Netilat Yadayim for a Meal
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
It is a rabbinic mitzvah to wash one's hands before a bread meal. This mitzvah was enacted as a way of maintaining the practices of trumah, holy food given to the kohanim. Before eating bread, the rabbis instituted washing one's hands just like a kohen would do whenever he would eat trumah so that one's hands that regularly become impure don't impurify the trumah. Additionally, netilat yadayim is a practice of holiness and cleanliness.
- Even one whose hands aren't necessarily dirty or impure (tamei) has to wash his hands before a meal.
- Women are also obligated in netilat yadayim.
- One should try to train his children to wash netilat yadayim for a meal.
- One should have intention that the netilat yadayim is purifying one's hands for the meal. After the fact if one doesn't have water to wash again one can be lenient.
- If someone has a doubt if he washed netilat yadayim it is proper to was them again if he has water available.
- To wash netilat yadayim for a bread meal one should pour water on one's right hand three times and then pour water on one's left hand three times. Some have the custom of doing twice on each side.
- If someone dips his hands into a spring or mikveh that fulfills netilat yadayim. He doesn't need to do so twice or to raise his hands afterwards as one normally would do with netilat yadayim.
- The bracha on tevilat yadayim is also "al netilat yadayim".
- One can fulfill netilat yadayim with dipping them into a spring even if it is flowing as long as there is enough water to dip one's hands in at one time.
- One can dip one's hands into a mikveh of forty seah. If it isn't forty seah in extenuating circumstances one can be lenient.
- One can not dip one's hands into a mikveh of rainwater if the water is flowing.
- One can not dip one's hands into a mikveh of rainwater if the water was contained in a vessel even if the vessel is attached to the ground.
Minimum amount of bread to obligate Netilat Yadayim
- If one is going to eat more than a KeBaytzah of bread, one must wash Netilat Yadayim with a Bracha. 
- If one is going to eat less than a KeBaytzah but more than a Kezayit of bread, one should wash without a bracha, however, some Ashkenazim hold that one may wash with a bracha. 
- If one is going to eat less than a Kezayit of bread, some say that doesn't have to wash Netilat Yadayim, while others say that one should wash without a Bracha. It is proper to be strict to wash without a bracha.
- If one washed one's hands with a bracha with intent to eat and then changed his mind and didn't end up eating he doesn't need to force himself to eat and his bracha isn't a bracha levatala.
Going to the Bathroom Before a Meal
- If one goes to the bathroom and then wants to have a bread meal,
- according to Ashkenazim, one should wash as one leaves the bathroom however this washing should be done without a kli (straight from sink), say Asher Yatzer, and then wash again with a Bracha of Netilat Yadayim. (Ashkenazim have what to rely on to follow the next method of washing).
- However, according to Sephardim, one should wash once, make the Bracha of Netilat Yadayim, and then make the Asher Yatzar and Hamotzei. 
Going to the Bathroom in the Middle of Meal
- If one goes to the bathroom during a meal, one should wash his hands without a Bracha.  According to some Sephardim, one should recite beracha if one touched a covered part of his body. However, this is only the case if one will eat another kebeitza of bread.
If one forgot to wash or say Al Netilat Yadayim
- If one forgot to wash and one already said HaMotzei and ate a little bit of bread, one should wash Netilat Yadayim with a bracha and then continue to eat without another bracha of HaMotzei.
Who Washes First
- When each person is going to wash and make their own hamotzei the greatest person deserving honor should be given the honor to wash first.
- When one person is going to recite hamotzei for everyone, nonetheless, the greatest person of honor should wash his hands first. However, some have the practice that the greatest person washes last. 
The Laws of Chatzitzah
See the Chatzitza for Netilat Yadayim page.
- For the text of the bracha, see the Text of Brachot#Netilat Yadayim page.
When to Recite the Bracha
- The minhag is to make the bracha of Al Netilat Yadiyim between washing and drying one’s hands. 
