Morning Washing

I read in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (2:1) that when sleeping, an unclean spirit dwells upon the body, and that's why we wash our hands in the morning. What does washing have to do with getting it off our fingers when we awake? I know that I have a spirit, but here it says that I have a second spirit, that is present when I sleep. If this is so, then does everyone have a second spirit and where do these spirits stay while we are awake? How do these spirits know how to come back to us directly, especially to those people who do traveling and often sleep in different locations while on their trips?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The law that you cite is perhaps a little easier to understand in the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word for this spirit that remains on one's hands in the morning time is called "Ruach Ra'ah." Ruach Ra'ah is an impurity that comes about from sleeping. It has nothing to do with your own soul, which in Hebrew is called a Neshama. The Neshama stays with you always.

Ruach Ra'ah is a stubborn impurity that can only be removed by a special hand-washing procedure. Here's how it is done:

Hold a washing cup in right hand and fill it with water.

Pass the cup to the left hand and pour water over the right hand (up until the wrist).

Pass the cup to the right hand and pour water over the left hand (up until the wrist).

Then pass again to the left hand and pour, and then to the right and pour, then to the left and pour and then to the right and pour, until you have poured water over each hand three times.

If one pours water on his right hand three times, and then on his left three times without washing them intermittently, this does not successfully remove the "Ruach Ra'ah." (Code of Jewish law - O.C. 4:2)

More Questions

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. For genealogy questions try Note also that this is not a homework service!

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Receive the Daily Features Email

Sign up to our Daily Email Newsletter.

Our privacy policy