Halacha for Sunday 16 Cheshvan 5778 November 5 2017

Washing One’s Face and Mouth

Question: My daily routine consists of washing my hands in the morning, praying Shacharit, and then washing my face on my way out of the house. Is my routine correct?

Answer: The Gemara (Shabbat 50b) states: “One must wash one’s face, hands, and feet every day in honor of one’s Maker, as the verse states, “Whatever Hashem has done is for His sake.” The Rambam (Chapter 4 of Hilchot Tefillah) writes that before praying Shacharit, one must wash his face, hands, and feet, in honor of Hashem.

Nevertheless, other Rishonim disagree with the Rambam’s opinion and write that there is no special obligation to do so specifically before praying (see Meiri’s Bet Ha’Bechira on the above Gemara and the notation of the Ra’avad on the aforementioned Rambam). Thus, regarding our question about whether or not one must wash his face specifically before praying, according to the Rambam, indeed, one must wash one’s face before praying while according to the other Rishonim, one need not do so.

Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 92) writes that the prevalent does not follow the Rambam who writes that one must “wash his feet.” He writes that that based on the custom of the world, we certainly do not follow the Rambam’s opinion regarding this matter. Other great Poskim rule likewise (see Halacha Berura, Chapter 4). Nevertheless, this only applies to washing one’s feet and only with regards to this is the custom not to wash one’s feet before Shacharit, especially in our countries where people usually walk around with their feet covered. However, it seems that one should take care to wash his face before the Shacharit prayer; it is indeed proper to do so according the opinion of the great Mekubalim.

This is especially true nowadays when we are much more hygienically conscious than previous generations; it is therefore correct for one to wash his face and wash his mouth or brush his teeth before praying in order for one not to appear repulsive while praying and not to remain with something which disturbs one’s concentration during prayer. Indeed, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 92, Section 3) writes: “One must remove anything which disturbs him before praying.”

Summary: One should preferably take care to wash one’s face and mouth before praying Shacharit and not pray first and only then wash one’s face (excluding fast days, especially Yom Kippur). If one has already prayed without having washed his face and the like, one has surely fulfilled his obligation to pray.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of the Holiday of Sukkot

As per the request of many of our members and as a public service, we shall now list a synopsis of some laws which are essential for the upcoming Sukkot holiday: The Sukkah must be made of three walls and Sechach (the roof). The walls may be made of any material which can withstand a normal wi......

Read Halacha

If One is Uncertain Whether or Not One Has Requested Rain in One’s Prayer

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the basic Halachot of requesting dew and rain in the “Blessing of the Years.” We have likewise mentioned that if one has completed the Amida prayer and remembers that he has not requested rain, one must repeat the entire Amida prayer, for one i......

Read Halacha

The Laws of One Who Forgets to Mention “Ve’Ten Tal U’Matar” in the “Blessing of the Years”

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed in a general manner that our Sages enacted that beginning from the Seventh of Marcheshvan (outside of Israel from the Fourth or Fifth of December), one begins reciting “Ve’Ten Tal U’Matar” (a request for dew and rain) in the “B......

Read Halacha

“The Blessing of the Years”

Beginning from last night, the Seventh of Marcheshvan, we have begun to request rain in the Amida prayer (only in the Land of Israel; the law for those outside of Israel will be discussed further). Let us therefore review some of these pertinent laws. The Enactment of the Sages to Request Rain O......

Read Halacha


Calling One’s Friend an Offensive Nickname

In the previous Halachot we have explained some general laws of the prohibition of verbal oppression or verbally hurting another. The Gemara (Baba Metzia 58b) states: “Rabbi Chanina said: All who descend to Gehinnom ascend from there (all wicked individuals who are sentenced to Gehinnom wil......

Read Halacha

Summary of the Laws of Verbal Oppression

In the previous Halachot we have discussed the primary laws of verbal oppression or hurting someone with words. We must now explain an important rule regarding these laws. The laws of verbal oppression are divided into two categories: The first is verbally misleading another (a form of trickery),......

Read Halacha

Traveling from One Place to Another while Eating

Question: Based on what was recently published on “Halacha Yomit” that one may not leave one’s house while eating any type of food and if one leaves one’s house completely, one must recite another blessing before continuing to eat, is one permitted to eat a candy while travel......

Read Halacha

Verbal Oppression

The Mishnah in Masechet Baba Metzia (58b) teaches, “Just as there is a prohibition to cheat in business, there is likewise a prohibition to verbally hurt someone else, as the verse states (Vayikra 25), ‘And one shall not oppress his fellow and you shall fear your G-d.’” Hurti......

Read Halacha