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Some sects of Ashkenazim (mostly Litvish) wash their hands only twice, while some Sephardim and some Hasidim wash three times.

Based on this answer I know that the first splash gets rid of the impurity. The second splash gets rid of the impure water on the hands from the first splash. What is the reason for the third splash?

2

I heard this from a fellow, but don't have a source:

  1. The first splash gets rid of the dirt.
  2. Second splash gets rid of the impurity.
  3. The final splash gets rid of the impure water still on the hands.
  • Was the fellow someone knowledgeable? – Seth J Sep 25 '13 at 13:32
  • 4
    Was the fellow's name Joseph Karo? – Double AA Sep 25 '13 at 13:33
  • @SethJ, a yeshivah bachur. – Ani Yodea Sep 25 '13 at 13:36
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According to the Gemara Shabbos 109a, there's a spirit that rests on the hands which is a 'noble' spirit, and will therefore refuse to leave with a mere washing once, but only by washing three times can it be removed (Rashi there).

While this is said in the context of washing in the morning, it could be that some have extended this to the washing done before bread, if they are worried about the damaging spirit continuing to reside on their hands (because after all, the Rabbinic requirement to wash hands for bread, even actual terumah bread, wouldn't require washing more than twice)

1

The Kaf HaChaim brings (162:2) that the three times is a specific Kabbalistic intention.

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