Urchatz is rooted in the Hebrew word rachatz, meaning wash. In Aramaic, the language of the Talmud (an ancient collection of Jewish writings), the word for washing actually means 'trust'. We trust in the water, it purifies us. Traditionally now we wash our hands without blessing to prepare ourselves for the rituals.
Water is connected to women in both Islam and Judaism: to Hajjar and to Miriam. Jewish legend tells of Miriam's Well, a well filled with 'living waters,' waters of hope and trust, that accompanied the Israelites as they wandered as long as Miriam was alive. When Hajjar was left in the desert with her small son Ismail, they soon ran out of food and water. She went in search of water to save her son's life. She walked the path between Safa and Marwa again and again, trusting that she would find the help she sought. Due to her faith and dedication God granted her the gift she needed, the life-saving gift of water flowing from the well of Zam-Zam.
We fill a cup of water tonight and use it to wash our hands in honor of these matriarchs, who held strong to their faith and gave life to their people through the water. This time we wash but do not say a blessing.
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