Tag Archives: hand washing

Wash your hands

parshat ki tisa – exodus 30

Join Geoffrey Stern and Rabbi Adam Mintz recorded on March 9th on Clubhouse. The Torah commands the Priests to wash their hands and feet before conducting the Temple service. The Rabbis command hand washing upon waking, before prayer, before eating and on multiple other opportunities. We review the Rabbinic and comparative Christian and Muslim sources and discuss hand washing; a rite historically identified with the Jews.

Sefaria Source Sheet: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/472460


Welcome to Madlik.  My name is Geoffrey Stern and at Madlik we light a spark or shed some light on a Jewish Text or Tradition.  Along with Rabbi Adam Mintz, we host Madlik Disruptive Torah on clubhouse every Thursday and share it as the Madlik podcast on your favorite platform. This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa. The Torah commands the Priests to wash their hands and feet before conducting the Temple service. The Rabbis command hand washing upon waking, before prayer, before eating and on multiple other opportunities. When I studied in the Yeshiva, I had a bowl and cup of water under my bed so that I could wash my hands before my feet touched the floor.  If you’ve been to an Orthodox wedding or a rest room in Israel you’ve likely seen a washing cup with two handles.  What’s with all the washing you say.  I say, watch your mouth and….. Wash your hands!


This year, it’s a second or third year-round. You never know what we’re gonna discuss a good topic we’re gonna discuss washing, washing your hands of all things. In Exodus 30: 17, which is part of our parsha it says God spoke to Moses, saying: (18) Make a laver of copper and a stand of copper for it, for washing;  לְרׇחְצָ֑ה and place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar. Put water in it, (19) and let Aaron and his sons wash their hands and feet [in water drawn] from it. (20) When they enter the Tent of Meeting they shall wash with water, that they may not die; or when they approach the altar to serve, to turn into smoke an offering by fire to ה’, (21) they shall wash their hands and feet, that they may not die. It shall be a law for all time for them—for him and his offspring—throughout the ages.  So, this is a real thing. This is a this is a law. And you know many times we go to the prayer book, the first blessing that you make in the prayer book, the first blessing you make over a commandment every day is blessed are you oh Lord our God אֲשֶׁר קִדְּ֒שָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָֽיִם . You wash your hands under the bed is something called Negel Vaser We’re gonna get into all of that.

Adam Mintz  02:39

Do you know what the word Nagel means.

Geoffrey Stern  02:42

Nagel means nail, I think we might, we might get into that as well.

Adam Mintz  02:47

That’s correct. I think that’s what Negel means

Geoffrey Stern  02:49

And it doesn’t mean nail like hitting the nail with a hammer. It means nail as the end of your fingertip. So, you know, there’s a lot of washing going on. I might have mentioned before that Jews are recognized as Sabbath observers. So, I think in India, the word even that they call Jews are people that keep the Shabbat. [shanivār telī (“Saturday oil-pressers”)] But I think and maybe it’s an urban legend or whatever. People understand there’s a lot of hand washing going on amongst us Jews. So we are going to try to dig down to the bottom of the well, so to speak, and get into all of the ins and outs of washing your hands. What do you think, Rabbi?

Adam Mintz  03:40

I love it. This is a great topic take it away.

Geoffrey Stern  03:44

So first of all, Torah Temimah, which is a kind of a compendium of the Talmud says from this verse, washing of the hands is associated with prayer. So, as I said, the first blessing that you make in the siddur is this blessing of, of washing your hands, and it comes from this verse. The Rabbi’s felt very strongly about washing your hands in the Talmud in Berakhot 15a Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Anyone who relieves himself, washes his hands, dons phylacteries, recites Shema, and prays, the verse ascribes credit to him as if he built an altar and offered a sacrifice upon it, as it is written: “I will wash in purity my hands, and I will encircle the altar of the Lord” (Psalms 26:6).   So clearly there is a connection that the rabbi’s take to our verse, and washing of the hands and if prayer duplicated if prayer was put in place of the temple service here you have the Talmud saying it and we see that right from the beginning. And it says, Robert said to him Rava said to him: Do you not maintain, Master, that one who does so, it is as if he immersed his entire body, as it is written: “I will wash in purity,” and it is not written: “I will wash my hands”?  So, we’re going to see already from the beginning. And I was tempted to use this episode to talk about mikvah, which is something that you Rabbi are intimately involved with, because you do so many conversions. But the truth is, there is a little bit of a tension between washing the hands and immersing in the mikvah. And that is mentioned right here. And it’s almost like a Mikdash katan that washing your hands is somehow different than immersing oneself in the mikvah. But nonetheless, as we just saw, it’s as if one has immersed themselves in the mikvah. It says as if one is re-born and rejuvenating Ravina said to Rava: My Master, look at this Torah scholar [tzurva merabbanan] who came from Eretz Yisrael and said something astonishing: One who has no water with which to wash his hands, it is sufficient that he wipes his hands with earth, a rock, or a sliver of wood. Rava replied to Ravina: He spoke well, as, is it written: I will wash with water? In purity, is written referring to anything that cleans.  So it’s almost as though this washing is clearly washing. But it’s also a metaphor for holiness. Do you do l that washing hands is number one I associated with Jews identified with Jews? Is it a critical part of Rabbinic Judaism?

