Tefila Tips #6

7 Jan

Until now, we have been focused on hoda’ah, or expression of gratitude and acknowledging God’s presence as we arise in the morning.  This week, we will focus on what we do, not just what we say, upon arising in the morning.

So, it turns out that when we sleep at night, and our body goes into deep relaxation, a spirit of tumah, or impurity descends upon us.  Let’s look at that Hebrew word – tumah.  It comes from the word atum, meaning “closed,” or “trapped within.”  And that describes what happens when a person is unable to ascend, spiritually – he is trapped within his own physical body, unable to make a connection with the One above.  That describes our status upon awakening in the morning.  Sleep brings a spiritual price with it, and that is a spirit of tumah, or “spiritual entrapment” that accompanies us when we wake up.  But, not to worry – the sages determined that this impurity leaves the rest of our body and becomes concentrated in our hands when we wake up.  That is because it is our hands – our extremities – that interface with the world.  Therefore, the hands are the place where negative spiritual forces attach themselves.  The hands and feet are the most vulnerable parts of the body, since they come into direct contact with the world.  And that is why the spirit of tumah, or impurity that resided in our body during sleep, comes to be located in our hands when we awaken.

So, here is how we remove the tumah, or spiritual impurity.  We place a covered bowl of water next to our bed and, without getting out of bad, wash our hands every morning when we awaken.  Why water?  Because it is colorless, tasteless and formless, and therefore it represents the highest form of undefinable Godliness – chochma – that comes down to reside with us in this world.  Also because water flows down from a high place to a low place, as does pure spirituality.  And therefore it has the ability to drive away the tumah on our hands.  Even though the best way to do this early morning hand-washing is by our bedside (and so is stated in both the Shulchan Aruch Harav, and also the Mishnah Berura), many people get up and go to the bathroom to wash.  However, the Zohar is strict on this matter, telling us not to walk even four cubits (two meters) without washing, and that is why the best way to wash “negel wasser” is by the bed before arising.

For more on prayer and meditation according to the Jewish tradition, check out our Tefila Tips (tips on Jewish prayer), at www.jerusalemconnection.org/weekly  Plus, delve a little deeper with our suite of spiritual books, at www.jewishspiritualbooks.com. And finally, for just a little something on what’s going on in Jerusalem, try www.chabadjerusalem.org

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