From the Rav’s Desk: May one sit while doing Netilas Yadayim for bread?


Question: [Wednesday, 20th Adar 2, 5782]

I have a sink right next to my dining room table, which I can reach from my chair. I would like to know if I can wash hands from the sink while sitting in my chair, or if I must stand up when washing for bread. I have a recollection that some are accustomed on the night of the Seder that the sons wash the hands of their parents for Urchatz and Rachtza while they are sitting in their chair. What is the Halacha in this matter?


You may remain seated when you wash for bread and say the blessing of Al Netilas Yadayim, and there is no requirement for you to stand, and so was publicly witnessed to have been done by the Rebbe, who washed his hands and said the blessing while sitting. However, by the morning washing upon awakening, the blessing must be said in a standing position. The above follows the ruling of Halacha, however, according to Kabbalah, some claim that one should always stand when washing for bread and saying the blessing.


From the letter of the law, one is only required to stand when saying blessings which involve obligatory commands, such as when saying the blessing over Tzitzis, and Tefillin. This is learned from Sefiras Haomer which is required to be said and blessed on in a standing position. Thus, by the morning washing, one is required to stand for the [washing and] blessing of Al Netilas Yadayim  being that the morning washing is a command. The above rule, however, is with exception for the blessings made over Shechitah and Challah, being that these two Mitzvos don’t hold the same weight as other commands, as they are done merely for the sake of being able to eat food. [Meaning, that since the eating of a specific food, such as meat or bread, is voluntary and not a command, therefore, the mitzvah which relates to the food contains a voluntary aspect being that one can choose simply to not eat the food.] Accordingly, one is also not required to stand while washing for bread and saying the blessing, as one can simply choose not to eat bread, hence making it similar to a voluntary mitzvah.

Nonetheless, all the above applies according to the letter of the law. However, according to the teachings of Kabbalah, some write one is to stand while washing for bread and saying the blessing. However, some argue that this only applies on Shabbos.

Practically, many Gedolei Yisrael were witnessed to wash their hands for bread while sitting, and so was the witnessed practice of the Rebbe.

Sources: See regarding washing and saying the blessing while sitting: Ittur Tzitzis 3:2; Chavilim Beni’imim 1:1; Beir Moshe 5:17; Rivivos Efarim 1:125; Shaareiy Habracha [Shtitzberg] 1:40 footnote 111; Piskeiy Teshuvos 158:2; Seder Netilas Yadayim of Rav Elyashvili footnote 47 that so was custom of Rebbe; Or Yesha 224;  Other opinions who rule to bless while standing: Peas Sadcha 30; Siddur Yaavetz; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:171;See regarding the general rule of standing for Birchas Hamitzvos: Admur 8:3; M”A 8:2; Beis Yosef 8:1 in name Orchos Chaim

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