About water

Urchatz (hand washing)

Water is refreshing, cleansing, and clear, so it’s easy to understand why so many cultures and religions use water for symbolic purification. We will wash our hands to get us ready for the rituals to come and to prepare us for the meal.

To ceremoniously wash your hands, you don’t need soap, but you do need a cup to pour water over your hands. Pour water on each of your hands three times, alternating between your hands. Pass a pitcher and a bowl around so everyone can wash at their seats.

Too often during our daily lives we don’t stop and take the moment to prepare for whatever it is we’re about to do, so let's pause to consider what we hope to get out of our evening together tonight. (Go around the table and share one hope or expectation you have for tonight's seder.)

As we prepare to wash our hands, let us remember that many in the world do not have access to clean water. Clean water is a basic human right. One in ten people currently lack access to clean safe water. That’s nearly 1 billion people in the world without clean, safe drinking water. Almost 3.5 million people die every year because of inadequate water supply.

In Hebrew, urchatz means “washing” or “cleansing.” In Aramaic, sister language to Hebrew, urchatz means “trusting.” As we wash each other’s hands, let us rejoice in this act of trust, while remembering the lack of trust between those in Flint, Michigan, and those who supply and control their access to water.  Let us also remember that the number one consumer of fresh water in the US is for the raising of animals to produce meat, dairy and eggs.  In response to California’s recent drought, citizens were prohibited from watering their vegetable gardens, but no such restrictions were placed upon meat and dairy farmers.  Cumulatively, 90% of the state’s water is used in the rearing of animals.

Pass the bowl & pitcher around the table, pouring a few drops of water onto your neighbor’s hands.  

After you have poured the water over your hands, recite this short blessing.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָֽיִם

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat yadayim.

We praise God, Ruler of Everything, who made us holy through obligations, commanding us to wash our hands.

haggadah Section: Yachatz