- Some Sephardim follow the Shulchan Aruch, who says that as long as one's hands are clean one should make the bracha BEFORE washing one's hands. 
- If one forgot to make the bracha of Al Netilat Yadayim before drying one’s hands, according to Ashekazim one is still permitted to make a bracha of Netilat Yadayim until one makes Hamotzi. Sephardim hold that once one’s hands are totally dry one may not make the bracha. 
- Although most Birkot HaMitzvot must be recited before the performance of the Mitzvah , the common practice - since the era of the Rishonim - has been to recite the bracha for Netillat Yadayim after washing.  However, many early poskim questioned the validity of this minhag.  Shulchan Aruch  rules that one should recite the bracha before washing, but acknowledges that the custom is not so. Rema  says that the bracha can be recited before drying the hands, which is also part of the Mitzvah. Beiur Halacha  says that it makes sense that the halacha is like the Bet Yosef / Shulchan Aruch, and therefore one should not protest against those who wish to recite the bracha first. Some contemporary poskim recommend that one should therefore recite the bracha before washing. 
Talking before Eating Bread
- One is not required to re-wash if he spoke before eating bread, however, he should be careful not to speak any more. One may speak for matters that are necessary for the meal, like asking for the bread or salt. 
- Mishna Brurah 158:1
- Shulchan Aruch O.C. 158:1, Yalkut Yosef 158:2.
- Yalkut Yosef (Dinei Netilat Yadayim, Birkat Hamazon, Brachot, Mincha and Arvit]] page 13, Siman 158:3, Ben Ish Chai Parashat Shemini:2, Kaf Hachayim 158:74
- Yalkut Yosef Dinei Netilat Yadayim, Birkat Hamazon, Brachot, Mincha and Arvit page 13-14 based on the Yerushalmi in Megilla 2:5 that chinuch of children applies to rabbinic laws.
- The Rashba Torat Habayit 6:2 writes that from the Gemara Chullin 106b it is implied that a person needs intention for netilat yadayim for a meal to be effective. He explains that even though it is considered preparing for dealing with something non-holy, chullin, which wouldn't require intention, since netilat yadayim is established based on preparing for Trumah intention is necessary. Shulchan Aruch OC 159:13 agrees.
- Mishna Brurah 159:75
- Shulchan Aruch OC 160:11. Mishna Brurah 160:51 explains that since it is easy to avoid the safek one should do so.
- Shulchan Aruch O.C. 162:2. According to kabbalah one should always wash each hand three times (Kaf Hachaim 162:12), even though according to Shulchan Aruch it is only necessary to wash one's hands twice if they're clean.
- Mishna Brurah 162:21, Peninei Halacha (Brachot 2:11). Peninei Halacha (Brachot 2:11) writes that not only is only allowed to pour the water over the right hand two or three times consecutively and then pour on the left and it isn't necessary to alternate hands, but it is also preferable to do so. He explains that after pouring once the first water is tameh and in order to quicly remove that tameh water one should pour again on that same hand.
- Shulchan Aruch OC 159:19
- Shulchan Aruch OC 159:20, Mishna Brurah 159:97
- Shulchan Aruch OC 159:14
- Shulchan Aruch OC 159:14 and Rama
- Shulchan Aruch OC 159:15 has a doubt if rainwater of forty seah is kosher for tevilat yadayim and the Mishna Brurah 159:88 quotes the Gra who holds that it is certainly unfit.
- Shulchan Aruch OC 159:16 writes that according to the Rambam a mikveh of forty seah is unfit for netilat yadayim if it was contained in a vessel, while the Raavad would render it fit. However, even the Rambam would agree if the water was drawn along the ground (hamshacha) before it went into the mikveh.
- Mishna Brurah 159:89
- Shulchan Aruch 158:2 writes that some say if one eats less than a KeBaytzah of bread one should wash without a bracha. Mishna Brurah 158:9 writes that if one eats the size of a KeBaytzah without the shell it is certainly sufficient to make the bracha of Netilat Yadayim.
