Why the Hand Washing Before Bread?

Rabbi Mendel Bluming guides the Chabad Shul of Potomac, Maryland and Chabad’s motto is to bring understanding and connection to the service of G-d.

So here’s a thought about washing before bread.

We are told that in the times of the Temple, the Kohen tribe of priests would live off of donations of produce from all the farmers, called the Terumah. This food could only be eaten by a Kohen and his family, and had to be eaten in a state of ritual purity. So the priests would always wash their hands ritually before eating to ensure that they were pure. It then became customary for even non-priests to wash their hands before eating, in deference to the Kohanim who were obligated to do so. And even though today we no longer have those foods that need to be eaten in purity, we continue to wash our hands before bread.

Why did our sages say that we should wash our hands the same way the priests did? The Kohanim did not work in the fields. They worked in the Temple, and relied on the tithes people donated to them for their upkeep. A priest couldn’t fool himself and think that he had worked for his bread. It was clear that he was being fed by the kindness of others.

We should all feel that way. It is not our own work and effort alone. It is all a gift from G-d.

Menachem Mendel Bluming and Rabbi Moss