This symbolic washing of the hands 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 mayimei chayyim, 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.6

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.

When we wash hands again later, just before eating the festive meal, we will say blessings to sanctify that act. Because the feast is still a few pages away, this hand- washing is purely symbolic, and therefore the blessing is unspoken.

Pass the bowl & pitcher around the table, each pouring a few drops of water onto her/his neighbor’s hands. Alternately, symbolize the uplifting of cleansed hands by raising hands into the air .

Optional chant for handwashing:

חַיִים ִים מַ / מַיִם ֵלא ָמ אֱלֹהִיםפֶלֶג

Peleg elohim, malei mayyim /Mayyim chayyim

Fountain of God, full of water /waters of life! 

—Rabbi Shefa Gold

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