Laundry Day- Parshat Yitro
“And you shall sanctify yourself today and tomorrow and launder your garments…And Moshe descended from the Mountain…and he sanctified the nation, and they laundered their clothing” (Shmot 19:1-14).
As they prepare for history’s most memorable event—the Revelation on Mount Sinai that culminated Hashem’s eternal bond to His Chosen Nation—Bnei Yisrael are commanded to wash their clothing.
What is the connection between sanctifying oneself, a spiritual process, and washing clothing, a physical action?
There are holy people who dress in rags. (Does Shlomo Carlebach ring a bell?!) And there are people who are dressed and pressed in quality garments, but who represent the antithesis of holiness… Nonetheless, preparation for a hallmark, sacred event expresses itself in physical garments, as well. The correlation between “You shall sanctify yourself” and “Launder your garments” exemplifies the unity between matter and spirit that enables us to reach the pinnacle.
The Alshich Hakaddosh notes that, through these two commandments, the Torah teaches that not only must one take care to ensure that one’s garments and outer appearance are neat and presentable, but that this is actually secondary to ascertaining that one’s inner soul is pristine. A Jew is obligated to be honest and true in and out, to ensure that his outside reflects his inside. This is why the Torah first commands Bnei Yisrael, “And you shall sanctify yourselves,” and only thereafter, “And launder your garments.”
Once upon a time, there were laundrywomen and laundry day (traditionally Wednesday). Every home featured large laundry basins filled with boiling water from the primus stove. Hardworking women, hands red and chafed, scrubbed and scoured clothing with harsh laundry soap on rough washing boards until a layer of fabric practically disintegrated. In this day and age, laundry is just another daily in-and-out household chore. “I’m throwing in a load!” she announces as she shoves the whites into the machine and hurries to dab on her makeup, slip her feet into her boots and leave the house.
Washing, hanging, drying, washing, hanging, drying…
The winning threesome of all household chores is cooking, cleaning, laundry—each balebusta in her order of preference. Some enjoy one; some despise the other; but all three must get done! The bigger her family grows, the larger and more efficient becomes the laundromat that every young bride opens in her house.
The laundry room
The foundation of an effective household laundry system is, doubtless, the laundry room. In Israel, there isn’t sufficient awareness of the significance of this room in a house. With apartments small and every square meter accounted for, laundry tends to take up space in the living room, or in the best case scenario, an office. The end of the day sees a giant mound of dirty laundry on the bathroom floor (usually wet!), and clean piles of laundry on beds, waiting to be put away.
Ladies and gentleman, (actually I think this is reserved exclusively for ladies!), I maintain that a comfortable laundry room is an absolute must, and that great effort should be invested in order to accommodate for it.
A laundry room should not—I repeat, should not—be situated as an extension of the rest room. When Danny is relaxing over a comic book in the bathroom or Tali is primping for hours over the mirror, and I need to transfer the wash into the dryer… then guess what? I’m stuck! Another point is that a laundry room at the other end of a bathroom hardly makes for a comfortable, relaxing spot. You’re better off positioning the laundry room in close proximity to the bedrooms, somewhere that you’ll feel comfortable working, thinking and dreaming (because you’ll be spending many, many hours of your life there!)
The lion, the witch and the wardrobe
There’s no rule about having the linen closet in the laundry room. On the contrary, it could be anywhere in the house that’s central and accessible to everyone in the family—either right next to the bathroom or in a hall. For two-story houses, I recommend a laundry chute. (I’m still waiting for the day when someone will invent a chute that drops the clothing straight into the washing machine instead of into a giant heap on the laundry room floor…)
Must haves in a laundry room:
Basket/drawer for clean, dry laundry waiting to be folded/sorted/ironed. Small baskets for each family member where clean, folded laundry is placed and ready to be delivered to their rooms. As the kids get older, they can be responsible to take and return their own baskets and unpack the laundry in their own closets. Rod for hanging ironed shirts. A comfortable ironing board. If feasible, the ironing board should be removable from a closet, drawer or else attach to the wall. The point is that it shouldn’t occupy too much floor space.
Last but not least, a professional iron that does the job with a light touch. (Yes, this really does exist, and it’s one of my best purchases ever! A good iron equals real pleasure, since it provides opportunity to think as I allow the steam to settle my mind…)
My laundry room
A special basket for each one – in my laundry room
Lost & found
Any treasures discovered in pockets before and after washing can be placed in a little treasure box and returned to their owners who will surely rejoice to have their lost marble returned to them!
The Sock Monster
Single socks can be hung on a little board along with a notice, “Seeking life partner!” until his mate is found. After twenty-five years of washing, drying and sorting laundry, I’m convinced that just like there’s a little man who lives inside the radio, there’s another one living inside the washing machine who snarfs socks. Because if there isn’t, then where in the world do all the other halves of the pair disappear to? I know I put in a complete pair!
1. Hashem’s commandment to Bnei Yisrael to wash their clothing attests that clean garments represent much more than hygiene; it means clothing oneself in a new essence that primes one to receive the Torah.
2. A spacious, organized laundry room facilitates the household laundry system and even makes it fun!
3. Matter & Spirit take us to the top!
I’d better finish this post… I hear the dryer beeping!