- Shulchan Aruch 158:2 writes that some say if one eats less than a KeBaytzah of bread one should wash without a bracha. Mishna Brurah 158:9 explains that some say one only makes the bracha upon a KeBaytzah because Tumah only applies to food the size of a KeBaytzah, whereas others say that one makes the bracha upon a Kezayit because that is considered a significant eating in regards to Birkat HaMazon, so too it should be considered sufficient to obligate Netilat Yadayim with a Bracha. These two sides are brought by the Beit Yosef 158 in the name of the Rokeach. Mishna Brurah concludes that if one ate less than a KeBaytzah but more than a Kezayit one should wash Netilat Yadayim without a bracha. Yalkut Yosef 158:4 agrees. However, Vezot HaBracha chap 2, pg 13 based on Igrot Moshe 4:44 and Rav Elyashiv argues that one may say the bracha of Netilat Yadayim as long as one is going to eat a Kezayit, though he adds that it is preferable to eat a KeBaytzah in order to satisfy all opinions. Ritva Sukkah 25a "ukishehayviu" says that a Kezayit does require netilat yadayim with a beracha.
- Shulchan Aruch 158:3 writes that some say that one doesn't have to was Netilat Yadayim if one is going to eat less than a Kezayit. This is the opinion 158 in the name of the Rokeach. Mishna Brurah 158:10 quotes the Taz who agrees with Shulchan Aruch in opposition to the Magen Avraham who says that one should wash without a Bracha. Mishna Brurah concludes that one should be strict for the opinion of the Magen Avraham. The Lechem Chamudot Perek Kol Basar: 72 agrees with this Magen Avraham.
- Ritva Chullin 106b s.v. vagav writes that since one's intent was that one's bracha would be for food when one made the bracha it is valid even if one later changes one's intent afterwards. (Compare to Gra O.C. 432's support for the Rama that if one made the bracha for bedikat chametz and didn't find anything that it isn't a bracha levatala.) Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Motzei Shabbat Beshalach 5779) quoted this as the halacha.
- Shulchan Aruch OC 165:1 writes that for someone who’s leaving a bathroom and wants to have a bread meal should either wash, make Asher Yatzer, and then wash again and recite Al Netilat Yadayim OR wash once and recite Asher Yatzer and then Al Netilat Yadayim. Mishna Brurah 165:2-3 writes that it’s preferable to do the first practice in S”A, but adds that one should make sure that the first washing isn’t a complete washing, otherwise, there’s no need for the second washing. Accordingly, Halichot Shlomo 26:26 writes that Rav Shlomo Zalman’s minhag was to wash without a kli for the first washing.
- Similarly, Kesot HaShulchan 33:14 suggests another way to make the first washing ineffective for eating bread and that’s to wash one hand, touch it with the other, wash the other hand and then again touch it with the other hand.
- On the other hand, Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvot Vihanhagot 1:168) writes that the best thing to do is to wash properly and say Al Netilas Yadayim, then after drying your hands say Asher Yatzer before Hamotzei. Rav Shternbuch adds that his Rebbi, Rav Moshe Schneider witnessed the Chofetz Chaim wash his hands only once and say Al Netilat Yadayim and then say Asher Yatzer after drying his hands, which is the second practice recorded by Shulchan Aruch, but not in accordance with what is written in the Mishna Brurah. Rav Shternbuch adds that the Chazon Ish did it this way as well. Also, Maaseh Rav (no. 77) recommends following the second practice of Shulchan Aruch.
- Another alternative: The Shenei Luchot HaBerit writes that one should touch a covered part of their body before washing the second time so that you'd be required to wash again. The Magen Avraham 165:2 writes that if one doesn’t usually touch one’s shoe or rub one’s scalp before washing it’s improper since it’s a way of causing oneself to make an unnecessary Bracha. the Ben Ish Chai (Shemini 9) and Kaf HaChaim 165:4 hold that it’s justified. Piskei Teshuvot 165:1 agrees.
