Chazal find a source for the mitzvah of netilas yadayim in the verse, “I will clean my hands and then circle the altar of Hashem” (Tehillim 23,6). Aside from alluding to the simple act of washing one’s hands, David Hamelech is advising us how to succeed in our tefillos. Washing one’s hands symbolizes repentance, for after one has done teshuvah he is fitting to perform the service in the Beis Hamikdash (Metzudas David). Repentance for transgressions is the first step before approaching tefillah. Cleansing oneself from sin, however, is not enough. Only after washing his hands clean of all worldly endeavors can one focus completely on Divine service (Seforno).
The verse continues, “To proclaim thanks to Hashem, and to speak of His wonders.” After one has separated himself from transgression and worldly matters, he is no longer obligated to bring sin offerings. At that point, he can concentrate on the Korban Todah, a sacrifice offered to Hashem in gratitude for His infinite kindness (Malbim).
David Hamelech teaches us that washing our hands symbolizes a three-step process of teshuvah, focusing on spiritual matters, and then thanking Hashem. We start our day with this powerful reminder of our purpose in life as Jews. With that thought firmly planted in our hearts we are ready to approach the mitzvah of tefillah.
Starting our day with netilas yadayim, Cleanses our body and soul for prayer.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org