Out damn spot! Out I say! Who said that line? [Reply] Correct, this is perhaps the most famous line in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, and it belongs to his wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth was the murderer, but it was she who goaded her husband on to the heinous act of killing their houseguest King Duncan. It was she who took the bloody daggers from her husband and placed them on the sleeping guards to frame them. She literally had blood on her hands, and now she can’t forget.
Initially the Macbeths seem to have succeeded in covering their crime, becoming king and queen, but did they really escape punishment? Macbeth is tormented by apparitions of Duncan and Banquo, his former friend whom he had killed. Lady Macbeth falls to pieces. By Act V she starts sleep-walking, talking in her sleep, rubbing her hands, seeking to cleanse them of their blood guilt. But her heart is tainted and so too, in her eyes, are her hands.
The idea of clean hands being associated with a pure heart goes back further than Macbeth. Psalm 24, which is associated with Rosh HaShanah, asks:
(ג) מִֽי־יַעֲלֶ֥ה בְהַר־יְקֹוָ֑ק וּמִי־יָ֝קוּם בִּמְק֥וֹם קָדְשֽׁוֹ: (ד) נְקִ֥י כַפַּ֗יִם וּֽבַר־לֵ֫בָ֥ב אֲשֶׁ֤ר׀ לֹא־נָשָׂ֣א לַשָּׁ֣וְא נַפְשִׁ֑י וְלֹ֖א נִשְׁבַּ֣ע לְמִרְמָֽה: (ה) יִשָּׂ֣א בְ֭רָכָה מֵאֵ֣ת יְקֹוָ֑ק וּ֝צְדָקָ֗ה מֵאֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׁעֽוֹ:
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in God’s holy place? One who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not taken a false oath by My life, or sworn deceitfully. That person shall carry away a blessing from the Lord, a just reward from God, the deliverer.
Is it only the perfect saint who can stand on the mountain of the Lord, the one who has never sinned? What about teshuvah? Is some guilt just stained too deeply to be removed?