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

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha

Megillah Reading-The Proper Procedure for One Who Has Missed Hearing a Portion of the Megillah

Every member of the Jewish nation is obligated to read the Megillah on the day of Purim. One must read it during the night and once again the next day, as the verse states, “My G-d, I call out to you during the day and you do not answer; during the night I have no rest.” This verse is wr......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Hearing Parashat Zachor

On the Shabbat preceding Purim, which is this coming Shabbat, after the opening of the Ark immediately following Shacharit prayers, two Sifrei Torah are removed; in the first one, we read the weekly Parasha (which is Parashat Tetzaveh this year, 5777) and in the second one we read the portion of &ld......

Read Halacha


The Custom of the “Commemoration of the Half-Shekel”-5777

It is customary to donate money before Purim as “a commemoration of the Half-Shekel” which was donated by the entire Jewish nation when the Bet Hamikdash stood. This money is customarily collected on the eve of Purim before reading the Megillah, as our Sages tell us (Megilla 13b) that &l......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach

The Essence of Leavening The Torah (Shemot 13) tells us regarding the holiday of Pesach: “Matzot shall be eaten for seven days; neither leaven nor sourdough shall be seen in all of your borders.” The leaven that the Torah prohibits is produced by the combination of grain-flour and water......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Yom Kippur-Unique Laws for this Year

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

Some Detailed Laws Regarding Kitniyot (Legumes) on Pesach

In the previous Halacha we have briefly discussed the primary laws of Chametz and Kitniyot (legumes) on Pesach. We have explained that according to all communities, legumes such as rice and chick peas are not actual Chametz, for only grain products can be considered Chametz. However, Ashkenazim cust......

Read Halacha