- Shulchan Aruch 164:2 writes that if during a meal, one accidentally touched an area on the body that’s usually covered or rubbed his scalp one needs to make a new Bracha. The Maharshal argues on S”A and holds that no new Bracha is needed. The Taz, Pri Megadim, Derech Chaim, and Magen Giborim agree with the Maharshal, while Maamar Mordechai, Mateh Yehuda, Bigdei Yesha, Bet Meir, (Nahar Shalom, Chemed Moshe 170) agree with S”A. Even though the Mishna Brurah 164:13 makes a compromise and writes that after going to the bathroom, touching a area of the body that’s dirty, or making a long interruption by walking, one needs to wash with a Bracha, since many achronim argue (S”A HaRav 164:2, Ben Ish Chai Kedoshim 21, Kaf HaChaim 164:16, Kitzur S”A 40:16) one shouldn’t make the Bracha. Piskei Teshuvot 164:5 writes that the minhag of the world is not to make a new Bracha.
- Halacha Berurah 164:6
- Rivevot Efraim 1:129, Igrot Moshe 2:53
- Gemara Brachot 46b, Shulchan Aruch 165:2
- The Gemara Brachot 46b states that the greatest person washes first so that he can eat first. The Rambam Brachot 7:1 quotes this halacha even in the context of having one person recite the bracha for everyone. The Kesef Mishna explains that although the gemara's reason was that he should wash first so that he doesn't have to wait, still the halacha is to follow the briatta which written generally that the greatest person washes first and applies in all cases. Shulchan Aruch 165:2 writes that the greatest person should wash first but the Rosh's practice was to wash last so that he wouldn't have a long break between washing and making hamotzei. Mishna Brurah 165:5 seems to recommend following the Rosh. Halacha Brurah 165:6 writes that the halacha is like the first opinion of Shulchan Aruch that the greatest person should wash first even though he is going to recite hamotzei for everyone and need to wait longest.
- S”A 158:11 writes that the bracha of Netilat Yadayim is like most other brachot and have to be made prior to completing the mitzvah. Therefore concludes S”A the practice is to rub one’s hands to clean them (so one can make the bracha), then make the bracha prior to washing. However, Mishna Brurah 158:41 writes that the minhag of the world is to make the bracha after washing but before drying like the Rama writes is permissible.
- As quoted in the previous source, S”A 158:11 writes that the bracha of Netilat Yadayim is like most other brachot and have to be made prior to completing the mitzvah, therefore one should rub one’s hands to clean them (in order to be able to make the bracha), then make the bracha prior to washing. See the Discussion page for a listing of where this is the minhag.
- Rama 158:11 writes that if one forgot to make a bracha before drying one’s hand one can make the bracha after drying. Mishna Brurah 158:44 supports the Rama by saying that Netilat Yadayim is different than other brachot and may be made after the mitzvah is completed. Mishna Brurah writes that even though the Taz forbids making the bracha after having dryed one's hands, since most Achronim hold like the Rama one may act according to the Rama, one should however be careful to avoid such a situation. Sephardim should note that Ben Ish Chai (Shemini Halacha 7) and Chacham Ovadia Yosef in Halichot Olam (v. 1, p. 317) rule, once you have dried your hands you can no longer make the bracha.
- Pesachim 119b
- Tosafot Peaschim 7b s.v. Al HaTevillah
- See Tur (O.C. 158), Bet Yosef OC 158.
- O.C. 158:11
- O.C. 158:11
- O.C. 158:11 s.v. Mevarech Kodem
- Halacha Brurahh (O.C. 158:11) writes that if one's hands are clean, and others are not watching, he should recite the bracha first. Rabbi Hershel Schachter recites the bracha prior to washing his hands (Ten Minute Halacha - Speaking Between Netilas Yadayim and the Beracha 6:35, HalachaDoc LG-A33.
- Mishna Brura 166:1, Halacha Brurah 161:3