Sanctifying The Hands And Feet

It is an obligation of the Kohanim to wash their hands and feet from the kiyor in the Beis HaMikdash every day (Tamid 1:4). This idea transported itself to all of Bnei Yisroel who must wash their hands upon awakening (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 2:1).

This, my cousin, Rabbi Nagen (Genack), says is appropriate for indeed we are compared to the Kohanim, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:6).

If every man is a Kohen then the world he lives in is akin to a Mikdash and therefore when he washes his hands in the morning, he must remember the purpose of his life and the mission he must carry out.

Once, in a Shiur at Yeshivat Otniel , my cousin asked the question, ‘Why is there a specific mitzvah to wash the “hands” and “feet” in the morning?’” One of the students answered based on the verse, “Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord” (Exodus 30:20). The student explained that to “come” to the Mikdash, one must propel his feet and to “serve” in the Mikdash one must use his hands correctly. In summation the student said, one must cause his feet to go in the right direction and prepare his hands properly so as to carry out the mission properly.

The student who gave this answer was Staff Sergeant Noam Apter A”L, who along with Gabriel Hoter A”L, Zvi Ziemen A”L and Corporal Yehuda Bamberge A”L, were murdered on December 27, 2002 when militants entered the kitchen of Yeshivat Otneil where these men were preparing the food for the rest of the yeshiva that was dancing in the dining room.

The militants never made it to the dining room because Staff Sergeant Noam Apter A”L locked the sliding door separating the kitchen and the dining room.

Indeed, that night Staff Sergeant Noam Apter A”L used his hands and feet properly to carry out the highest of missions, to die on Kiddush Hashem and save over 100 students and faculty.

*Excerpted from Nishmat HaMishna by Yakov Nagen (Genack) 436-438

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