Each week, on a Friday just as we start our Shabbat dinner, we take it in turns to wash our hands as a symbol of our hearts being washed clean.
We say words from Psalm 24:3-4:
“Who can go up to the temple on the mountain of the Lord?
Who can stand in his holy place?
Anyone who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
Then we each wash our hands in a bowl of warm water (three times is traditional) and dry them.
Sometimes we do it in silence.
Sometimes we say sorry to each other.
“I wash my hands to Messiah,
the hope of glory,
to serve Him only.”
It is always a moment to re-boot, to be restored, to be forgiven.
It’s a time to recognise the power of God in our lives to wash us clean and help us live our best lives.
It’s always the thing people who don’t go to church remember most, as there are few opportunities in life to say sorry and reflect on how our words and actions affect ours in adverse ways, let alone be assured that there’s a way to be rid of the guilt and be different!
If you use the Church of England liturgy or something similar, you may do this each week. But for those outside of that tradition, this is a great way to join it!
And even if you do the liturgy at church, there’s something unique, personal and powerful about saying this in your home.
The ritual of washing is an ancient one, used by God’s people for thousands of years. In a Jewish Shabbat meal, is traditional to wash hands before eating bread, which is the next thing we do in our Shabbat meal.
You might think that the symbolism of washing hands is a bit lost on children, especially young ones who find abstract concepts tricky. My experience from over a decade of sharing this ritual with families is that everyone senses their need of a re-boot, an opportunity to have their heart washed clean. Having been asked to wash their hands before the meal, some children say, “But I’ve already washed my hands!” This is a wonderful invitation to explain that this one is symbolic of our hearts being washed clean by God.
If you’d like to try this, you could: