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Monday, December 29, 2014

What Zayde said: "Just Wash Negel Vaser"



My Zayde, may he rest in peace (alav hashalom, a"h), had a special ability to understand me and an equally special way of helping me understand what was to me, inexplicable. Namely, much about my Jewish faith.

The other day my mother reminded me of something he said to me: "Just wash Negel Vaser" - a.k.a. "Netilas Yadayim," the morning ritual of washing one's hands with water. This seemingly simple practice, performed consistently, would flow out and have so many other effects.

Like most kids do I forgot his words of advice, but later on had a huge fight with my father over it. My father is religiously observant, and once when I was about nine years old he asked me "Did you wash?" I lied and said that I had, and he pretty quickly figured out that I was lying and I got into trouble. My mother, also observant but less strict, heard the ruckus and this seemingly minor thing became a huge blowup.

It was always that way, my father trying to get me to be more observant, even if I didn't want to be. My mother encouraging me to find my own path, not knowing where that path would lead.

Fast forward a few decades later and I'm seeing the number 6:13 everywhere (see previous post and the followup) and finally my father goes to a Kabbalist, who relays the word that my ancestors all the way back to R'Yosef Caro are calling on me to come back to the fold.

Roughly a week later, I'm stumbling as I'm trying to follow the simple advice I've been given, to go slow and focus on keeping Kosher, Shabbos, and going to shul with the family. I observe my daughter doing the Negel Vaser ritual and think on it. Mention it to my mother, and she brings up what my Zayde (a"h) said.

"I remember it very vividly," she says to me.

But I can only remember it with a wisp of my mind. It's almost gone.

Just afterward, I sense that my Zayde is right there with me. I can see, as if looking at a ghost, his face just before me - that look of mischief that is imprinted on me from him.

Another few days pass. I'm in Santa Fe and am going to do this ritual and realize that I've forgotten the cup. I run to the hotel lobby to get one. 

Then I'm back at the sink and I can't get the rings off as usual. Totally frustrated. You know how you lose energy for resolutions after the first couple of days of excitement wears off?

Suddenly the soap dispenser makes this "burp" and lets out a flow of foamy soap. My hands were NOWHERE near that sink.

I started to laugh because I knew what was going on. I stick my hands under the soap, get a bunch and the rings come off easily so I can do the ritual.

Somebody up there is watching, all right...yes, G-d but also my loving Zayde, a"h.

If you're interested in learning more:
  • Video (:50) showing how to wash your hands.
  • Article with text of the blessing and its translation.
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All opinions my own. Photo of the Old Jerusalem Hurva synagogue via Wikimedia.