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Why do people wash their hands before prayer?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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“Prepare yourself to meet your God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12).

“I wash my hands in purity, and circle around Your altar, O Lord. To proclaim thanksgiving with a loud voice and to recount all Your wondrous deeds” (Psalms 26:6-7).

Before praying one is obligated to wash his hands. As opposed to the morning Netilat Yadayim and the pre-meal hand-washing which are intended to remove ritual impurity, the pre-prayer hand-washing is for cleanliness purposes – cleaning up before meeting the King.


– No blessing is recited after this washing.

– If one is certain that the hands are clean, for instance if the hands were recently washed and have not come in contact with anything unclean, it is unnecessary to wash.

– It is not necessary for the water to be poured onto the hands from a vessel. In fact, it is even acceptable to dip the hands into a basin of water.

– If water is not readily accessible, it is permitted to wipe the hands on a cloth or another substance which cleanses.


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Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.