The Way of G-d
Part 4: "Divine Service"
Ch. 6: "The Sequence of the Day"
Two very recondite things befall us in the night. For one thing, the
forces of unholiness and spiritual impurity we spoke of scatter about and
cover us over then, despite the fact that we're fast asleep and have
nothing to do with it. (Though of course, in general terms, the more
worldly and wrongful a person is, the thicker the "blanket" of unholiness
The other thing is the fact that our immortal souls soar upward to Heaven
while we're sleeping, as we pointed out early on (3:1:6). That obviously
doesn't imply that we die when we sleep (thanks to the fact that our
animating spirit is still fully with us then). It's just to say that we
experience a *touch* of death ("a sixtieth" part of it, we're taught). And
so we're more vulnerable then and open to foul play or even assault by the
forces of unholiness. For indeed, for the most part we're merely bodies,
and largely impure ones at that, at night; until we awaken, our immortal
souls return, and the forces of G-dliness are reinvigorated in the world.
But a small bit of the night's precariousness remains behind in the
morning, on our fingernails. For something of the noxious spirit that had
sat upon our entire person in the night is still there -- and only there --
after we awake.
So the first element of our daily religious sequence entails what's
referred to as "morning ablutions", i.e., specific ways of washing our
hands ritually; and all in order to remove the night's impurities.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.