"N'TILAS YODOYIM" - WASHING HANDS BEFORE EATING BREAD
"V'lechem l'vav enosh yis-od" (T'hilim 104:15)
The Rabbis considered bread so important because it is the food which satisfies a person and keeps him alive, as it says, "Bread nourishes (supports) a man's heart." For this reason, the Rabbis decreed that a special "brocha" should be said before eating bread. We say the "brocha", "Hamohtzi lechem min ho-oretz" (who causes bread to grow from the land). (Shulchan Oruch Harav 167:1)
Before eating bread we should wash our hands. In the time of the "Bays Hamikdosh", the "Koh-hanim" washed their hands before eating "T'rumah" (grain that had been set aside for the "Koh-hanim"), so that the "T'rumah" would not become "tomay" (spiritually impure) when they touched it. The Rabbis made it a custom for everyone to wash their hands, for the sake of the "Koh-hanim". In this way, when the "Bays Hamikdosh" is rebuilt (we pray that this will happen quickly, in our days), the "Koh-hanim" will be in the habit of washing their hands before eating, and will not make the "T'rumah" "tomay". Another reason for washing hands is cleanliness. (Mishnah Bírurah 158:1)
Washing Hands: The cup that is used to wash the hands is first held in the left hand and water is poured on the right hand two times. Then, the cup is held in the right hand and water is poured over the left hand twice. He makes the brocha "Al N'tiylas Yodoyim", while his hands are still wet, and then takes a towel to dry his hands. He then makes the "brocha" "Hamohtzi", and eats a piece of bread.
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