Chapter Twenty-four

 

CUSTOMS

 

DEVOTEE: Rabbi, as a sign of respect and surrender to God and His devotees, Vaisnavas traditionally have always bowed down, lying flat on the ground. Although I remember reading about this in the Old Testament, I have never seen this practiced in Jewish synagogues.
RABBI: Yes, you are quite right. This was the Jewish custom, although with time the practice has been lost. Here are two verses from the Torah, which describe what you have mentioned:
"[Abraham] lifted his eyes and he saw three strangers a short distance from him. When he saw (them) from the entrance of his tent, he ran to greet them, bowing down to the ground." [Torah, Genesis, VaYera 18:2] A stranger, in this verse literally means anonymous men. They were actually angels in disguise. [Torah, Notes 18:2]
"The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, while Lot was sitting at the city gate. Lot saw them and got up to greet them, bowing with his face to the ground." [Torah, Genesis, VaYerah, 19:1]
DEVOTEE: It is also the Vedic custom to at least wash ones hands and feet, if not to bathe fully, before going into a temple to see the Lord. One place this is practiced is Jagannätha Puré, India. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that Narendra is a small lake still existing in Jagannätha Puré, where the Candana-yäträ festival takes place. Up to the present date, all Bengali devotees who visit the Jagannätha temple first take their bath in the lake. There they wash their hands and feet before entering the temple, as is the custom at all Vaisnava temples.
RABBI: In the Torah, God ordered Moses saying: "Make a copper washstand along with a copper base for it. Place it between the altar and the Communion Tent, and fill it with water for washing. Aaron and his sons must wash their hands and feet from [this washstand]. If they are not to die, they must wash with the water [of this wash stand] before entering the Communion Tent or approaching the altar to perform the divine service, presenting a fire offering to God. If they are not to deserve death, they must first wash their hands and feet. This shall be for Aaron and his descendants a law for all time, for all generations." [Torah, Exodus, Ki Thisa 30:19-21]

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