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

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Producing Sound and Whistling on Shabbat

The Gemara in Masechet Eruvin (104a) tells us that our Sages banned producing sound on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for instance, by playing a musical instrument, for they were concerned that while the tune is being played, the player will come to fix the instrument. This decree would certainly apply eve......

Read Halacha

Clapping and Drumming on a Table on Shabbat and Yom Tov

The Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (30a) states that one may not drum, clap, or dance on Shabbat lest one come to fix a musical instrument (ibid. 36b). This means that just as we have discussed in the previous Halachot that our Sages have decreed that one may not play musical instruments on Shabbat ......

Read Halacha

Toys Which Produce Sound and those Which Operate Using a Spring or Coil

Question: Is it permissible for one to allow one’s young children to play with toys which produce sound, such as a doll which makes noise when shaken, on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition of producing sound on Shabbat, such as by banging on a board, ......

Read Halacha


Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: Approximately one week ago, we have discussed that, before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, I......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b) ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night- The Students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would......

Read Halacha