Q.  Do you need to wash your hands and your feet before praying (Exodus 30:17-21)?  At the moment I take a shower in the morning before praying, but I don’t know if this suffices.  And what to before Minhah or Arvith?

 

A.  Taking a shower suffices for washing your face and feet.  You should, however, recite the blessing "ha-Ma'avir" upon leaving the bathroom.  You can find it on page 14 in our English siddur or on page 16 in our Hebrew siddur.  (Click here for a print-out of the blessing upon washing the face.)  But taking a shower will not, l-khathila, suffice for hand washing before reciting Qiryath Shema or the Amida.  Before beginning the morning prayers, make sure you wash both your hands by pouring at least a cup's worth of water over both hands evenly.  The water should run over your hands at least to the wrists.  For more information about hand washing, see Hilkhoth Berakhoth chapter 6.

 

HAND WASHING:

Hil. Tefilla 4,1 states:

“Five things withhold one from properly fulfilling his duty to pray the Amida (the 'Standing Prayer'), even though the time for prayer arrived.  If one prayed the Amida while violating one of these five, he is to pray the Amida again properly.  These are they:  purity of the hands [...]"

 

One must, therefore, see to the purification of his hands before praying the Amida, whether in the morning, afternoon, or at night -- any time one plans to pray the Amida.  Even if it is the Amida of Musaf or if one is voluntarily praying the Amida, purification of the hands is required.  Similarly, if one is only going to recite the Shema' and its blessings without praying the Amida afterwards, although it is not l-khathila to do so, he must still wash his hands - even if only for Qiryath Shema.  The only difference is that the purification of the hands is not me'aqev with regard to Qiryath Shema.  In other words, if one said Qiryath Shema without having washed his hands, he need not recite the Shema and its blessings all over again, as would be the case if he prayed the Amida without having purified his hands.

 

When water is so far away that the halakha does not require one to pursue the actual washing of hands with water, or if one is simply unable to get to the water for whatever reason, it is sufficient that one rub his hands with earth, pebbles, or the like, and pray.  If one did so, he need not pray the Amida for that period of day again upon gaining access to water.

 

 

FACE AND FOOT WASHING:

Hil. Tefilla 4,3 states "[...] One washes his face, hands, and feet in morning and then prays.  If he was distant from water, it is sufficient that he wipes his hands alone before prayer."

 

According to the Rambam, one is only obligated to wash his face and feet before the morning prayers.  The Talmud does not mention for which prayers one must wash the face and feet.  It simply states that every day one should wash his hands, face, and feet because of the verse that says "Prepare to approach Your G-d."  That would be at least once a day.  Due to the Talmud's ambiguity as to for which prayers this applies, or whether it applies to all prayers, some believe that the Rambam's reason for mentioning face and foot washing as obligatory only for the morning prayers is due to the principle of safeq d-Rabanan l-haqel (Where there is a doubt concerning something of Rabbinic origin, we are to go with the lenient opinion). 

 

This does not mean that it is not proper to do so for the other prayers as well.  Indeed, it was the opinion of the Geonim that one wash the feet before praying the Amida at any period of the day.  In fact, the Rambam's own son writes in his book "Kitāb Kifāyah al-`Ābidīn" (Guide for the Servants [of G-d]) that although washing the feet before Minha and Arvith is not obligatory, we are obliged to do so.  He was of the opinion that much of what Haz"al made obligatory in terms of prayer, they made obligatory as a minimum measure, so as to provide the multitude with insight into the principles of how to properly approach the Most High, but without overburdening the masses -- but not so as to hamper one who finds that going a bit beyond the minimal requirement strengthens his devotion to G-d.

 

The Rambam himself mentions in the 6th halakha of the same chapter the widespread custom among the Jews of Spain and the region of Iraq, that any healthy individual who had a seminal emission would wash his entire body in water before praying, even though such is not the obligatory halakha.  The reason? "הִכּוֹן לִקְרַאת-אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל"  "Prepare to approach your G-d, O Israel." (Amos 4,12)

 

Although, according to Mishneh Torah, there is no obligation to wash one's face or feet before Minha or Arvith, there is more than sufficient reason to believe that it is proper to do so.  Considering that we prostrate and place our faces to the floor, it is reasonable to avoid walking around a place of prayer with shoes on.  It is also proper, if not common decency, to make sure your feet aren't dirty when entering a place of prayer.  Washing them removes filth.  And if they are smelly, washing them can reduce the odor.

