Since ancient times, Jews have ritually washed their hands to prepare for celebratory meals. The Seder includes two hand-washings. We perform the first without a blessing now, prior to dipping karpas, which does not constitute a meal. We will wash with a blessing before Mozi/Matzah, in preparation for eating the festival meal.

The symbolic washing of the hands that we now perform recalls the story of Miriam's Well. Legend tells us that this well followed Miriam, sister of Moses, through the desert, sustaining the Jews in their wanderings. Filled with waters of life, the well was a source of strength and renewal to all who drew from it. One drink from its waters was said to alert the heart, mind and soul, and make the meaning of Torah become more clear.

In Hebrew, urchatz means, “washing” or “cleansing.” In Aramaic, sister language to Hebrew, urchatz means “trusting.” As we wash each others’ hands, let us rejoice in this act of trust, and reflect on the sources of hope and trust we want to bring into the world for ourselves and each other.

The leader can wash hands symbolically for everyone of the family can pass a bowl & pitcher around the table, each pouring a few drops of water onto her/his neighbor’s hands

haggadah Section: Urchatz
Source: Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Passover