Saturday, March 9, 2013

Haggadah: Urchatz


The title of the Haggadah's second section, "Urchatz", means "and wash". The section consists of washing before Karpas. Why are we washing?

When we have a Beit haMikdash, we wash before handling produce in order to avoid communicating impurity. In an era without a Beit haMikdash, most halachic authorities contend that we do not wash. (Rabbeinu Yonah, the Taz and the Vilna Gaon are notable in their disagreement.) Why, then, do we wash before handling karpas?

1. Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, in his early 20th century Aruch haShulchan (Orach Chaim 473:18), says it's just another way we draw our children's interest to the events of the night. Varying our routine attracts the attention of our children.

2. Rabbi Mordechai Yafeh, in his 16th century Levush (Orach Chaim 473), says we wash because the karpas is being used for a mitzvah. The mitzvah warrants extra sanctity.

3. Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, in the introduction to his late-19th century haggadah Imrei Shefer, notes that several Seder practices are meant to take us back to the way things happened in the Beit haMikdash. Think of the Koreich sandwich, for example. Therefore, we wash for karpas in order to recall the way we washed in the Beit haMikdash.

Have a great day,

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