Christian reading

Issue N42

answers for a jew, valeriy sterkh

Answers for a Jew

Did Jesus break he laws of Moses? (beginning)

Question: Why didn't Jesus observe "netilat yadayim", the ritual washing of hands? Why did he break the law of Sabbath?

Answer: Jesus never disobeyed the Old Testament commandments. According to Torah, "netilat yadayim" served as ritual cleansing in the following cases: «If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him: Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain: And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke; And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley: And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried: And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley: And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, O LORD, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them. So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD» (Deut 21:1-9). Later, Jewish elders broadened the application of this ritual arbitrarily. So, "netilat yadayim" cannot be properly placed in the category of Mosaic laws.

The Gospels do not say whether Jesus observed this tradition or not. Only his disciples are mentioned: «Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread» (Mt 15:1-2).

As for Jesus, he supported obedience to the Law, but not to human traditions: «But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men... To eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man» (Mt 15:3-9, 20).

It must be clarified that "netilat yadayim" is a purely religious rite, not a hygiene-related procedure. But sometimes people go to extremes in its observance. To illustrate, I will share the words of one Jewish lady: «As I entered one of our company offices, I overheard a lady say indignantly about someone: "Just imagine: she didn't wash her hands after using the bathroom, but she did her netilat yadayim - the ritual washing of hands". I wanted to explain to her that washing away spiritual dirt is more important than physical, but she didn't understand» ( []).

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(to be continued)