• Home
  • Parashah Insights
  • Ask the Rabbi
  • Festivals & Fasts
  • Articles
  • Books
  • About
  •  

    Washing our hands – Shof’tim

    wash hands“I’m fed up. I abdicate. I wash my hands of the matter. I’ve had enough. Don’t talk to me about it again.”

    A common reaction to a long-standing problem: “You sort it out: leave me alone”.

    The key phrase is “I wash my hands”. Psalm 26:6 says, “I wash my hands in innocence, and walk around Your altar”. Ex. 30:19 tells the kohanim to wash their hands before coming to the altar: the source of our practice of hand-washing before eating bread.

    The problem comes when a person’s hands have been soiled by sin (Isa. 1:15), which is why the Psalmist can say he washed his hands “in innocence”.

    This week’s sidra presents us with the situation of the elders who see the result of bloodshed and say, “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it!” (Deut. 21:7-8).

    The rabbis ask, “Who would have suspected the elders of shedding blood? Why did they need to declare their innocence?”

    Their answer is, “But if anything goes wrong whilst the elders are in charge, they haven’t done their job properly!”

    These days there are two possibilities: the leaders have actually committed a wrong because they were corrupt and self-serving (in which case, as we have seen in Israel, they deserve to be arraigned and imprisoned), or there have been moral deficiencies in the community (which good leaders would have recognised and eradicated).

    A good leader needs “clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4).

    Comments are closed.