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netilat yadaim

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Rabbi David Sperling

Tishrei 24, 5780
Question
Do we ever not dry hands after doing Netilat Yadaim? do we have to say bracha first after washing hands or dry hands then bracha? thank you
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. In general drying one's hands is part of the washing and cleaning process, and as such is part and parcel of every ritual washing. So, when washing in the morning, or before eating bread, one needs to also dry their hands. (In cases where one cannot dry their hands, one gets involved in all types of interesting “second best” rulings). The normative practice is to wash one's hands, then, holding the hands up in front of you, say the blessing (“al netilat ya'dayim”) then dry them. There is an interesting explanation of this order of things. Normally we say blessings before doing the mitzvah – we bless before shaking the lulav, listening to the shofar, putting up a mezuzah etc. So why shouldn't we say the blessing before washing our hands? One answer is that before washing our hands, we may be so unclean as to be forbidden to say a blessing! So, we need to wash first. But that itself creates a problem. We are not allowed to say a blessing after we have already finished doing the mitzvah (one can't finish eating their matzah then praise Hashem for the commanding us to now eat matzah … it's to late). So, we are in a no-win situation – we are not clean enough to say the blessing before washing, and it's to late to say the blessing after washing. So what should we do? Here is the answer – we start washing, but before we finish the whole process, (that is before we dry our hands, which is the end of the “washing”) we say the blessing. By doing it this way, we have clean hands for the blessing, but manage to say the blessing before the end of the washing, which is the drying. Blessings.
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