What We Do

Before we get to work, especially on such a sensitive and cosmic task as the ritualistic handling of food to manipulate spiritual truths, our hands should be clean. Wash them clean of the impurities of a life in a materialistic world.

Fill a cup with water.

Many Jewish homes have a large two-handled cup especially designed for this. You could leave the table to go to the kitchen.

What? We just sat down and now we have to get up and leave already? Well, that’s a fairly normal migration pattern for Jews.

On the other hand, you could bring a basin and towel to the table.

Pour the water to cover your right hand. Repeat. Repeat again. Ditto for your left hand.

That’s how the kohanim ("priests") did it when they entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Dry hands.

Usually, we would recite a blessing at this point. When we wash the second time before eating the matzah, we’ll say it then. But not now.

What It Means

Our hands are the primary tools to interact with our environment. They generally obey our emotions: Love, fear, compassion, the urge to win, to be appreciated, to express ourselves, to dominate. Our emotions, in turn, reflect our mental state.

But, too often, each faculty of our psyche sits in its cell, exiled from one another. The mind sees one way, the heart feels another and our interface with the world ends up one messy tzimmes.

Water represents the healing power of wisdom. Water flows downward, carrying its essential simplicity to each thing. It brings them together as a single living, growing whole. We pour water over our hands as an expression of wisdom pouring downward passing through our heart and from there to our interaction with the world around us.