 

Likewise with washing one's face before prayer:  Although, according to Mishneh Torah, it is mandatory  that one wash his face only before the morning Amida, it is beneficial to do so before praying the Amida at any time of day.  It is easy to get worn out after a hard day's work.  One can grow tired or become sweaty by the end of the day.  Splashing water in your face before the Minha or Arvith prayer freshens you up as well as wakes you up.  And truly, is there a more fitting time of day to have optimal awareness as when standing in the presence of your Maker?

 

Although our Sages did not make face or foot washing, in and of themselves, manditory before Minha and Arvith, they did instruct that we must remove phlegm, mucus, or any other bothersome thing before praying (Hil. Tefilla 4,10).  Phlegm is what's in one's throat.  'Sleep' is mucus, as is whatever may be in one's nose.  Face washing is the most certain way to remove any 'sleep' from one's eyes.  If there is anything in the nose, clean it out before prayer.  If there is anything bothering you in your ears, remove it before you pray.  If you need to relieve yourself, do so before you pray.  If doing so means that you won't be able to pray with a minyan, so be it.  The presence of distractions are one of the five things that keep a person from fulfilling his obligation to pray; praying with a minyan is not.  These halakhoth are among the most neglected daily pertinent laws among the Jewish people.  It is our duty to turn the tides and see to it that the Name of the Holy One of Israel is again sanctified in the midst of His People.

 

למען שמו

R' Yosef Eliyah

 

 

ENGLISH:

(The Laws of Blessings) Hilkhoth Berakhoth 6

(The Laws of Prayer) Hilkhoth Tefilla 4

 

 

 

* DorDeah.com is an independent organization.  DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the "Torath Moshe Society," nor Chabad-Lubavitch.  Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.

 

 

 

This is the first in a series intended to guide you step by step toward increased knowledge and observance of God’s command concerning the Shema, as found in the Torah and as systematized by the Divinely ordained Court of ancient Israel.

The following information is for those who, having already
embraced our Creator’s everlasting Guidance through Moses, the first and final prophet of immutable Divine Law, are now ready to take the next step; so take notes! We are called to live a faith of action.

 


 

 

 FIRST STEP IN SHEMA RECITATION - Establishing The Habit:


Though both men and women are equally obligated to embrace and proclaim our Maker’s singular sovereignty in the world, only males are obligated to do so in the specific format of the “Shema;” nonetheless, it is praiseworthy and customary for women to do so as well, if it does not prevent them from fulfilling their own unique duties.  The Shema, our daily proclamation and acceptance of the Almighty’s absolute universal authority, consists of reciting Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41.  If you don't know Hebrew, you can fulfill this obligation even by reciting the Biblical passages in English.  If you can read Hebrew but don't understand the words, we advise you to read the Shema in English in the morning, and in Hebrew at night.  Once you have begun to understand the meanings of the words in the Hebrew, only then do we recommend you recite Shema exclusively in Hebrew.

 

TIMING

These selections are to be said early in the morning and any time at night after the appearance of 3 medium sized stars.  After becoming habituated to daily recitation of these Biblical passages, which need not take more than a month or so, continue then with step two regarding the Shema, to be given more information; but for now, begin making a habit of reciting only these selections of Torah every morning and every night.  If reciting all three selections takes up too much of your time, then start out by making it a habit to recite at least Deuteronomy 6:4-9 every morning and night.  However, if you’re serious about serving God, then seriously - where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Sacrifice just 5 or 6 mins of your regular TV watching and read these passages instead.  If TV’s not the challenge, then record yourself reading these passages and play it while you’re driving or while you’re preparing dinner.  Nothing holds back a willing heart.  Take one step towards God, and He’ll take two ‘steps’ nearer to you.

 

R' Yosef Eliyah

Q.  In your article on face and foot washing before prayer, you wrote that it is reasonable to remove shoes when praying.  What about when I would be the only one praying with my shoes off?  Should I remove my shoes to pray even though no one else in the synagogue does so?  And should I prostrate in a regular synagogue?

