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    Washing hands – Shof’tim

    Washing your hands is central to self-hygiene. In a different sense, washing the hands before meals has long been required by Judaism (Ex. 30:19 is the source of the practice).

    However, the Torah reading this week tells us that there are times when there is another type of hand-washing which raises an ethical question.

    When the elders see a dead body they declare, “Our hands did not shed this blood” (Deut. 21:7-8). They say with the Psalmist, “I wash my hands in innocence” (Psalm 26:6).

    The commentators ask, who would have accused the elders of bloodshed?

    The answer is that if anything untoward happens whilst the elders are in office they cannot have carried out their tasks properly.

    Unfortunately, in our generation there are leaders whose innocence is only purported and they can be suspected of corruption and selfishness. They are not always paragons of moral virtue with “clean hands and a pure heart”.

    If they weep that things have gone wrong in society, it is only crocodile tears.

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