Netilat Yadayim

Washing hands

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, December 2, 2010

One of the first things an observant Jew in the morning is to wash her hands. It is good to do this as soon as possible after getting out of bed. Some people even have a bowl and basin next to their bed so that they can do netilat yadayim at once.

The way is to pour three cups of water over each hand and then say the blessing, al netilat yadayim . (It doesn’t need to be three full cups. In israel we have a water shortage and it is fine to use less water.) 

The words from the blessing al netilat yadayim literally mean, “on raising up hands” and give a clue about the meaning of this mitzvah. As the Rashba (14th century Spain) explained it, “When we wake up in the morning it as as if we are created anew. We thank God that He has made us for his glory... and recommit ourselves to holiness... and so we raise up (wash) our hands like a priest in the temple.” Netiliat yadayim is rededicating ourselves to serve in the Holy Temple that is the world.

Last updated: 12:02pm, December 2 2010