 

A.  The article you refer to states, "Considering that we prostrate and place our faces to the floor, it is reasonable to avoid walking around a place of prayer with shoes on.  It is also proper, if not common decency, to make sure your feet aren't dirty when entering a place of prayer.  Washing them removes filth.  And if they are smelly, washing them can reduce the odor."

 

That article speaks about an ideal setting wherein those praying prostrate in prayer.  In a synagogue where it is not the practice to prostrate in prayer, the floor is almost certainly going to be filthy.  Some Chasidic Jews even have the practice to spit on the floor during prayer.   I guess just as with wearing shoes, they took as an imperative Haz"al's statement that one can spit in a place of prayer.  Of course, that statement was intended only in pressing situations, such as the example given in Hil. Tefilla 4,11 within the context of distractions during prayer that occur against one's will.

 

It is counter-productive to remove one's shoes to pray in a place where everyone else wears shoes during prayer.  Since everyone else walks around in such a place of prayer with the same shoes on that they wore while walking around outside, the floor is going to be dirty; and there's no telling what they walked on. Walking around in such a synagogue without shoes on will make your feet more dirty than they would be were you to pray barefoot outside in the grass.  If your feet are damp due to having washed them, they will become even more disgusting - not to mention the noticeable smudges you're likely to create on the floor.  Despite not removing your shoes in such a setting, one should make sure his shoes are clean, in fulfillment of Hil. Tefillah 5,5 - that "one should fix his garments, and make himself of excellent and splended appearance, as it states [in Psalms 29,2] 'Prostrate to YHWH in the splendor of holiness.'"

 

It is also not practical to prostate in prayer in most synagogues today, whether it be due to lack of space, because the floor is filthy, or because doing so would likely cause a disturbance during prayer -- whether to your own prayer or to the prayer of others.  The final prostration that ideally immediately follows the Amida may, however, be done later in a different location.  If this is not possible, it is not one of the five matters that prevent one from fulfilling his obligation to pray.

 

For these reasons, it is incumbent upon us to begin forming our own congregations where we can pray in an ideal manner.  In the meantime, whenever praying with a standard minyan, keep in mind that washing the feet before prayer is only required for the morning prayers, and you can do so at home.  And regarding prostration - it is not one of the five matters that are me'aqev an individual, that prevent an individual from fulfilling his duty to pray.  As found in Hil. Tefilla 5:1,

 

“There are eight matters that one praying the Amida should be careful to do.  If he did not do these, either due to pressure or coercion, or if he simply because transgressed and did not do one of them, he is not required to pray the Amida again. These are they: [...] bending down, and prostration.”

 

I think the state of the average synagogue qualifies as a situation wherein one is pressured or coerced not to prostrate during prayer.  The same is the case with regard to removing shoes before praying with the typical minyan at the present time.

 

השיבה ה' שופטינו כבראשונה

 

R' Yosef Eliyah

 

 

 

ENGLISH:

(Laws of Prayer) Hilkhoth Tefillah 11:10

(Laws of Prayer) Hilkhoth Tefillah 4:11

(Laws of Prayer) Hilkhoth Tefillah 5:1 & 5:5

 

 

 

 

* DorDeah.com is an independent organization.  DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the "Torath Moshe Society," nor Chabad-Lubavitch.  Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.

 

According to your siddur, I need to put on Tallith and Tefillin before the Shma-prayers. That’s logical because the Shma-prayers make references to Talith and Tefillin.  Between the recitation of Shma and Amida no interruption should be made, so I guess I can’t take off my Talith and Tefillin at that time.  After the Amida, there is prostration during – I guess – the Tachanun-prayers.  Does this mean that I should prostrate with my Talith and Tefillin on?  This sounds strange to me.  And in your diagram you show a person with only his Talith on and no Tefillin.  I’m a bit confused.  My question is:  Is it possible or advisable to prostrate with or without Talith and / or Tefillin on?

 

 

One dons Tefillin and Tallith before the Shema prayers.  This is universal Jewish practice, and it is proper to do in any case.  Haz"al said that one who recites Shema' without Tefillin on is כאילו as though he is giving false testimony.  Certainly, if no Tefillin is available, you should say Shema even without Tefillin on.  But if you have Tefillin available, then you should put it on before saying the Shema prayers.
 
