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The Pesah Seder – U’rhatz

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After reciting Kiddush at the Seder, we perform U’rhatz – hand washing. Halacha requires washing one’s hands before eating a food dipped in liquid, and we therefore wash our hands before eating the Karpas dipped in saltwater. However, no Beracha is recited on this hand washing.

Incidentally, the Taz (commentary to the Shulhan Aruch Rabbi David Halevi Segal, 1586-1667), in discussing U’rhatz (Orah Haim 473:6; listen to audio recording for precise citation), criticizes those who are lax regarding this Halacha throughout the year. The washing required before eating Karpas is not a Halacha that relates specifically to Pesah; it rather stems from a general requirement to wash one’s hands before eating food dipped in liquids, as codified in the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 158:4). The fact that U’rhatz is part of the Seder, the Taz comments, serves as a “Tochahat Megula” (“open rebuke”) of those who do not observe this Halacha throughout the year. This point is made as well by the Hida (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806), in his Simhat Ha’regel commentary to the Haggada.

Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in his Hazon Ovadia (Pesah, p. 32), writes that all the Halachic details that apply to washing before eating bread apply to washing before Karpas. One must wash three times on each hand, and all the guidelines that govern Netilat Yadayim for bread must be observed. The only difference is that one does not recite a Beracha when washing his hands for Karpas (or any other time he washes before eating a food dipped in liquid). Furthermore, one should not speak or divert his attention from the Karpas from the time he washes his hands until after he recites the Beracha and partakes of the Karpas.

U’rhatz should be performed inside the house; one should not go outside or to another house to wash his hands for U’rhatz.

Summary: When one washes his hands for U’rhatz after Kiddush at the Seder, he must comply with all the laws that apply to hand washing before bread, and one should not speak or divert his attention until after he partakes of the Karpas. There is no Beracha made on this Netilat Yadayim. One should make a point to wash his hands inside his home, and not leave to wash his hands elsewhere.

 


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