75. Washing the Hands for Prayer
12:5 Before praying, a person should wash his hands to the wrists. Even though a person already washed upon arising, if he touched any bodily part that is normally sweaty or if he scratched his head, he must wash again before praying. A person on the road (OC 92:4) must travel even four mil ahead or one mil back in order to get water to wash for prayer. (The word “mil” looks like “mile,” but it’s really more the size of a kilometer. Therefore, one mil is about .6 miles and four mil is about 2.5 miles.) If getting water will cause one to miss the deadline for prayer, he should clean his hands with some other material (say, wood or sand) and pray. This applies not only for morning prayers, but mincha and maariv, as well (Mishnah Brurah 92:13). 12:6 A person who washed his hands properly in the morning and was not aware of anything that would make them become dirty in the interim should nevertheless wash again. This is because he did not pay constant attention to his hands. However, if he doesn’t know of anything happening that would definitely require him to wash again, he need not search after water. If searching for water to wash would cause someone to be unable to pray with a minyan, he need not go look for it. Rather, he should clean his hands with some other material so that he may participate in communal prayer.