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Splish Splash!

Splish Splash!

R's pink basin and cup next to her toddler-bed, all ready for the morning.
R's pink basin and cup next to her toddler-bed, all ready for the morning.

A few months ago, my brother was visiting from New York. Before he came, he asked me what he could bring the kids as a gift. I told him that negel vasser shissels and kvorts would be a wonderful idea. Now, if you are wondering what all that Yiddish means, wonder no longer.

Negel vasser—literally, “nail water”—is the water we use to wash our hands, removing the impurity that attaches itself to our fingertips (nails). Shissel means “bowl” or “basin,” and a kvort is a cup.

Now for some more explaining. We wash our hands at various points throughout the day: when we wake up, after we relieve ourselves, before we pray or eat a meal with bread, to name a few. Normally, it is no big deal: you just mosey over to the sink, where most Jewish households have a handy-dandy kvort, and you wash in the specified manner. The one exception is when we wake up in the morning. At that time, the chassidic tradition is to not even leave our beds before we wash our hands. But who has a sink next to his bed? Enter the shissel and kvort. Before you go to sleep at night, you fill the cup with water and place it and the basin next to your bed. When you wake up, you just lean over, and wash your hands right into the basin.

Stepping into your negel vasser is the Jewish version of the cream pies that get thrown at Garfield every Monday morning—a rude awakening, to say the least.

From when our kids were little, we have been making sure to wash their hands in the morning—or at least trying to—but not actually washing next to their beds. But now that our big ones are four and three respectively, we decided to take the plunge, hoping that they would not plunge too often.

When Eliezer showed up with the pink and blue gifts, Y and R were thrilled. That night they gladly carried their basins and cups filled with water to their beds. I’ll admit it: the cups were not actually full of water, but an inch or two is more than enough for a kid that age—and much less likely to spill.

Fast forward a few months. Negel vaser at the bedside has become the norm. Even our one-year-old, who does not yet have her own set—and would not be able to use one in any case, because she sleeps in a crib—makes sure that everyone is all set at bedtime. A makes it her business to “help” me carry the full kvorts and basins to both of her big siblings’ beds every night.

The good news is that the kids have yet to make any huge messes, and the sound of Modeh Ani (the wakeup prayer of thanks) followed by splash, splash, splash, splash, splash, splash . . . pitter-patter . . . dump (water pouring into the bathtub) is music to our ears. Now, if only they could somehow figure out how to do it after 7:00 . . .

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for
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Esther K. Tenafly, NJ July 17, 2013

Cup Covers To avoid the spilling problem altogether I have plastic cup covers. They fit over any size cup and they cost under $2. Unfortunately they are hard to find in the states but easy to find in Israel. I am an adult and love knowing that nothing will fall into my cup of water and nothing will spill out. Reply

Sarah Rivka :) Cincinnati, OH July 5, 2013

Cute! :) Reply

Hilary England July 5, 2013

Thank you Oh thank you for this blog post! I have not been doing this mitzvah correctly, out of resistance to the inconvenience of exactly the watery mess you describe! Just this morning it suddenly came to me, time to change that and do it properly, bring the water to the bed, just do it, stop worrying about accidents. And then there you are, telling this very story! Thank you so much. You help me with my resolve to do this beautiful mitzvah correctly from tomorrow morning. Reply

This is a blog about life with my wife and three children, who will, with G‑d’s help, grow up and probably be embarrassed by what I write.

As of spring 2013, Y is a thoughtful four-year-old who loves books and learning things. R is one year younger and full of energy. A is a sweet little girl who loves her red shoes. T is their ever-capable and loving mother, and I am their dad.
Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for
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