Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 4 April 2020 / 10 Nisan 5780

Understanding Urchatz

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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Have you ever wondered why, during the annual Pesach Seder, when we dip the Karpas vegetables in saltwater to symbolize our ancestor’s tears while enslaved at the hands of the cruel Egyptians, we precede it by washing our hands (Urchatz)? Isn’t handwashing exclusively reserved for prior to ‘breaking bread’? And furthermore, why is this only performed at the Seder? Is there a specific message this action is meant to portray?

All About the Children

The answer to these questions might depend on a difference of understanding. The Gemara in Pesachim (114b) asks why at the Pesach Seder we perform two dippings [i.e. Karpas into saltwater and later the Maror into Charoses]. The Gemara succinctly answers ‘Ki Heichi D’lehavai Hekeira L’Tinokos, in order that there should a distinction for children’. Both Rashi and his grandson, the Rashbam, as well as the Rokeach, explain[1] the Gemara’s intent, that this act is performed in order so that the children should ask why we are performing this unusual and uncommon action on Leil Haseder, as this action serves as a ‘hekeira tova’, an excellent distinction. This is one of the ways we ensure that the Seder Night’s Mitzvah of ‘Vehigadta Le’vincha’, retelling the story of our ancestors’ exile, enslavement, and ultimately exodus from Egypt, is properly performed.[2]

But a question remains. Which exact action is the one that is meant to evoke the childrens’ questions? The answer may surprise you. The Tur specifies that it is not the seemingly odd act of handwashing for vegetables that is peculiar,[3] but rather the timing of the dipping. He asserts that it is unusual to dip food items at the beginning of a seudah. Most other days we also dip, but in the middle of the meal. In other words, the only change we do to evoke childrens’s questions is to perform the dipping right then.

What then of the seemingly atypical handwashing just for vegetables? Isn’t that an uncharacteristic change from the ordinary? ‘No’, the Tur would respond, ‘one certainly would have to wash his hands before dipping his vegetables’.

Drip and Dip

But in order to properly understand this, we must first digress to a different Gemara in Pesachim (115a). Rabbi Elazer states in the name of Rav Oshia “any food item that is dipped in a liquid (davar hateebulo b’mashkeh) requires handwashing before eating”. On this, Rashi and Tosafos[4] (among others) differ as to the correct understanding his intent.

Rashi maintains that this ruling is still applicable nowadays, as it is similar to the requirement to wash before eating bread, while Tosafos is of the opinion that this law is only relevant during the times of the Beis Hamikdash, as it is conditional to Taharos, Ritual Purity, which in this day and age, is unfortunately non-applicable. Although the Maharam M’Rottenberg, and several later poskim are of the opinion that one may indeed rely on the lenient view,[5] it should be noted that the majority of halachic authorities including the Rambam, Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Rema, Vilna Gaon, Chayei Adam, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Ben Ish Chai, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Berurah, Kaf Hachaim and Chazon Ish,[6] hold that even nowadays one should do his utmost to be vigilant with this and wash hands before eating a food item dipped in liquid.[7]

The lenient opinion is taken into account, however, and that is the reason why according to the majority of poskim, this washing is performed without the prerequisite blessing, as opposed to the washing before eating bread.[8] This is due to the halachic dictum of “Safek Brachos Lehakel”, meaning that in a case of doubt regarding the topic of brachos, we follow the lenient approach and do not make the blessing, to avoid the possibility of making a blessing in vain.

This all ties in to our Seder. In fact this, explains the Tur and Abudraham, and echoed by later authorities, is the reason why we wash Urchatz prior to dipping the Karpas into saltwater.[9] As this action is classified as a davar hateebulo b’mashkeh, it requires handwashing before eating. Although the Tur himself, as well as the Levush and Vilna Gaon, aver that Urchatz actually necessitates a brachah of Netillas Yadayim,[10] conversely, the vast majority of poskim conclude that we do not make Netillas Yadayim at this Seder handwashing,[11] but rather exclusively at Rachtzah immediately prior to Motzi-Matzah. This is indeed the common custom.

