A Meditation for Hand Washing

We are constantly being reminded to wash our hands these days. Jewish tradition teaches that hand washing can be a practical matter of hygiene, but it can also be a spiritual moment. Before making motzi over challah, it is traditional to wash our hands and recite a special blessing. This helps us transform something ordinary — eating food — into a moment of sanctity, a moment of recognition of our partnership with nature to grow plants and create nourishment from them.

We need not have a challah in front of us, though, to recognize the spiritual imperative to wash our hands. Deuteronomy teaches that it is a mitzvah to take care of ourselves. And if not just for ourselves, we must think of others, as Leviticus teaches, “Don’t stand by while your neighbor is in danger.” The Torah is clear that for our sake, and for the sake of others, it is a mitzvah — a sacred duty — to be mindful of our hands. 

As we are physically distant from one another, may we be reminded that by washing our hands, we are symbolically reaching out to our neighbors with love.