Tetzaveh by Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס"ד
Discover the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And They Shall Make a Temple and I Will Rest in Their Midst
In continuation of our discussion from last week about the washing of hands in the Temple vis a vis our washing of hands, on an every-day level, here we will discuss an important differentiation between the Temple and our washing in this regard.
Washing the hands and feet in the Temple are called both in the Written and Oral Torah “sanctifying the hands and feet,” while our every-day washing is called “raising – netilat – of the hands.” Are these the same? As we mentioned last week, there is a direct correlation between “raising the hands,” as many say the verse “raise your hands unto the holy and bless Hashem” in our washing and the washing, i.e “sanctifying” in the Temple. Nevertheless, there are some differences. The source of these differences may be rooted to the fact that in halachic sources it is clear that our washing is related to either spiritual “cleansing,” i.e purification, or physical cleansing, while, according to the Zohar, the concept of “sanctification” is aloof from the concept of cleansing from filth, whether spiritual or physical. In other words, the Zohar differentiates between “purity” – “taharah” and “sanctity” – “kedusha” by saying that “purity” entails removing spiritual “filth” that was present before, while “sanctifying” entails a rise to a higher more ideal state even without any spiritual “filth” preceding this state at all.
The Kabbalists explain that the source of “sanctity” is related to the sephira of Hochma, associated with the “right side,” i.e., the “side of giving/unlimited kindness” in the Kabbalistic sphere. However, the side of “purity” is related to the sephira of Bina, associated with the “left side,”i.e., the “side of receiving/judgment/limitation” in the Kabbalistic sphere. Based on this, we can understand why purity is associated with “limiting” or removing spiritual “filth,” while “sanctity” is not so, but rather represents an ideal state of benevolent spirit aloof from all “filth,” spiritual or physical. In regard to spiritual ranking, the “higher” of these two levels is the level of “sanctity”/Hochma.
It seems that this explanation clarifies the differences between the washing in the Temple and our washing in their laws and practices. One obvious difference is that the washing of the Temple including washing the feet, whereas our washing involves only washing the hands. We may say that the higher of these two levels, i.e., “sanctity”/Hochma, can spiritually elevate even the feet, while the lower level of “purity”/Bina is able to elevate only the hands. Another difference in the laws of the washing in the Temple and our washing pertains to the quantity needed to reach these extremities when washing. Pertaining to “sanctifying the hands and feet” in the Temple, there is no minimum quantity, only that there be “some water.” However, in regard to our washing, there is a minimum requirement, a quarter of a log (volume of 1 1/2 eggs). Here again, we see a correlation: sanctity/Hochma, which is not related to the aspect of “limit,” does not have a limit, i.e., lower/higher limit – minimum quantity, whereas purity/Bina which is related to the aspect of limitation does have a minimum limit.
We may see Hebron as carrying both the aspect of sanctity and the aspect of purity together – “mehubarim” – as the name Hebron entails. Hebron is both the city of priests who are “sanctified” by Hashem, and at the same time, Hebron is also a Refuge City where negligent murderers can be atoned for and be saved.
Miriam and Yaakov of Gush Katif came home from their evening walk. As Miriam approached the stairs to her second-floor bathroom to shower, she stopped to read a letter that had been slipped under her door. “May your donation to our yeshiva merit you a long and healthy life.” Just then, a mortar blew up her upstairs bathroom. By her donation and her reading its receipt, she was saved just by a few seconds.