Hebrew Baruch HaShem - Blessed is the Name of G-d

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Al Netilat Yadayim, Washing of the Hands

The Lifting up of the Hands

Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to wash our hands.

The washing of the hands symbolizes the removal of defilement and impurity, and the restoration of spiritual cleanliness. It also serves as a reminder of the ancient Temple service in which the Kohen was required to wash his hands before beginning the daily ritual (Shemot 30:20). His was an act of consecration. We emulate that act.

The Hebrew word that normally would be used for "washing hands" is rochetz yadayim, but instead in the blessing we say al netilat yadayim, which literally means "the lifting up of the hands." This symbolizes that the hands are "lifted" to a higher level and are being consecrated for nobler deeds in fulfillment of G-d's mitzvot. We wash them out of respect to our Maker (Shabbat 50b).


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