Upon awakening from sleep, we resume our life’s journey. From the moment that the holy Jewish soul is returned to the body, a fresh opportunity is presented to actualize our lifelong process of growth. How do we achieve this lofty goal?
The Rabbis (Chazal) explain that sleep is the period of time when our soul (the neshama) ascends to the supernal realms. The vacuum left behind causes a temporary influx of what we call – tum’ah – spiritual impurity. Upon awakening this tum’ah recedes to our hands with our sages giving us the knowledge of how to remove it by re-sanctifying our hands.
But even before we do that, t he first thing we do in the morning is say “modeh ani”, proclaiming our humble gratitude to our Creator for showing His confidence in us by restoring our soul to our body, giving us another day of life in which to fulfill Torah and mitzvoth. We surely appreciate that the renewal of our life each day is a gift — a fresh opportunity to actualize our lifelong process of spiritual growth. How do we achieve this lofty goal in a practical way? We will look a bit more deeply into the spiritual connection between our voices (in which we start the day with “mode ani…” and our hands(that we wash in a uniaque fashion).
The Malbim explains that the hands represent the earthly power and might that lie within the domain of Yaakov Avinu’s brother Eisav; but the voice, which emanates from the realm of the soul lies within the domain of Yaakov.
When Yaakov approached Yitzchok for his brachos, Yitzchok touched him and felt the “hands of Eisav” but heard the “voice of Yaakov”, and thus made the immortal declaration: “…hakol kol Yaakov —- ve hayadayim yedai Eisav.” (Toldos 27: 22)
Looking more deeply into these words, we come to learn that, according to the Malbim, Hashem desired that Yaakov be given both spiritual and material gifts and blessings, however, material blessings would come to Yaakov not by means of natural cause and effect, but only through hashgacha, through his voice – Torah and supplication (tefillah). If however, G-d forbid, Torah learning and tefillah were to be diminished then the flow of material blessings would also decrease.
Interestingly, the nusach of netillas yadayim, the first blessing of the day, provides a profound insight: “Blessed ( or: The Source of all) are You, Hashem, our G-d King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us on the washing –“netillas yadayim” – of the hands. Notably, the Sages did not choose for this blessing the word “rechitza” meaning “washing” but “netilla” meaning “taking”, as in the bracha of the lulov where we say “al netillas lulav,” on the taking of the lulov, Perhaps a deeper reason for the selection of this – nusach is that just as the mitzvah of lulov is accomplished through the act of “taking hold” of the lulov, so also do we achieve spiritual success with the use of our hands – our ma’aseh yadayim – by “taking hold of “ , i.e., controlling and directing our actions toward the fulfillment of the will of Hashem. May we soon merit to raise our voices and hands together in a unison greeting the Moshiach and the final redemption soon in our days.