Ki Sisa: Jewish Hygiene

February 10, 2022

The coronavirus raised awareness for proper hygiene. In fact, in the Tabernacle in the desert over three thousand years ago, the priest would wash his hands and feet before beginning the holy service. What is spiritual hygiene? And why should the women be in charge?

A. The Mirrors of Generations

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the commandment to install a washbasin in the Tabernacle for the priests to wash their hands (Source 1). The Rebbe cites this commandment, explaining that the washbasin serves as a purifier for the priest elevating him from the mundane to the holy. How was the washbasin fashioned? From the mirrors of the Jewish women which were used to entice their husbands in Egypt (Source 2).

B. The Cleanser

The Rebbe explains that there is a modern-day lesson from the washbasin: We each have a Temple in our hearts. How do we properly transition from the dirt of the world when we enter our own Temple? By cleaning our hands and feet — the elements of our body that are most involved in worldly affairs. Chassidism interprets the first Mishnah of Tractate Shabbat (Source 3) as the give and take between G-d and the human being in his mission in the world. G-d extends His hand outward to support us, and we extend our hands inward to elevate the worldly matter.

C. Who Has Washing Power?

We cleanse our hands and feet by washing them in the pure wisdom of Chassidism, and when we do so, we gain the power to transform gold silver, and copper, into a dwelling place for G-d. And there are two more lessons: First of all, copper — a cheap gift — is a precious gift to G-d, if it is given with love. Second, the cleansing is best done by a woman. 



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