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As far as I've seen, Kohanim who are about to bless the congregation first untie their shoes (if necessary), then have their hands washed, then remove their shoes, and finally recite the blessing. As I understand it, the shoe removal must be done without touching their shoes, so that the kohanim need not wash their hands again (because they've touched their shoes) before reciting the blessing.

My kid noticed this and wondered why the kohanim don't remove their shoes before washing their hands. That, after all, would enable them to use their hands to remove their shoes, which is easier. I had no answer to this question and turn to you.

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    Maybe so they would be bare footed for as short a time as possible? – Tamir Evan Mar 9 '17 at 17:26
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    They probably want to avoid getting their socks wet near the sinks. – mevaqesh Mar 9 '17 at 17:43
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As a kohain who does this myself, I can explain why we do it this way.

There are three reasons that I know of. These are reasons I have personally found in common all over the USA and Israel. (There may be others, but these are the most common.)

  1. In our modern society, walking around without shoes is considered inappropriate. Therefore, we usually wait to remove our shoes until the last minute.
  2. Some people have custom orthotics in their shoes and waking without them may be uncomfortable.
  3. The floor is cold, wet, and/or dirty.

Personally, a wet and/or dirty floor is the only one of those I care about.

(Side note: on Yom Kippur when the non-leather shoes we wear are often much less comfortable than normal, it is more common for kohanim to remove their shoes earlier.)

  • On Yom Kippur you may not even need to remove the shoes, since they indeed aren't "technically" shoes. – Double AA Mar 9 '17 at 22:07
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Actually Mishna Berura 128:15 suggests that the shoes should be removed prior to Netilas Yadayim. It says he may remove it after the Netila also.

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    I don't see how this answers my question: it makes it stronger! My question was why they don't do what (I didn't know) the MB says; that the MB says it makes the "why don't they" stronger. – msh210 Mar 9 '17 at 17:47
  • @msh210 I think he's saying that there is no religious preference and both are fine. – Double AA Mar 9 '17 at 17:51
  • @DoubleAA, if there's no religious preference (which is not what I understand from this paraphrase of the MB), then, okay, it doesn't make question stronger -- but it doesn't answer it either. I'm still left with "why not remove shoes before washing hands so you don't have to do it without touching your shoes, which is harder?", my original question. – msh210 Mar 9 '17 at 18:12

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