Netilat Yadayim

Aravah Berman-Mirkin

About Aravah Berman-Mirkin

Due to the forced assimilation and religious persecution my immediate family experienced in the Soviet Union by the dominant Russian culture, I grew up without any relationship or knowledge of Jewish tradition. Over the last few years, as an adult, I have been on my own Jewish learning journey, piecing together knowledge through numerous forms of alternative education. Throughout this time, I have learned about the various necessary observational artifacts that are embedded in the Jewish tradition. As a long-time artist/maker-of-things, I have been inspired to utilize my skill-set in order to create Judaica and ritual objects so that I could “inherit” these items and bring them into my practice given that there were no artifacts my parents/grandparents were able to pass down to me. Making Judaica has grown to become an extremely fulfilling and rewarding practice, and also one that is an integral way to support my continued Jewish education, where I am able to self-direct my learning through a variety of sources. I am honored to recently begin making these pieces available for others, sharing this journey with those who seek to bring Jewish ritual objects into their homes and into their lived observance.

About Netilat Yadayim

I am submitting a recent piece I made, a hand-washing cup and bowl set. The blessing said after hand-washing, Netilat Yadayim, is a ritual observed on shabbat (or before any meal containing bread or matzoh), as well as in the morning upon waking. Water (mayim) is the foundation of all life, it cannot exist without it – during the Shmita year, we refrain from irrigating our fields (either directly as land-tenders, or spiritually) given that the land must be rested for that duration of time. As a result of having less active responsibility to tend our fields, I am curious about how our relationship to water shifts during this time, and in what other ways can we cultivate responsibility beyond our own spiritual landscape? Is there an opportunity to build a deeper relationship to mayim, not just with ourselves, but in all peoples dependence on water to sustain life and our interconnectedness?Netilat Yadayim is a two handled cup. We wash our hands upon waking to express gratitude for HaShem returning our soul to our body. We wash our hands before eating bread to humble ourselves, confirming that it is not only our hands that have allowed us to make and eat the bread, but that we have done this with the support of G!d.Our hands carry much power – they allow us to do so much. They have the ability to cause great harm, as well as bring deep healing. It is my hope that this hand-washing cup and bowl set used during the Shmita year will allow the users to consider their actions more deeply as they relate to friends, family, neighbors and the greater Earth community, not only centered on rest, but our reliance on stewarding and accessing clean water for all living beings.

Netilat Yadayim hand-washing bowl and cup set is to be used during the Shmita year with greater intention.

Prompt: Fill cup with water, take the handle of your non-dominant hand and pour water three times over your dominant hand, switch hands and repeat. Remain silent during this ritual. While emptying out each pour, consider the importance of water to you and how water connects you to the living creatures and beings in your neighborhood. Think about how water flows after rain or snow melt, what creek, river, pond, lake it ends up in, and ultimately which ocean it drains towards. Imagine how that ocean has no borders and that they are all one. Consider how water is reabsorbed into the atmosphere, and then reintroduces itself back into this very same cycle via rain and snow. Feel how this water is connecting you to your ancestors, that they did the same rituals with the same water – that there is no new water on the Earth, but a constant recycling of water that has been here since the beginning of time.

Close this practice with the Netilat Yadayim blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָ׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם

Baruch Atah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kidshanu B’mitzvotav Vitzivanu al Netilat Yadayim

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe who has sanctified us with divine commandments, and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.


I produce my Judaica in a nearby ceramics studio, and if asked to be reproduced, I would be able to make them there. Given that I create one-of-a-kind pieces, they would each be unique (not mass produced or exactly uniform), but still have the same overall shape/size/form, and the inscription of “Netilat Yadayim” in Hebrew on the bowl, along with glazes resembling the flow of water.