Concerning prostration - correct;  We are to prostrate during the Tahanun prayers.  If you have room, prostrate fully פשוט ידיים ורגליים, as seen in figure 9 below.  If you do not have enough room to prostrate fully, prostrate partially, similar to how we do so during the Amida, as seen in figure 8 below.
 
And yes, you prostrate with your Talith and Tefillin on - if it is a regular day of the week.  It is more comfortable to prostrate wearing smaller Tefillin than with large Tefillin, for obvious reasons.  If you look closely, you should be able to see the Tefillin represented in the diagram.  It should not seem strange to you.  The Kohanim, when serving in the Temple, would prostrate with Tefillin.  There is nothing wrong with prostrating with Tefillin or a Talith on.  It is not a problem that the Talith or Tefillin happen to touch the ground if this is done in a respectful manner.  One should be praying in a clean environment in any case.  Ideally one prays in a synagogue which is appointed specifically for prayer.  This simply shows us the necessity for maintaining a clean floor in a synagogue, or any other place designated for prayer, and the practicality in removing shoes before entering a synagogue - even though Haz"al stated that one is allowed to enter a synagogue with shoes on.
 
NOTE:  Haz"al felt it necessary to specify that one is allowed to enter a synagogue with shoes on because they didn't think people would assume that it is ok to do so.  This is the same as how they felt it necessary to specify that one is allowed to enter a synagogue wearing only an under-shirt, or even spit if needed.  These are clearly not recommendations.  If need be, it is allowed to do these things in difficult scenarios.
 
רק ברכות
 
Sincerely,
R' Yosef Eliyah
 
If it is Shabbath or a Biblical Holy Day, you should not put on Tefillin.  We do, however, don Tefillin on the New Moon (Rosh Hodesh) and during the intermediate days of Pesah and Sukkoth.
 
 

Tahanun

 

 

 

 

* DorDeah.com is an independent organization.  DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the "Torath Moshe Society," nor Chabad-Lubavitch.  Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.

 

Question:

I really like your siddur.  I especially like that it is short enough to allow me to actually have intention while I pray, without making me feel pressed to quickly finish.  But why doesn't the siddur include Psalms 145 – 150 in the Pesukei d'Zimrah?  The Rambam advises its inclusion in Hil. Tefilah 7:12, as is found in the Talmud (Shabbos 118b).

 

Answer:

Our siddur does make reference to pesuqeh d-zimra.  The English siddur mentions it on page 15, and in the Hebrew siddur it is mentioned on page 17.  Although we do not bring the text for Psalm 145-150, we specify exactly which Psalms are recited.  If someone wants to recite them, they should be able to find them in a Tanakh.  If they bought a siddur before acquiring a Tanakh, they have their priorities confused.

You are right in referencing Hil. Tefillah 7,12.  Note, however, that the Rambam only says that the Sages praised those who recite pesuqeh d-zimra.  This is not the phraseology of a mandatory halakha.

Also notice that although the Rambam mentions pesuqeh d-zimra in Hil. Tefillah 7,17 in the context of private prayer, yet when bringing the order of public prayer in Hil. Tefillah 9,1 - the public prayers begin with Qadish and then go straight into Qiryath Shema'.  Pesuqeh d-Zimra is not mentioned.  According to Mishneh Torah, pesuqeh d-zimra is not a part of prayer in a minyan.

The goal of our siddurim, and indeed of Dor Deah in general, is to make Torah accessible to the masses in a manner that emphasizes priorities.  If someone wants to recite Psalm 145-150 every day before prayers, kol ha-kavod lo.  If he makes it a common practice to recite them aloud, he should have it memorized within a matter of months.  Adding the entire text of Psalm 145-150 detracts from the goal of our siddur.  If these Psalms were to be recited together in a minyan, then it would be reasonable to include them.  But as pointed out, they are not a part of public prayer al pi Mishneh Torah.

 

Thank you for bringing up this question!  Keep'em coming.

 

R' Yosef Eliyah

Click here to download a copy of our siddur for youself, free of charge.

 

 

* DorDeah.com is an independent organization.  DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the "Torath Moshe Society," nor Chabad-Lubavitch.  Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.