Personal Hygiene and Cleanliness Taught in Jewish Teachings

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If you have been wondering if there is an actual source in the Jewish tradition or Jewish teachings that mention the importance of keeping a clean home and proper personal hygiene, you’ve reached the right page. These next few lines will try to shed some light on this important topic, with special emphasis on the teachings of Deuteronomy. Without further ado, let’s get started.

What Does Deuteronomy Say About Cleanliness?

Deuteronomy 1 raises the matter of cleanliness rules for battle encampments. While an ad-hoc battle camp is barely a place where you could possibly expect to come across any high standards regarding cleanliness, the Torah covers the matter in an interesting manner. Accordingly, the Torah mentions the requirement to designate a “place outside the camp so that you can go out there” that would be used as an outhouse, as well as the need to keep a shovel alongside the weapons for cleaning purposes since the L-rd “goes along in the midst of your camp, to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you”. This means the camp needs to be kept holy and G-d should not see anything “unseemly” and have a reason to turn away.

Welcome the Divine Presence

The same cleanliness standard is applicable to any other area where we would like to welcome the presence of the Lord, including our own bodies, the most important sanctuaries that could welcome the Divine Presence.

In the Mishnah of Tractate Sotah, we can find the words of Rabbi Phinehas ben Jair who says that “Heedfulness leads to cleanliness” which, in turn, leads to purity, which leads to abstinence, followed by holiness, humility, fear of sin, saintliness, and, ultimately, the possession of Divine Inspiration.

The Laws Regarding Cleaning Homes

The laws of clean homes are found in Deuteronomy, as previously mentioned. Briefly put, we should all aim to keep our homes clean as Hashem lives with us inside them. The Talmud in Kesubos also speaks about specific moves that a man is or is not allowed to impose upon his home. For instance, it is not allowed to force a move from a village to a city, since cities are said to have filthier air and to be more crowded than villages. The same goes for trying to compel a relocation from a “nice” dwelling to a “bad” one, even though there are no clear guidelines or definitions regarding “bad” and “good” dwellings.

Home Cleaning Requirements on Shabbos

Shabbos has the mitzvah of cleaning one’s home, and Shulchan Aruch mentions the need to set one’s table, while also arranging the cushions and fixing the overall look of a house so everything is neatly organized upon his return from shul. The floors need to be swept and washed, all the beds need to be made, all the chairs properly arranged in place, the silver polishes, the walls dusted, and all the rooms for the guests set up and ready to receive them. In modern times, we can always hire the services of a reliable cleaner like the guys at nycsteamcleaning.com and make sure to maintain a cleaner home for a longer time, thus simplify our work before Shabbos. Since a number of Sabbath laws forbid us to perform the majority of known types of housework on the holy day, including floor cleaning or washing dishes, it is important to always plan ahead so our homes can be ready for the Shabbos light. However, if you are someone who never leaves the sink full of dishes throughout the week, you might be allowed, according to some authorities, to also tackle any unwashed dishes on Shabbos. Similarly, a floor or carpet that is heavily soiled or one covered in a fresh stain can also be cleaned on Shabbos. It is also important to always verbalize the fact that each of these actions is done to honor Shabbos.

All in all, the Jewish tradition greatly values cleanliness in all of its forms, whether it concerns our dwellings, bodies, or clothes.