Halacha for Sunday 15 Tevet 5782 December 19 2021

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 Proper Way to Immerse Vessels in a Mikveh

One must make certain that there is nothing separating between the vessel one is immersing and the waters of the Mikveh. Thus, when one is immersing a vessel, one must hold the vessel loosely, for if one holds it tight, one’s hand will be separating between the vessel and the waters of the Mik......

Read Halacha

Reading Scripture at Night

Question: May one read chapters of Tanach or Tehillim at night or is this forbidden according to Kabbalah? Is there room for leniency when this reading is being done for the sake of an ill individual or a woman in labor? Answer: Maran Ha’Chida in his Responsa Yosef Ometz (Chapter 54) quotes......

Read Halacha

Spiritual Blockage of the Heart

Question: Must one be careful regarding the Kashrut standards of the foods one’s children eat as well? Answer: Regarding any food which is prohibited for consumption by the Torah, such as milk and meat or an impure animal’s milk, it is certainly forbidden to give such foods to childre......

Read Halacha

Question: Is one obligated to wait six hours after eating meat foods before eating dairy foods?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Chullin (105a) states: “Mor Ukva said: When my father would eat meat, he would not eat cheese until the next day. Regarding myself, however, within the same meal I do not eat meat and then cheese, but I would eat cheese during the next meal.” The Rif writes......

Read Halacha


Drinking Beverages in a Café or in a Home Where the Vessels have not been Immersed in a Mikveh

Question: May one drink coffee in a friend’s home or in a Café (such as an espresso without milk served in Cafes) when they are not meticulous about immersing their vessels in a Mikveh? Answer: In the Halachot discussed before Tisha Be’av, we have explained that vessels produc......

Read Halacha

Question: Do disposable vessels and electric kettles require immersion in a Mikveh?

Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the general law that any new vessels purchased from a non-Jew must be immersed in a Mikveh before using them. We shall now discuss whether or not disposable vessels require immersion. We have already explained that according to Maran zt”l,......

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

The Laws of Fire on Yom Tov

In previous Halachot we have explained that Yom Tov and Shabbat are equal regarding all prohibitions besides for certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking, which are permitted on Yom Tov. Igniting a Flame One may not produce a new fire on Yom Tov, for instance by striking a......

Read Halacha