Adam Mintz  06:47

Well, first of all, let me tell you how its associated with Jews in the 1300s, there was a terrible plague in Europe. And the Jews, and like a third of all European population was killed. And Jews were killed at a smaller rate than that. And there was a theory that it’s because Jews keep the laws of cleanliness, better than everybody else, that they’re washing their hands all the time. So, I want to tell you no. And that led to anti semitism, of course, because they didn’t like that. But it’s interesting that even in that context, Jews are associated with washing your hands, I’m going to tell you an interesting law. The law is that you’re not allowed to wash your hands ritually, unless your hands are clean. That’s a very interesting law. It means you can’t wash your hands for bread. If your hands are dirty. If your hands are dirty, you have to go to the sink, you have to wash your hands with soap, get them clean, then you can wash your hands for bread. So washing for bread or washing in the morning, what we call Negel, Vaser is a ritual, it’s not for cleanliness, which I think is very interesting.

Geoffrey Stern  08:01

So you almost said something, you know, your self-contradictory. On the one hand, you gave the hygienic argument for…

Adam Mintz  08:09

I showed you the way they look at it, the world looks at it at as hygienic. But I’m saying that in in Halacha, it’s exactly the opposite, which is interesting. That would be our answer to that, right.

Geoffrey Stern  08:22

So as all of you faithful Madlik, listeners know, we have Sephira notes that go with every episode. And if you look into the notes for this week’s episode, we quote an article from the Jewish Review of books published in 2021. And it says Jews, Genes and the Black Death, it’s towards the end of the notes, and it talks about, for lack of a better word, I’m going to say this bubba meiser, that every good Jewish mother would tell their kids wash your hands, because this saved us from the bubonic plague. And what’s fascinating about it, as you say, Rabbi is we’re not sure that it came from the Jews, or it came from the non-Jews, we do know that there was anti-semitic outbursts during the plague, because the Jews were blamed. That’s just a reflex, I assume. But it’s fascinating. The article goes into it and actually goes through the numbers. And it comes out if you’re interested in saying that if and that’s a big if the Jews did not die in the same numbers as the non-Jews, it may have something to do with DNA. And I just suggest that you read the article because we are not a DNA podcast here. But in any case, it is fascinating that nonetheless, what you’re saying emanates this concept that it washing hands was clearly identified with The Jews, it was a a mark, so to speak. In the Gomorrah and Hulan 106a, it says, When Rav Dimi came from Eretz Yisrael he said: Due to the failure to wash with the first waters, meaning the washing that you do before you eat, they ultimately fed a Jew pig meat. So, what happened? A Jew shows up to a butcher shop that carries both kosher meat and pig meat. And based on the fact that the guy didn’t wash his hands, the proprietor figured he must not be Jewish. So again, what the Talmud is, in effect, saying between the lines is that washing of hands was an identifier. And I think that is kind of fascinating.

Adam Mintz  10:50

That is fascinating. I mean, that not your point that you’re making. It’s that it’s an identifier. And that’s, that’s interesting socially, I’m interested in how we identify one another. Like, it seems to be that people are always washing their hands. Not everybody does this. And I’ll admit that I don’t do this either. But actually, the tradition is to wash your hands before you daven as well. Before every prayer service, you’re supposed to wash your hands. That’s why sometimes outside of a shul, you’ll see a basin or you know, a sink in order to be able to wash your hands.

Geoffrey Stern  11:32

Well, absolutely. And I said that a little bit in the intro. These strange cups that have two handles on them,

Adam Mintz  11:39

Right. That’s correct.

