Halacha for Sunday 6 Tevet 5778 December 24 2017

Reciting the “Al Netilat Yadayim” Blessing After Drying One’s Hands

Question: Many people customarily wash their hands and then recite the “Al Netilat Yadayim” blessing as they are drying their hands. Is this custom halachically sound?

Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 7b) teaches us a great rule which is that one must recite the blessing on a given Mitzvah before performing that Mitzvah, besides for the Mitzvah of the immersion of a convert. For instance, before eating Matzah, one recites the blessing of “Al Achilat Matzah” and before immersing new vessels into the Mikveh, one recites the blessing of “Al Tevilat Kelim.” The only exception to this rule is when a non-Jew converts to Judaism and cannot recite a blessing before he immerses in the Mikveh, for he cannot exclaim, “Asher Kideshanu Be’Mitzvotav Ve’Tzivanu” (“Who has sanctified us with his Mitzvot and commanded us) since no new sanctity rests upon him yet. Our Sages therefore enacted that the convert recite this blessing after he has immersed in the Mikveh and become a Jew.

Nevertheless, regarding all other Mitzvot without exception (besides for continuing Mitzvot), one must recite the blessing on the Mitzvah before performing the Mitzvah. If one recites a blessing after performing any given Mitzvah, this is considered a blessing in vain. In such a case, according to the Rambam, one transgresses the negative Torah commandment of “Do not utter the name of Hashem, your G-d, in vain.”

It would seem that one must likewise recite the “Al Netilat Yadayim” blessing before performing the Mitzvah of washing one’s hands.

There are, nonetheless, several different opinions about when to recite the “Al Netilat Yadayim” blessing. According to Rabbeinu Chananel, the Or Zarua, and other Rishonim, one should recite this blessing immediately prior to beginning the hand-washing in order to recite the blessing before performing the Mitzvah. We do not customarily follow this opinion, however.

On the other hand, other Rishonim (quoted by the Or Zarua, Chapter 79) are of the opinion that the “Al Netilat Yadayim” blessing need not be recited before the hand-washing, for there are times when one’s hands are unclean. Thus, our Sages never enacted that one must recite the blessing before washing one’s hands and one may recite the blessing even after washing one’s hands. The Halacha does not follow this opinion either.

The intermediate opinion is that of the Tosafot and many other Poskim who rule that one should recite this blessing after washing one’s hands, when one’s hands are clean, but before drying one’s hands. The reason for this is because drying one’s hands is also part of the Mitzvah, for one must dry his hands before eating. Thus, one will have recited the blessing when his hands are clean but while one is still in the middle of performing the Mitzvah.

The custom among the Jewish nation is in accordance with this last opinion, i.e. to recite the blessing after washing one’s hands but before drying them. According to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 158, Section 1), if one recites the blessing after one has dried his hands, this is a blessing in vain. Indeed, the Rambam and most Rishonim maintain that if one forgets to recite the blessing before drying one’s hands, one may not recite it after drying them, for doing so would entail reciting a blessing in vain.

Summary: One should recite the “Al Netilat Yadayim” blessing after washing one’s hands but before drying them. If one did not recite the blessing and has already dried one’s hands, one should not recite the blessing at all. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules likewise in his Halichot Olam (Volume 1, page 317).

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of Precedence Regarding Blessings (Continued)

In the previous Halacha we have explained that there are instances that priority is given to recite a blessing upon a certain food over another because of the innate significance of the given food, for instance, because it is a fruit that belongs to the Seven Species of fruits that the Land of Israe......

Read Halacha

The Month of Shevat and the Law that Food Must be in Front of the Individual While Reciting a Blessing

Next Wednesday (actually, beginning from next Tuesday night) will mark the Fifteenth of Shevat or Tu Bishvat. We will therefore begin a segment on the laws of Blessings of Enjoyment. In following Halachot we shall discuss some more laws pertaining to reciting blessings which we have discussed in the......

Read Halacha

Precedence Regarding the Order of Blessings (Continued)

Summary of the Laws Explained Thus Far In the previous Halachot we have explained that there is an order of priority regarding blessings, sometimes because of the innate importance of the food and sometimes due to the importance of the blessing. Priority of “Boreh Peri Ha’etz”......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Blessing on Fruits

In the previous Halachot we have explained that there is an order of priority regarding blessings. Thus, if one wishes to partake of apples and dates, one must recite the blessing on the dates, for they are one of the Seven Species. Precedence Regarding Blessing-Only Preferable Maran Ha’Be......

Read Halacha


Question: Is one permitted to act stringently in any situation one pleases?

Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed that one must wait six hours between eating meat and cheese in accordance with the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. This law is based on a Gemara in Masechet Chullin (105a). For the purpose of our discussion, we shall quote the words of the G......

Read Halacha

Eating Meat Dishes after Dairy Foods

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the laws of eating dairy foods after meat. We have explained that one must wait six hours between eating the respective foods. We shall now discuss the laws of eating meat dishes after dairy foods. The Opinion of the Gemara which Permits Eating Meat aft......

Read Halacha

Some Detailed Laws Regarding Eating Cheese after Meat

In the previous Halachot we have mentioned that after eating meat, one must wait six hours before eating dairy products. A Woman who has Given Birth or is Nursing A woman who is within thirty days of having given birth may eat dairy products after eating meat and she need not wait six hours. It ......

Read Halacha

Eating Dairy Items after Eating Poultry

In the previous Halacha we have discussed in general the law that one must wait six hours after eating meat before eating dairy foods either because the nature of meat is to get stuck between one’s teeth or because meat gives off a taste in one’s mouth for a prolonged amount of time. ......

Read Halacha