Why is there a different style of hand washing for after going to the bathroom (alternating between hands) and before eating bread (consecutively on each hand)?

  • 1
    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, JoeShmo, and thanks for bringing us your question! Hope to see you around.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 11:50
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    Hi Joeshmo, and welcome again! What demonstrates to you that there is in fact a different procedure for these two washings? A printed source? Observation of individuals? Including this information would improve the question.
    – WAF
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 11:53
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    +1 This is a perfect example of a question I always have when washing but forget 30 seconds after! Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 11:56
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    If one washes their hands seirugin (alternating ) after bathroom then they are following the option who holds that bathrooms have Rauch raah and seirugin gets rid of it,however washing for bread really just needs a pouring of a reviis on the hands the second pouring is to get rid of the water from the first pouring see Mishna Brurah 162:1
    – sam
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 15:40
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    @sam actually the mishna berura (and most authorities, including the Shulchan Arukh and Rama) is ok with just using a reviit and not doing a second pouring.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


The shu”a says (orach Chaim siman ד, seif ב):

ידקדק לערות עליהם מים ג' פעמים להעביר רוח רעה ששורה עליהן:

(when washing negel vasser) one should be careful to pour on them (each hand) three times, to get rid of the “bad spirit” that is upon them.

We see from here that the reason for washing three times is because of the “bad spirit”.

Later on the shu”a writes (siman ד seif י״ח)

אלו דברים צריך נטילה במים. these are the things that need washing with water: (He goes on to list many things that need washing, including going to the bathroom)

Mishna berurah comments on this:

במים - אף דלתפלה וכ"ש לתורה די אחר כל אלו בנקיון בעלמא וכדלקמן בסעיף כ"ב דמיירי בקם מן המטה וכ"ש באינך מ"מ להסתלק רוח רעה צריך דוקא מים ועיין לקמן בס"ק מ"א. וא"צ ג' פעמים כ"א בקם מן המטה ויש מחמירין בהולך בין המתים ומשמש מיטתו דבעינן ג"כ ג"פ. ובספר היכל הקודש מחמיר ביוצא מבהכ"ס ג"פ ובמ"א סימן ז' סתר דבריו:

with water: ... and he only need wash three times when he wakes up, and some are stringent and say also when he walks between the dead and when he uses his bed, that those too need three times. And in Heichal Hakodesh he is stringent when one leaves the bathroom to wash three times, and the Magen Avraham contradicts this. (Italicization and translation by me)

We see from here that some hold one needs to wash three times after coming out of the bathroom, which (as we saw above) is because of the “bad spirit” that covers the hand. Bread is not included on this list because one does not have “bad spirits” on his hands before eating bread.

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