My friend Lynn Teichman made a great point about the blessing that Jews say when washing hands before eating. The phrase in Hebrew is נטלת ידים ‘n’tilat yadai’im and literally means raising or lifting up one’s hands, rather than washing.
Why “lift” instead of “wash”? Because, as Lynn so nicely put it, you have the opportunity to elevate your hands to the service of God. Our hands are our agents for all the good and all the harm we do in the world. When you wash your hands each morning, you elevate them and purify them, readying them to perform the tasks God sets before you that day.
Which resonates for me, because I’m a big believer in the concept of our hands being the hands of God (I promise to not quote the Jewel song lyrics about the hands of God again… but if you want to find them, look at the post called More About That God Fellow).
This week Jews around the world will continue to kindle the Hanukah candles. As we look at the tiny lights, let’s think of ways to use God’s hands — i.e. our hands — to bring a little more light into the world for someone else.
I’ll be making a donation to the Jewish Federation to help the Israelis whose lives have been overwhelmed by a flame that’s out of control, an unprecedented wild fire. Forty-one people have perished in the fire, which began last Thursday and has consumed some 10,000 acres of trees and forced more than 17,000 people to evacuate their homes. I hope you’ll join me.