Yesterday, we talked about waking up and appreciating what we have. Today, I want to carry on the theme of waking up and carry some of these ideas to the rest of your day.
There is an ancient Jewish tradition, based on a verse written by King David (Psalms 26:6), “‘אֶרְחַץ בְּנִקָּיוֹן כַּפָּי; וַאֲסֹבְבָה אֶת-מִזְבַּחֲךָ ה – I wash my hands clean and I surround God’s altar” to wash our hands in the morning before starting our day. This is also connected to the idea that each morning God returns our life to us, as we said yesterday, we have to be thankful each day that we are alive and that our bodies work in such a miraculous way in order for us to survive. Water is considered, metaphorically, a source of life, based on the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis and the rivers that flowed out of the Garden of Eden (which is the source of life), this water was the only connection that Adam and Eve could maintain to the source of life in the Garden once they sinned and were kicked out. When we experience a new day, we are ‘rising from the dead’ or awakening from our sleep to be greeted by a new day filled with life, and we must reconnect to this source of life by washing our hands of the past and starting the day fresh.
Interestingly enough, I just read about a study done at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor about washing hands. The study indicated that people who physically wash their hands mentally are refreshed and disconnect from past problems and inner turmoil, it is like they are starting life fresh. Here is a quote from Mr. Lee a graduate student in the Department of Psychology:
…Psychologically what seems to be happening is that the physical experience of removing germs or dirt or contaminants on your hand is used to provide a basis for an abstract kind of experience…it seems that when people are washing away things, physically washing away things off their hands, they’re also abstractly washing away mental residues from their past decisions. So I think that that is what’s going on, and that’s why it has the power of freeing people from concerns about past decisions…
It was also made very clear from the study that “ it is the actual, the water that’s important here”. I found this to be a fascinating modern way of expressing our thousands of year old tradition. The Jewish tradition is filled with wisdom that we don’t even fully understand and sometimes it takes science to smack us in the face and say, “Hello! The Jewish People had it right all along!” This tradition of washing our hands in the morning and before we interact with something holy, like talking to God or learning Torah, is beautifully summed up in this study, when we start our day, or interact with God throughout it, we are supposed to disconnect from all the negativity from out past, focus on the amazing miracles that God does for us all the time and move forward free of any weight from emotional garbage.
Today’s Jewish mission is simple, wash your hands when you wake up in the morning and before you talk to God or other holy actions, wipe your slate clean, clear the baggage and appreciate and enjoy the amazing things we have in life!
For more information on the ritual of hand washing see here.