by the Rosh in his rulings (Berachot Chapter 9, Section 23) where he writes that since one’s hands are continuously in motion even when one sleeps, it is impossible that one did not touch unclean places during one’s sleep; thus, one must wash one’s hands upon awakening.

The fourth reason is quoted in the responsa of the Rashba (Chapter 191) where he writes that one is considered a new creation in the morning, as the verse (Eicha, Chapter 3) states, “Renewed in the mornings, great is your belief.” Thus, we must thank Hashem who created us in His honor in order to serve Him and bless in His name.

The fifth reason is quoted by Rabbeinu David Abudirhem who writes that just as the Kohanim were obligated to wash their hands before performing the holy service in the Bet Hamikdash, so too, one must sanctify one’s hands upon awakening from one’s sleep before beginning one’s service of Hashem so that one may serve Hashem with clean hands.

Halachically speaking though, it would seem that there are several halachic ramifications involved depending on the different reasons we have mentioned. For instance, if one stayed awake throughout the entire night, according to the words of the Gemara quoted in the first reason, one would certainly still need to wash one’s hands in the morning, for the nighttime hours have nevertheless elapsed. Nevertheless, according to the words of the Zohar mentioned in the second reason and according to the ruling of the Rosh mentioned in the third reason, this person would not have to wash his hands, for hand washing is only necessary when one sleeps, and this person did not. Similarly, a distinction would likewise exist regarding one who slept during the day, for according to the Rosh’s reasoning of one’s hands constantly being in motion, this would certainly apply to sleeping during the day as well, whereas according to the reasoning of the Gemara (and possibly according to the Zohar as well, see Bet Yosef Chapter 4 who is uncertain about this) the obligation to wash one’s hands cannot apply during the day, for the evil spirit does not rest on one’s body during the day.

Thus, halachically speaking, if one remained awake all night or slept during the day, one should wash one’s hands in the morning or when one awakens from one’s sleep. Nonetheless, since it is doubtful in this situation whether or not one is obligated to recite a blessing, one should not recite a blessing on this washing in accordance with the rule of “When in doubt regarding a blessing, do not bless.”

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating and Washing One’s Self Yom Kippur

Some Laws of Yom Kippur All are obligated to fast on Yom Kippur, including pregnant and nursing women. Any woman whose health is at risk due to the fast should consult a prominent Torah scholar who is well-versed in these laws and he should render his ruling whether or not she must fast. One whose ......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Yom Kippur

Adding From the Mundane Onto the Holiness One must add some of the mundane weekday onto the holiness of Yom Kippur upon its exit, i.e. one should not end this holy day immediately with nightfall; rather, one should wait another few minutes. Thus, it is prohibited to eat or perform work on Motza&rsq......

Read Halacha

The Obligation to Eat in the Sukkah

Since there is not so much time left to discuss the laws of Sukkot, let us now spend the next few Halachot discussing some pertinent Halachot for the upcoming Sukkot holiday. A Meal of an Established Character Throughout the entire Sukkot holiday, both during the night and day, it is prohibited ......

Read Halacha

Reciting Selichot Alone, Without a Minyan

Question: If one is unable to recite Selichot with a Minyan (quorum of at least ten Jewish men) for whatever reason or if a woman wishes to recite Selichot and she cannot do so with a Minyan, may one recite the Selichot texts alone or should one abstain from doing so? Answer: If one wishes to rec......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Eating a Kezayit of Bread in the Sukkah on the First Night of Sukkot and One who is Uncomfortable in the Sukkah

In the previous Halacha we have discussed that one may not eat an established meal outside of the Sukkah anytime during the Sukkot holiday. One must be aware that the reward for the Mitzvah of Sukkah is that it protects one during turbulent times (see Zohar, Parashat Tetzaveh). The Mitzvah of......

Read Halacha

The Custom of “Tashlich”

Following Mincha services of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to go to a seashore, river, well, or pit in order to recite the order of “Tashlich.” If there is no river, lake, or pond in close proximity of one’s vicinity, it is likewise perfectly acceptable to recite ......

Read Halacha

The Proper Behavior for the Days of Rosh Hashanah-The Custom of Maran zt”l

It is customary to eat red meat and sweet foods on the days of Rosh Hashanah, as the verse in Nechemia states, “Go eat fatty foods and drink sweet beverages and sent gifts of food to those who do not have, for the day is sanctified to our Lord.” One may not fast at all on Rosh Hashana......

Read Halacha

Blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

It is a positive Torah commandment to hear the Shofar blasts on the day of Rosh Hashanah, as the verse states, “It shall be a day of [Shofar] blasts for you.” One may not speak between the various sets of Shofar blasts and certainly not during the blasts themselves. The Poskim disagree r......

Read Halacha