Washing of hands
Matthew 15:1,2 -
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
When I was not having any understanding of scriptures on reading this there was a thought in my mind, was Jesus and His disciples unhygienic people? Did they did eat their food with dirty hands, not washing them? How could this be a good example to children or even adults?
It was only some time back when a preacher was preaching on the topic of special (expensive) vessels used by Jews for washing of hands I got a thought to Google and find how they looked and I was in for a surprise.
Washing of hands for the Jews had nothing much to do with hygiene but was to do with traditions. Only when one knows how they did their washing of hands, then would one understand why Jesus rebuked them for the tradition. We will understand this when we see this in another religion which copied many things from Judaism, including this and that is Islam.
In Islam washing of hands (including other parts) is called Wudu. Wudu ideally has 9 steps which are:-
1. Washing the hands up to the wrist.
2. Washing the mouth.
3. Cleaning the nose.
4. Washing the face.
5. Washing the hands up to the elbows.
6. Rubbing the head.
7. Cleaning the ears.
8. Washing the feet and the ankles.
9. Reading the DU'A at the end.
When one reads this one would say what is wrong with this? It seems a good thing that promotes hygiene. But surprisingly this has little to do with hygiene but more to do with their tradition and crazy beliefs. Every step is to be followed in the same order. Washing of each part is done with applying water a fixed number of times and when during each step a person is required to recite some set words. Some things are done only with the right hand and not the left hand. When doing a step like taking in water in the nostrils 3 times it is done using the right hand and when discharging it out, it is done with the help of the left hand. We also see when they wash their right hand they are supposed to say 'god give me the book in the right hand' and when washing the left hand they are supposed to say 'god do not give me the book in the left hand' for they believe the left hand is to do with evil while the right hand is to do with good. The most interesting part is after performing Wudu they are considered themselves clean until they 'break it', and this breaking happens when they go off to sleep, which means sleep makes them unclean.
One may find this amusing but like I said Muhammad did not invent this but like almost all things he copied from 3 main religions of his time, this too was copied, and that too from Judaism.
The Jews too had and have some very crazy traditions connected to washing and surprisingly this they justify this pointing to scriptures. Due to their lack of understanding of scriptures they came up with weird traditions which Jesus disliked.
The Jews have 3 types of washing one called 'tevilah' which was concerning full body washing (water baptism/immersing ), the second was 'netilat yadayim' which was washing of hands with a cup and 'mayim acharonim' which was washing of the fingers. The Jews thought by washing one would be spiritually clean and this cleansing lasted till evening or till one had a long nap. The washing cups used by them were not ordinary cups. They had special designs and were made as elaborate as possible and made with precious metals mostly silver or even gold, and had beautiful carving or designs on them. One would know the financial status of a household by just looking at the cup used for washing.
In the scripture they refer to God had instructed Moses to build a brazen vessel at the entrance of Tabernacle so that any person (priests) who enters, they do so by washing their hands and feet. There was a very stern warning with it, if they failed to do this they would die.
Think of it was God who is Spirit so concern with the hygiene of the physical body? Why did God said only hands and feet and not the face or other parts of the body? And the height of it, death for not being clean that too by a God who is merciful to forgive even the worst sinner?
Jesus did not follow the traditions and understanding of the Jews. He disliked their exaggerated external religious actions but internal hardening of the soul. Jesus must have washed His hands in the normal way but not the way the Jews did. We also see when the woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus; He did not shout at her nor consider Himself unclean and go to have a bath.
If one understands the scriptures in the books of Moses all things concerning the Tabernacle or sacrifices were symbolic. Washing of hands and washing of feet too were symbolic. Hands symbolized man's works and feet his way of life. Thus washing hands or feet symbolized asking for forgiveness for one's wrong doings and the unrighteous life one lived. If we come to God without repentance and asking for forgiveness we will surely die the real death (death of the spirit) on Judgment day.
Similarly man (woman) with an issue of blood had to do with the spirit man and not with the physical man (woman). Any Man of God who has a spiritual miscarriage or fails in delivering to the people of God due to one's mistake needs to take a cooling period (come out of ministering people) and come back only when he or she is rejuvenated in the Lord.
[ Prayer Starter ]
Father God, You are Spirit and You see the thoughts and intensions of man more than his actions. You hate traditions for they cause man to hide their true nature behind them and cause man to harden himself more and more. Lord, we pray we follow and worship You in Spirit and true understanding and not in traditions...
This prayer we make in Jesus' Name, Amen.
[ Reference ]
17 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:
21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.
Leviticus 15:13-14 13"'Now in case the one having a running discharge would become clean from his running discharge, he must then count for himself seven days for his purification, and he must wash his garments and bathe his flesh in running water; and he must be clean.14And on the eighth day he should take for himself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and he must come before Jehovah to the entrance of the tent of meeting and give them to the priest.
24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
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