Geoffrey Stern  11:40

Yeah, you go to an orthodox wedding and you see them you go to a synagogue, you see them, if you’re in Israel, and you go to a restaurant, nine times out of 10 outside of the bathroom, and they might even have the sink outside of the bathroom. It’s made for ritual washing, whether it’s washing because you’ve relieved yourself or washing because you’re about to partake of a meal and eat bread. I mean, let me give you a sense of how many washing opportunities there are. We know when we go to a cemetery. We wash our hands upon leaving. After cuttings, one hair or nails and we’ll get a little bit into the nails association here because you already mentioned that the water that one keeps at the side of one’s bed called Nagel vaser that one washes one’s fingertips upon waking up, has in the Yiddish Nagel means nails so your washing your fingertips. Some people wash before prayer, and again, this reminded me of my yeshiva days when I we did wash before prayers. I had forgotten about that. But it is kind of fascinating now to see how important it was to the rabbi’s go to Sotah 4b The Gemara continues its discussion of washing hands. Rabbi Zerika says that Rabbi Elazar says: Anyone who treats the ritual of washing hands with contempt is uprooted from the world.  הַמְּזַלְזֵל בִּנְטִילַת יָדַיִם נֶעֱקָר מִן הָעוֹלָם  The rabbi’s took this very seriously. Rav Ḥiyya bar Ashi says that Rav says: With regard to the first water, so let’s stop here for a second before you start a meal before you eat. There’s מַיִם רִאשׁוֹנִים  That’s what we all know where you wash your hands before you say hamotzi but there’s also מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים  which you wash at the end of the meal. You may have seen these little wonderful Judaica pieces that look like a well with a little cup hanging down.

Adam Mintz  13:59

They’re fantastic, aren’t they?

Geoffrey Stern  14:01

Oh, they are. And that is מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים . And that is to to wipe off what it’s called the מלח סדומית the salt from Sodom. And again, the health explanation would be that in those days, they used a lot of salt to preserve things…

Adam Mintz  14:21

Well something else. They didn’t have cutlery. So, the salt got on your fingers today, you would say What do you mean wash your hands, but at the end of the meal you’re using a fork and a spoon and a knife, but they didn’t have cutlery so the salt from the food and they needed salt in the food because they didn’t have refrigeration. So, the only way they preserve the food was by salting the food.

Geoffrey Stern  14:44

And of course there are more theological answers because who can talk about Sodom without thinking about מידת סדום (the evil character of Sodom) so when you finished eating and you’re satiated, which is the time that you might not focus on people that are less fortunate wash off the salt of Sodom, is a beautiful explanation I once heard. Getting back to the Talmud, it says so when you do the first washing, you must raise your hand upward, שֶׁיַּגְבִּיהַּ יָדָיו לְמַעְלָה . And when you do the מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים, you put your hands downward, there is something and we’ve already touched upon it, this association between holiness and cleanliness, holiness, and cleaning one’s hands. And so, while you definitely have a point, when you say this is not just cleaning one’s hands, your hands actually have to be cleaned before this ritual washing. There is this sense of, of raising your hands to a higher level raising you to a higher level. You know, we have a Mishnayot that talks about people being excommunicated, because they questioned the laws of purifying the hands. This actually was a very big, big deal. And it was a controversial idea. I think I could say that it not only was I an identifier of Jews, but because we Jews are the heirs of the Pharisees the Perushim, the Rabbinic Judaism in its day when there were other sects, it was a identifier of someone who was loyal to the rabbis. And therefore, if one did not wash or ascribe to washing or when put down washing, one was Kofer B’ikar, one was somehow undermining the whole project.

Adam Mintz  15:19

Yeah, I think that that makes a lot of sense. I think that’s, that is good. And that’s, you know, it’s interesting, I wasn’t thinking about מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים. But that’s another good example of kinda the balance between the hygiene piece of it, and the ritual piece of it. You don’t wait to wash until after Birkat HaMazon, you wash before Grace after meals, because it’s part of the ritual.

