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Topic: Bat Melech, Evil Spirit

Victor Rodriguez from Thornhill, Ontario wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

From the Artscroll Gemara, book Tractate Shabbat, I would like to ask you the following question: On page 108b and under Rashi's comments #46 it says "An evil spirit called bat melech rests on the hands in the morning." Where does this spirit come from? Why the name 'princess' and not any other name? Why do the hands need to be washed three times each, and not two or four times for that matter?

Dear Victor Rodriguez,

"Bat melech" or Princess is the name of a certain "evil spirit," a type of spiritual impurity, which rests on a person's hands in the morning. The name "bat melech" connotes some sort of prominence this spirit enjoys among other spirits.

This impurity rests on a person during sleep because the person is as if dead, not moving or performing mitzvot with the accomplishing tools, the hands. Thus, when we wake in the morning, we remove this impurity by pouring water over our hands three times. Water symbolizes Torah, and the number three symbolizes the three aspects of Torah - Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim (The Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings). Torah study has the power to fend off any impurity, as it causes you to meditate on G-d's omnipotence and helps you to understand that the "spirit" has no power of its own if not for the will of G-d.


  • Aruch, Bat Chorin

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