The passuk states “You shall make a kiyor of copper and its base of copper, לרחצה, to wash.” The following passuk states “ורחצו… את ידיהם ואת רגליהם and they shall wash… their hands and feet.” The pessukim in Parshas Terumah discuss the different vessels of the Mishkan and does not mention the kiyor. Why is the kiyor mentioned independently after all the vessels of the Mishkan? And what was the kiyor’s function?
The Seforno explains that the vessels discussed in Parshas Terumah were used for the avodah which brings the Shechina. This included the shulchan, menorah, and the mizbeiyach which the Kohanim used to serve in the Mishkan. However, the kiyor mentioned in this parshah was not used for an actual avodah, rather it was needed to prepare the Kohanim to serve in the Mishkan.
The Ramban explains that it is fitting for anyone who comes close to the King’s table to touch food and drink to clean their hands, as they are constantly moving and touching dirty things. They should also clean their feet because the Kohanim would serve barefoot, and people often have dirt on their feet. This washing was done for the honor of Hashem.
Onkelos does not translate the words לרחצה and ורחצו as “to wash” but rather as “to sanctify.” The Ramban explains that the hands and feet of a person are the two ends of a person’s body; the feet are at the bottom, and the hands are at the top, since when one raises his hands they ascend above the head. By washing the hands and feet, the entire body is encompassed, sanctifying the entire Kohen to come into the Ohel Moad and serve before Hashem.
The Rashba says one needs to wash his hands in the morning with a vessel before davening, but in the evening one does not need to. Why is this? The Rashba explains: in the morning one becomes a new being, as it states חדשים לבקרים רבה אמונתך. By washing our hands with a vessel we are meant to sanctify ourselves with Hashem’s holiness like a Kohen who sanctifies his hands from the kiyor before his service in the Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash. So too, each person is meant to serve Hashem with his own personal avodah. By washing our hands we sanctify ourselves and prepare ourselves for the avodah we are meant to accomplish for the day.
May Hashem help us elevate ourselves by washing our hands in the morning and prepare ourselves for each day’s avodas Hashem.