Geoffrey Stern  17:24

So what I love about scholarship today, and many times I will quote comparative religion, from the New Testament from the Quran. But in this case, it actually helps us understand the Talmud, because clearly the Talmud is excommunicating people who don’t wash, it is judging people as to identity if they don’t wash, something was going on. And if it was just in a vacuum, we would say maybe it’s a paper tiger. But in Mark 7 we have this long story, which I’m going to read. 1The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.  I don’t know if that’s referring to being tovel kelim in a mikvah? Who knows. 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” 6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips,     but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain;     their teachings are merely human rules.’[b] 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And then it goes on, and it compares it to honoring your mother and father. And to cut a long story short, because I welcome you all to read it in the original and it appears twice in the New Testament. It’s also in Matthew 15. They basically make the argument that while the Bible itself says that you have to honor your mother and father, the rabbi’s say if you make an oath, if you make a neder, that you won’t do something that involves your parents, you have to keep the oath. The argument that Jesus and the New Testament on making here is that this law of washing that we just read about in the Torah that relates only to the priests in the temple is only by rabbinic decree made for everybody else. And what they are undermining is rabbinic authority. They are undermining the oral tradition. They are fundamentalists in a sense, but the fact that they picked this particular lawyer twice as their use case is kind of fascinating. And of course, at the end, it ends up with something that I had always associated with Jesus saying about kosher, but he in fact, says it about washing your hands. And he makes the famous comment, it’s not important what goes into your mouth. It’s what comes out of it. And what he meant to say, following up on the Isaiah quote, is that this purity needs to come from inside and not from outside. I call it a cheap shot, if you will. But it’s fascinating to me that this was documented not only in the Talmud, but also in the New Testament, that this was a point of discussion of a separation between the sects.

Adam Mintz  21:17

I mean, that’s so interesting, they argued about this ritual. And of course, they argued about this ritual, because this ritual is not biblical, but it was something that was added by the rabbi’s. So the Pharisees liked it, because they were part of the rabbinic tradition. The other sects rejected it, because they didn’t have such a good feeling about the rabbis. Right. This is so you’re really introducing even though you had this, the you know, the the story about the sects, you’re really introducing the fact that as important as ritual washing is, it’s actually a rabbinic obligation, not a biblical obligation.

Geoffrey Stern  21:58

So I think you’re right. And I think in the normal course of events, we would talk about this just as that we would say that if the story that we read about in the Parsah is called an Asmachata אסמכתא בעלמא  that it’s kind of like a place holder, or it’s an allusion. But I think a little bit because it was so controversial. If you go to Tanna Debei Eliyahu Rabbah 15:1  it says that יש מקרא ואין בו משנה  that there are instances in the Torah of stories without an explanation or without the learning. And they actually they talk about the Jews outside of Sinai where they had to clean themselves. For three days. They had to go into the mikvah, and it says גם למדנו רחיצת ידים מן התורה  the rabbi’s are trying very hard, this is so important to them, that they are trying very hard to associate it and of course, they bring our verse as well. And they say that because it says you shall be holy. When you wash your hands, it doesn’t relate totally, or exclusively to the Kohanim. But also to all of Klal Yisrael, so it is kind of fascinating. I think the real the real elephant in the room here is that the rabbi’s introduced a whole culture of food that was either Chulan, Demai or it was holy (terumah) , and there were all sorts of degradations, and you had to be in a state of purity to eat them. And I think what’s fascinating at the end of the day is what the rabbi’s have done is they’ve actually made an innovation here. If you look at Maimonides, Maimonides makes a general rule. And he says Whenever the Torah mentions washing one’s flesh or laundering one’s garments from impurity, the intent is solely the immersion of the entire body or article in a mikveh. The phrase, Leviticus 15:11: “And he did not wash his hands in water,” also refers to the immersion of the entire body.  And in a sense what the rabbi’s have done because it would not be practical to go to the mikvah every time one ate, they actually made an innovation that was a practicality. They said that dipping your hands or we’ll get into a second washing your hands was enough to make you holy. I think that’s a kind of fascinating, kind of a tweak on what is at stake here.

Adam Mintz  24:49

I think that’s great. I think that that’s absolutely right. And what you said about the rabbi’s working hard to find the biblical source It’s a familiar trope in in robotics that they look for a verse to, to, to support something that they made up themselves, because they want to make it stronger than just rabbinic. They want to give it the sense as if it’s biblical.

