Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Ki Sisa

Washing Hands

In continuing its description of the artifacts that were to be placed in the mishkan, the Torah informs us regarding the kiyor – the type of laver or fountain that was installed in the courtyard of the mishkan and later the Temple in Jerusalem. This kiyor was used by the kohanim – the priestly descendants of Aharon – to wash their hands and feet before entering the mishkan or Temple to begin their daily service to God and to Israel. This washing of hands and feet was not only a matter of cleanliness but it was also a symbolic ritual of preparation for holy service. The washing of the hands of the kohanim remains a ritual till today, when their hands are washed in water before they ascend the podium to bless the congregation.

In fact, washing one’s hands in a ritual fashion no matter how clean or sterile they are remains a daily part of Jewish life for us all. Before we eat bread we must wash our hands. The washing of our hands is part of the order of the Seder service on Pesach night. When we arise in the morning, we wash our hands. Before prayer services we are also bidden to wash our hands. And when we have completed dealing with our bodily functions we are also instructed to wash our hands. Again, these are not only matters of cleanliness, though cleanliness is a prime virtue in Jewish life, but there is a ritual, spiritual and holy attachment to the washing of hands.

There is an important message implied in this hand-washing regimen of Judaism. It is to impress upon the person the holiness of everything in life and that all that we do is really in service of God. The phrase that was used throughout the Jewish world by the “wakers” in the early morning was “Arise to the service of God.” But the service of God requires an appreciation and understanding that we are in fact serving God in our daily lives. Otherwise, without that realization, everything in life becomes prosaic and mundane, habitual rote and sometimes even meaningless. The fact that we are bidden to wash our hands before or after performing many of the most mundane things in life – eating, awaking, dealing with our bodily functions, etc. – reminds us that nothing in life is ordinary, profane or mundane.

Everything is important. Everything is part of the service that we owe to our Creator. Everything therefore requires a sense of purpose and dedication, an understanding of the challenges that life puts before us and that we are commanded to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Washing one’s hands is a reminder of this challenge and obligation. Just as the kohain in the Temple had to remind himself daily of the holiness inherent in the performance of his tasks in the Temple by washing his hands and feet before entering upon his daily regimen of work in the Temple, so too are we bidden by the ritual of washing our hands numerous times during the day to remember our duties and challenges to create holiness and spirituality in our everyday lives and affairs. Thus the kiyor and its message survive amongst all of us even today.

Shabat shalom.
Rabbi Berel Wein

Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Berel Wein and



View Complete List

Certainty From Uncertainty
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5762

The Secrets of Creation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770

Cherish the Memories
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Goal Tending
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Straightforward and Upright
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Dog-matic Murder
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

> Why Tell Stories?
Shlomo Katz - 5764

Picking Up the Pieces
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

A Reality Check
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The Uniqueness of Man
Shlomo Katz - 5766

Finding the Real You
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

From Dust To G-dliness
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5764


Deja Vu All Over Again . . . Then Shabbat
Shlomo Katz - 5775

Stories that Teach
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5760

Knowing This World and Using it Well
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5761

An Enlightening Insight Into The Meaning of Gadol and Katan
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information