Washing and Using Bathroom in Morning

I have a question about washing in the morning. I’m becoming more observant lately and I’m confused about the steps. Do I wash three times first and then use the bathroom, or do I the bathroom first and then wash? Which blessings do I say when I come out of the bathroom and in which order?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Normally the washing should come first. Since a person’s hands have an “impure spirit” (ruach ra’ah) on them when he wakes up, he should wash to remove it as soon as possible. It’s considered meritorious to have a washing cup and basin next to your bed, to wash immediately, without having to walk to the bathroom.

Based on this, when you enter the bathroom, you should first wash three times, then use the bathroom, and then wash once more when you come out. The exception to this is if you have to use the bathroom badly, in which case you would use the bathroom first and then wash three times. The reason for this is because we are forbidden to restrain ourselves when we need to relieve ourselves. (This is based on Leviticus 11:43: “You shall not make yourselves disgusting.”) And this law overrides the usual consideration of removing the impure spirit as quickly as possible. (Make sure not to touch any of the openings of your body when using the bathroom, since you haven’t washed yet.)

In terms of the blessings, when you come out of the bathroom you first say the blessing on the washing – “al netilat yadayim,” and then the blessing for using the bathroom – “asher yatzar.” There is an alternate custom that many do – not to say any blessings when rising but to say all the blessings together when a person begins morning prayers. To do this, you would wash your hands once last when you are about to begin, then say al netilat yadayim, and then say asher yatzar and the remaining morning blessings.

If you expect you will need the bathroom another time before starting your morning prayers, then even if you say all the blessings later, you should say asher yatzar when you first use the bathroom in the morning. In such a case, it’s certainly better to say al netilat yadayim later, at the start of prayers, since you know you are not yet fully prepared for morning prayers at this point.

(Sources: Mishna Berurah 1:2, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 4:1, 6:2, Mishna Berurah 4:4, 6:8-9,11, Biur Halacha 4 s”v “va’afilu”.)

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