Ask the Rabbi

  • Halacha
  • Netilat Yadayim - Hand Washing



Rabbi David Sperling

Nisan 9, 5782
Where is the washing cup to be placed when washing first thing in the morning please...? When do you put the water in the washing cup please...? May I ask the english version of the words said for the morning washing please... Thank you for your time
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Your question about the ritual handwashing in the morning preformed by Jews on awakening is a good one. We are taught that one needs to wash their hands when awakening – there are several reasons for this washing. It is for hygienic reasons, as well as spiritual reasons. One’s hands become impure during the night’s sleep, and need ritual cleaning. Originally, before most people had running water in their houses, people filled a cup of water and left it in a bowl next to their bed, with a towel, ready for the morning washing. Some people covered the cup of water so as to keep it clean. Then, when awakening, one could wash right next to their bed, with water from the cup pouring over the hands (three times each, alternately), into the bowl. The water would then be thrown away. There are still people who prepare the washing water in such a way. This is based on the ruling that one should not walk more than four cubits (about 4 steps) without washing their hands in the morning. Having the water by the bed means one can wash straight away when waking up. However, many Jews, (perhaps the majority), today go and wash in the sink. They rely on the opinion that inside one’s whole house is considered as one location, and as such, similar to the four cubits we mentioned. Some go to the sink in the bathroom and fill up a cup from the tap, and wash into the bathroom sink. Others believe that one should not wash inside a bathroom, and rather use a sink not in the bathroom, such as the kitchen sink. Here are some rules about washing – When one wakes up in the morning from one’s sleep, one must wash one’s hands and recite the blessing, “Baruch Ata A-donia E-loheinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Al Netilat Yadayim” (Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us through your commandments and has commanded us concerning the washing of hands). The order of this washing is, as follows: First, one should take the washing vessel in one’s right hand and fill it up (if it needs to be filled) and then 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. (If one needs to use the toilet, then the blessing should be recited after using the facilities, and washing again). I hope this is of some help, Blessings.
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