Geoffrey Stern  25:16

Yeah, absolutely. But this was a little, the stakes were a little bit higher here, because I think that, you know, there’s this whole issue of what constituted Am Aretz. And this whole question of eating Demai, it was really a major identifier of who you were in terms of the, the holiness, the separation of the Pharisees. So let’s get a little bit into since our verse is universally taken, as the hook upon which this is hung. Let’s go to a good buddy, the safer HaChinuch, who talks about every commandment, he had to include this because it literally says you are commanded from now and forever. So he says the roots of the commandment is the fixed foundation that we have said to aggrandize, the glory of the temple and all the activities that are done there. So there’s a little bit of a sense of another tradition, where this can’t be about purity, because the only way one can get pure is by immersing in the mikvah. So what is this, and the track that many of these commentaries take is, it’s giving honor, it’s what you would do, it appears from all this, that the intention of washing at the beginning is only for the aggrandizement of the glory of the temple. So there is a sense of this isn’t about necessarily purifying you, but it’s about uplifting the moment and uplifting you to the thing. And this is where we get into raising the hands. And the way that we wash our hands, he goes on to say, and that they do not put their hands into the water, but we pour it over their hands. And this is also the way of honor, he doesn’t say necessarily who pours the water, we’re going to talk a little bit if we have time, about the whole sense of the honor of pouring water on somebody else’s hands or somebody else’s feet. But clearly, the way that we have a cup with the two handles, you can’t put your fingers under the faucet, you have to pour the water onto it. And everybody talks about the blessing that we say עַל נְטִילַת יָדָֽיִם , which has a sense of raising up one’s hands. There is this sense of elevation here.

Adam Mintz  27:55

Yeah, that’s good. That’s very, very good. The word netila is the idea of raising your hands. Some people have the custom if you watch people on Friday night, wash their hands, some people wash their hands, and they pick their hands up a little bit. They actually recite a verse שאו ידיכם קדש , that you should raise your hands there is this idea that you’re elevated. The washing is a ritual that elevates you. There’s a lot to be said there,

Geoffrey Stern  28:25

elevate, raise your hands before performing something sacred. That is clearly a part of it. And so if we go on a little bit further, and we’re not going to have time for everything, this whole washing of the feet is something that was lost. The Rabbi’s didn’t do quite the job on the washing of the feet that they did with washing of the hands. The truth is that Christianity took that and maybe it was one of those instances where in a divorce, we divide things up and it was so associated with Christianity, and maybe even Islam, that we stopped doing it. In the story of Abraham. If you recall when the angels came to visit him, the first thing that he did was he went out and he washed their feet. He said in Genesis 18 Let a little water be poured bathe your feet and recline under the tree. In the Talmud. It says in Baba Metzia Rabbi Yannai, son of Rabbi Yishmael, said that the guests said to Abraham: Are you suspicious that we are Arabs who bow to the dust of their feet? Yishmael has already issued from him, i.e., your own son acts in this manner.  So first of all, it’s fascinating that the rabbi, is the son of Rabbi Ishmael about the children of Ishmael, but clearly the Talmud is too early to talk about Islam, but already associated with Washing of one’s feet is not something that elevated but either one’s feet were dirty or because maybe one worshipped the ground. In the Source sheet, I have a lot of a sources for where Christianity took this, I did find something fascinating in terms of the reform movement, have something called Brit Rechitza for those Jews that are have a problem with a Brit Mila, they have taken this where they do a little ceremony where they wash the feet. To me, it sounds very Christian. But again, that’s because we are so remote from this sense of washing. It’s just so fascinating. What I would like to leave everybody with is this sense, we’ve talked about bracha in the past, coming from the word Berech, which is knee (bowing – bending). But bracha also comes from the same word as berecha which is pool. And in the notes, I quote, The Malbim and others who really talk about this sense of a blessing being something that is poured from God to man and back and forth. He talks in some of the commentaries that I bring talk about when a patriarch like Jacob divides up the blessing, he’s scooping out the portion of the cup that belongs to each one. It’s a beautiful image when we say a baracha and when we give a bracha this sense of pouring the water, and I’d love to leave you with that image as we think about washing our hands.

Adam Mintz  31:54

That’s great. This was a great topic. Thank you, Geoffrey. Shabbat Shalom to everybody. Enjoy your weekend. Enjoy your week. We look forward to seeing you next week. Shabbat shalom.

Geoffrey Stern  32:05

Hey, Lauren, how’s it going?

Loren Davis  32:07

This was a really interesting topic, it came to mind this week, and I was doing some reading about the Parsha. And it talked about the Cohen Gadol that the requirement was to wash their hands and their feet. And it wasn’t necessarily that the hands were more important or less important than the feet. It was a it was a ritual that included both. And I was wondering whether or not now you’ve you’ve touched on it in your in your text here, but in going into the into the Holy of Holies. Why do you think they also included the feet in that?

