Rav Avraham ben Avraham was born to a family of gentile aristocracy, yet he decided to relinquish his status and become a righteous convert. His family, who were very devout in their religious beliefs, ordered him to renounce his Jewish faith or be burned at the stake. Rav Avraham refused to compromise and chose to die al kiddush Hashem (sanctifying Hashem’s Name).
Rav Avraham was very close to the Vilna Gaon, who told him that he could be extricated from his punishment by using one of the Names of Hashem. The righteous Rav Avraham refused the offer, explaining that, if he was released, people might think that he had agreed to renounce his faith, and he was not willing to risk such a misconception. Sefarim say that when Rav Avraham made the blessing on kiddush Hashem the entire universe shook as a result of the tremendous act of sanctification.
On the day that Rav Avraham was executed, a great fire came out of the Ma’aras Hamachpeilah in Chevron, where the Avos are buried. The Vilna Gaon explained that Rav Avraham’s act of dying while sanctifying Hashem’s Name caused the forces of impurity to be reduced drastically. As a result, the tumah that rests on one’s hands every morning upon awakening was also weakened (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as cited in Ishei Yisrael 2,17). Netilas yadayim is the first daily mitzvah performed as we wake up each morning. Doing it correctly has the potential to ensure one’s day an auspicious start, while doing it improperly could bring on spiritual dangers. Let us look into the halachos of netilas yadayim so we may appreciate the deeper meaning of this mitzvah.
Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org