By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
Rashi explains the posuk that says that the clothing of Klal Yisroel did not rot for the forty years that they were in the midbar. He tells us that the “ananei hakavod” (the clouds) would iron the clothing in the midbar and as the children would grow, their clothing would grow with them.
In Parshas Korach when the posuk says that the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the families of Korach and Dasan and Aviram, it also included all their belongings. The Midrash says that when Korach and his followers were being swallowed, if they had clothing at the Laundromat, the clothing rolled along to the opening of the earth and got swallowed along with the people.
The question arises; why would there be clothing at the Laundromat in the midbar if there was no need to do laundry since the clouds took care of the clothing?
To understand this we can refer to a story that is told about the wife of the Vilna Gaon. There were people who tried to convince her to divorce her husband. The Vilna Gaon’s rebbetzin took out two of her husband’s shirts; one she had just washed l’kovod Shabbos, and the other one the Gaon had just taken off after having worn it all week. She told the women, “If you can tell me which shirt is freshly washed and which one the Gaon wore all week, I’ll get divorced.” Of course the women could not tell the difference since one who is mekadesh and metaher himself reaches the height of “nekiyus” (cleanliness). A true Talmid Chochom never has a “revav”, (stain) on his clothing. Being that the Gr”a had clean clothing, why did his wife have the need to do laundry? Here we see that there is a mitzvah to wash clothing for Shabbos even if all your clothes are clean. Hence, the people in the midbar did laundry l’kovod Shabbos, despite the fact that the clothing was clean.
We recently learned in Daf Yomi in Bava Kama, peh bais, amud alef that Ezra established that one should wash his clothing on Thursday in honor of Shabbos. The poskim argue whether the takana was to do laundry on Thursday, or whether the takana was not to do laundry on Friday. The difference could be concerning whether a person has clean clothing or not. According to the Magen Avraham, in siman resh mem bais, seif koton gimmel one does not need to do laundry. He says the ikkar takana was for it not to be done on Friday. The Elya Rabba in seif koton tes and Maamer Mordechai, seif koton gimel and the Mishna Berura in seif kotton vov say that the takana was to do laundry to have clean clothes for Shabbos and therefore one should not wear the same shirt from one Shabbos to the next without washing it. This explains why they washed their clothing in the midbar despite the fact that the clouds kept it clean.
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