“Blessing for Washing Hands During a Pandemic” by Jewish liturgical poet Trisha Arlin.
As you may know, the traditional blessing for handwashing (which is also a highly recommended practice at this time) is:
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’Olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu al netilat yadaim.
Blessed are You Adonai Our God Sovereign of all place and time, who makes us holy through Your commandments and commanded us on the taking up of hands.
Netilat yadaim literally can mean the “taking,” “lifting,” or “picking up” of hands. In my translation I’ve deliberately used the ambiguity of the term “taking up” to convey the various nuances of the phrase. For me the key element here is to address and consciously attend to the concerns for sanitation, cleanliness, and purification in this sacred gesture, one that goes far beyond personal needs. Netilat yadaim, as is evident in our times as never before, evokes our concern for the health and well-being of our entire community, as well as serving, like so many other blessings, as a reminder to approach the wholeness and sacredness of every aspect of life with radical amazement.
Here now, is Trisha Arlin’s blessing, in a video that evokes the sacredness of the CDC guidelines as well as the traditional meeting of hands and water:
May you be healthy in body and peaceful in soul,
Rabbi Michael Zimmerman