Learn to appreciate the pervasive power of water and
washing and how these feature in our daily and yearly
I hope our readers will absorb the spiritual undertones in
this zippy piece, very appropriate for the Nine Days (but
with lots of forgivable humor), that welcomes a new writer
to our ranks.
I've spent much of my life washing.
And, don't get me wrong: no daily shampoos (twice a
week at the pool will do) and no obsessive hand washings and
no obsessive floor washings. I've got better things to do
with my energies and my mitzvos.
Probably started doing dishes about age six -- was so short
that my parents o.b.m. stood me on a step stool and as soon
as they saw that I'd quickly mastered the art so well, so
quickly, neither grease nor soap suds left behind -- my
dishwashing career was installed. Many dozens of dishes
later (and pots and pans and pitchers and silverware), I was
hooked for life: my dishwashing was all `A's' -- an act of
adventure, accomplishment and aesthetics. And a B-alancing
act. I never needed to learn engineering or physics after
that. Being a tiny child genius dishwasher (and never a
child genius on my violin) freed me up from drying them all,
which I learned to detest and resist and avoid. To this day,
if I can help it, no drying of dishes. Let the air drafts
dry my dishes. (As I am fond of saying: Dishes never catch
Somewhere during my academic childhood, I learned to wash
windows. And mirrors. Squeaky clean, like my shampoos. Never
a dreary task. The world always looks better and clearer and
purer with washed windows. As for mirrors, I always had a
better complexion in an unblemished mirror. How many
thousands of hairdos, teeth brushings, eyebrow pluckings,
(excuse me) pimple poppings, contact lens searches, hair
snippings and washing those sleepers out of my hazel eyes in
front of a friendly, washed mirror?
Washing, or trying to wash, the paints and chemicals off my
hands and arms in the art classes where I spent precious
Washing my paint brushes, buckets, palettes, silk screens,
clay's implements and batik fabrics, washing with joy and
exhaustion after creating works of art.
Washing the dust off my unused music stand and washing the
covers of my unused, unfriendly computer, may it rest in
Washing my floors in the style of minimalistic art: less is
more -- better to sweep often with a broom than to push
around sloppy, moppy buckets. Also saves water.
Washing the wool on my loom and the dirt out of my broom.
Washing my hand laundries: my real linens and real woolens
(separately, to be halachically and texturally safe), my
silky silks, velours and viscosas.
Washing after childbirth.
Washing my infant paraplegic daughter, home from her
incubator, was probably the hardest wash of them all. But
after that first time, all that followed was a breeze by
comparison. As fate would have it, years later, washing her
wheelchair of her bodily discharges, and of the vomit after
she'd survived a head concussion; her school minibus driver
had braked suddenly and she had been thrown backwards in her
wheelchair -- onto her head. And washing the tears off my
drenched face as I washed her post accident head trauma
vomit off her bedroom wall, floor, carpet, closet. Not to
mention her laundry -- two American-sized machine loads per
day for countless years, while keeping my eyes quietly on
her breathing and her reflexes.
Every motzei Shabbos, washing the wax out of my
candelabra and implanting three new clean pure white candles
for the next Sabbath. Definitely an act for a Saturday
Night, to yearn for the next candle lighting on the coming
Washing the dust off the rocking chair I used to nurse my
daughter in for hours on end, for months on end . . . twenty
Washing my artsy arrangements of bottles and knick-knacks,
my own homemade eyelet and pique'd lampshades. Washing my
Jack & Jill dolls, my Suzy Homemaker doll.
Let it be clear: this is no Letter of Complaint, because I
know very well that when I'll cease to do my dishes, cease
to wash my loom and cease to wash my broom, cease to wash my
windows and cease to wash my candlesticks, my silks and my
linens... That's when they'll need to wash me and dress me --
in linen. Before the final purification. Before I'll be
buried. Before I go to Heaven.