Geoffrey Stern  32:47

So actually, in the very verse that we started with, which was not for the Cohen Gadol it was for the standard priest, it says in Exodus 30: 21, they shall wash their hands and feet that they may not die. And the classic commentaries all say that this had to be done. They even provide provisions for how it’s done. One places one’s hand over one’s foot, let’s say your left hand on your left foot, you watch that, and you do the same for the right. So washing the feet is something that’s kind of fascinating. And I kind of hinted at that, that that got lost between the cracks in rabbinic literature culture and kind of reimagining Judaism after the temple, it survived very much in Christianity. And obviously, it’s survived in Islam, but somehow, it preserved here. And most Jews would say that at the time of the temple, we’ll we’ll be washing hands and feet again, but it didn’t translate into any of the rituals that the rabbis created. And that we follow today. I will say, even the sense of taking off when shoes because you are on holy ground. Islam, I picked that up. Judaism for the most part not [ I should mention that for the priestly blessing, the modern day Cohanim do not wear their shoes) although there are some amazing synagogues in the Caribbean, who do not have wooden or stone floors. I think it’s called Curaçao.  It’s sand. It’s made of sand and I assume in those synagogues, maybe they did pray without shoes. In Judaism taking off one’s shoe is a sign of mourning or ultra hyper holiness. We do that on Yom Kippur. But again, I think you make a good point what happened to washing the feet?

Loren Davis  35:06

The distinction that you made this evening between purity and holiness was very, very interesting to me that there was the Holiness was in honor of, I guess, what you’re suggesting of God, purity was a way of being able to prepare yourself to participate in that is that the distinction?

Geoffrey Stern  35:30

So the Pharisees which were quoted in the New Testament, tonight, the Hebrew for a PhariseePerushim  means to be separate. They, they would say, קדושים תהיו ר”ל פירושים תהיו, you want to be holy, you have to separate yourself, and we always think of the Pharisees, as the people that said, An eye for an eye, lex talionis, its monetary. We saw them as very practical and taking Judaism along the path of evolving, but a very strong part of the Pharisees were these holiness laws, they distinguish between different types of food. You have a little bit of that in the Seder. One of the four questions is, every other night we wash once, tonight, we washed twice, they kind of captured a temple rite of washing one’s hands before we even ate fruit that might have had moisture on it and therefore could accept a certain level of unholiness. They were not like the Essenes; they didn’t go into the desert and segregate themselves. But clearly what they tried to do was to pack and ship some of the rules of the temple into ordinary life. And they were known for that and the term arm Haaretz which nowadays is a word we use for an ignoramus. In the Talmud, a times academics have shown that it actually had to do with the people who stayed in the land of Israel, when many of the Jews went into Babylonia, and it was in Babylonia and the Babylonian Talmud were many of these laws were made about purity in terms of eating and washing, they came back and resident Am Ha’aretz was not willing to accept these rules. It was a major point of division. And I think that’s part of why the washing part and the holiness part was monopolized and hijacked by the rabbi’s. And they’re, you see this other trend in it, this sense of not holiness in the sense of impurity, but holiness in the sense of elevating and giving grandeur to the temple giving grandeur to God being reborn, but I do think in and I’ll stop here, I do think what the rabbi’s did, by letting you wash your hands is they created a fast-food version of the holiness code. Whereas all of the commentaries say, if you look at the Bible, the only way you can purify yourself is taking a dip … going, going into the mikvah, the rabbi’s had to be more practical, and they permitted you to just wash your hands. So it was actually a practical innovation as much as anything else.

Loren Davis  38:33

That’s really That’s fascinating. I think the rabbi was right, this is a great topic and the issue of, of cleanliness versus holiness. I do so many things during the day where I wash my hands for one reason or another. And it’s interesting to trace back where that may have come from. So, thank you for your very interesting session.

Geoffrey Stern  38:52

Thank you and I’ll only end with one language. Text The Rabbi’s say when you wake up in the morning, and otherwise, before you pray, you have to wash your hands because your hands are busy. (The Rosh in the late 13th century says that we must wash our hands because “the hands are busy.”) You never know where they’ll be. And I love that expression. So anyway, let’s all stay busy. Let’s all stay clean and holy. And we’ll see you all next week.

Sefaria Source Sheet: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/472460

Listen to last year’s Podcast: Architecture in Time

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