Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 260:1 cites the Rema who states these rules when cutting one's nails:

  • The order for cutting the nails (numbered "digits") is:
    • Left Hand - 4,2,5,3,1
    • Right Hand - 2,4,1,3,5



2 Answers 2


The Abudraham seen here says he found an explenation that the order is a mnemonic to help remember which day to cut one's nails so as to be honoring the Shabbos. He also quotes the Chachmei Tzarfas and Provence who seem to ascribe a more spooky understanding to which he ties in a couple of Gemaras and the care they took with their nails, ending off "whoever is stringent in these matters should be blessed'. But he does explain the actual order according to this understanding.

This Abudraham is brought in the Elya Rabba 260:5 but apparently Hebrewbooks does not have that seffer. I would suggest you see there as he continues this conversation that the order chosen was a mnemonic from other Achronim.

A little bit extra somewhat related info: Elya Rabba also quotes the oft mentioned idea that ties into this about nails starting to grow on Shabbos if you cut them on Wednesday, and who writes to worry about this or not. This subject is also discussed in Rabbi Margolios' Nefesh Chaya here. There, he also brings a possible reason that some Halachik deciders tried shifting the Shabbos preparations away from Thursday was because the Yishmaelim did their preps on that day for their holy day.

All this plays into the Magen Avraham brought in the Mishna Berurah that >Tashbatz says Maharam was not particular, and neither was Arizal, however one should try to be careful if they are able.


Since each hand has five fingers, the two groups of non-contiguous fingers must be a group of two and a group of three.

Note that we that we start with the two most important fingers on the hand, the ring finger and the pointer finger. Alternatively, we can say that the most important finger used is the one that we point with. This forces the ring finger to be the "other" finger of that group. Once we have cut that group, then we cut the other three.

Marriage: It’s All in Our Hands

The pointer is the strongest finger, and one often used to teach (“look at the moon”), write with, or maybe lecture a point.

Our pointer may be our strongest and most passionate. But, our fourth finger, our ring finger, is our gentlest. So, although we should always feel passion and romantic love in our marriage, it is gentleness with which we should act towards each other. That should be our attitude towards our spouse. Instead of acting or reacting with our pointer, our strongest emotion, we should treat our spouse with our ring finger, joining our physical symbol of marriage with the personality of that finger, gentleness.

Another physical reminder is that our ring finger is our only finger that can’t really stand up alone. One might be able to hold it up a little, but it hurts. It is not meant to be standing alone.

We consider the fingers moving from the left to the right holding the hands palm down. Thus, the two divisions of the fingers are ring, pointer (4,2 or 2,4) and then the other three.

Since the hands are held palm down, one starts with the leftmost member of each group and moves to the right on that hand. That specifies the order that is used.

The numbers need to be defined so that you can visualize how they show up.

1 - thumb

2 - index

3 - middle

4 - ring

5 - pinkie (or little)

Alternatively, if you define the fingers as 1 - 10 counting from the left palm down, the numbers would be

2, 4, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 6, 8, 10


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