The history of washing for bread

The history of washing for bread:[1]

The obligation of washing hands prior to eating food is not rooted in the Torah, and is thus not of Biblical status, but rather is Rabbinical. The Rabbinical institution to wash hands developed gradually from generation to generation. Until the time of King Shlomo, there was no institution to wash hands prior to any eating of food, and thus no one washed hands prior to eating as an obligation. Shlomo Hamelech instituted the obligation to wash hands prior to eating Kodshim.[2] However, all other foods remained permitted to be eaten without washing until the times of Beis Shamaiy. One of the eighteen decrees that were instituted by Beis Shamaiy in the attic of Chizkiya was that Kohanim must wash hands prior to eating Teruma. However, it was only later that the Sages instituted to wash hands prior to eating bread.[3] This institution took place after the destruction of the Temple[4], in the times of Rebbe Akiva.[5]  

 

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[1] See Derech Hachaim [Mittler Rebbe] p. 127

Other opinions: From some sources, it is implied that the decree to wash hands for bread took place prior to the destruction of the Temple, at the same time that the Sages made the decree for Teruma. [Implication of Admur 158:1; Levush 158:1] Some Poskim even write that Shlomo Hamelech instituted the Mitzvah to wash for bread. [Chayeh Adam 36:1]

[2] Shabbos 15a

[3] Derech Hachaim ibid

[4] Derech Hachaim ibid

[5] See Eiruvin 21b

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