The Chida’s Chiddush

The Chida, in his Simchas HaRegel commentary on the Haggada,[12] explains that this is the background, as well as the reason for the added ‘vav’ by Urchatz at the Pesach Seder, as it is the only one of the Seder Simanim that starts with that conjunction. We find a parallel by the brachah that our patriarch Yitzchok Avinu bestowed on his son Yaakov (Bereishis, Parshas Toldos Ch. 27: verse 28), ‘V’Yitein L’cha’ – ‘And Hashem should give you’. According to Chazal and cited by Rashi,[13] the extra conjunctive ‘vav’ means ‘yitein yachzor v’yitein’ – that Hashem should continually and constantly give.

Likewise, the Chida explains the extra ‘vav’ in Urchatz. The Baal Haggada is transmitting a message to us. Just as during the Seder we all wash before dipping a vegetable in salt water, that extra ‘vav’ is telling us - ‘rachatz yachzor v’rachatz’ – that we should continue to wash our hands, anytime we want to eat a food dipped in liquid, year round.

The Chasam Sofer and his son-in-law, the Chasan Sofer, write in a similar vein in their Haggada, that Urchatz is meant to serve as a tochacha (rebuke) and yearly reminder to those who are lackadaisical with the observance of this halacha, in order to remind everyone that this applies year round as well. Indeed, the Taz actually writes similarly, and concludes that at least during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva one should be stringent. The Ben Ish Chai remarks comparably when discussing Urchatz, that praiseworthy is one who is careful with this handwashing year round.[14

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l adds that the ‘Vav’ is connecting ‘Urchatz’ to ‘Kadesh’ – meaning ‘Kadesh Urchatz’ – (as a command) that we should be mekadeish ourselves and continue to wash for food items dipped in liquid – even if not stringent with this all year round.[15]

The Medium is the Message

Yet, it is important to note that other poskim take an alternate view. Rav Yaakov Reisher in his Chok Yaakov argues[16] that since the great Maharam M’Rottenberg, as well as the Lechem Chamudos and Magen Avraham among others, ruled leniently with washing before eating a food item dipped in liquid following Tosafos’ precedent, and most people do not follow the opinion mandating it nowadays, this simply cannot be the reason why we perform Urchatz at the Seder.

Rather, he explains that the Gemara’s intent with stating that Urchatz is performed in order that there should a distinction for children to ask, is that the handwashing itself for eating dipped vegetables is what is out of the ordinary, not the timing of the washing. According to this understanding, it is the Urchatz itself that is essentially the “hekker”, highlighting that something different than the norm is occurring, to enable children to ask what is different on Seder night. Meaning, although most do not wash before eating a dipped item year round, at the Seder we do; and that is the atypical action we do to arouse the interest of the children.

Not a Daas Yachid (lone dissenting opinion), both the Chayei Adam and Aruch Hashulchan seem to favor this explanation, and it is cited by the Mishnah Berurah in his Shaar Hatziyun as well.[17]

Alternate Views

On the other hand, the Levush understands Urchatz somewhat differently. He explains that the dipping of Karpas at the Pesach Seder is due to ‘Chovas (or in some editions ‘Chibas’)HaRegel, extra obligation or devotion for the Yom Tov’. Ergo, the handwashing is specifically performedat the Seder, as due to its inherent holiness, ‘we go the extra mile’ to strive for an increase in purity, as opposed to year round, when in his opinion, it would not be mandated.[18]

An alternate, yet somewhat similar, interpretation is offered by the Netziv, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin zt”l, celebrated Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin.[19] The Seder reminds us of the eating of the Korban Pesach that took place when the Beis Hamikdash stood. Therefore, we follow the same halachic requirements at the Seder that were in place during the Temple era. Everyone agrees that at the time of the Beis Hamikdash there was an obligation to wash hands for dipped food items, and therefore, at the Pesach Seder we do so as well, regardless of whether or not we actually fulfill this year round.

Another idea, cited by the Rema in his Darchei Moshe,[20] is that the Haggada is akin to a Tefillah, that we relating thanks and praise to Hashem for everything he has done for our ancestors and us. Therefore, immediately prior to the recital of the Haggada we wash our hands in preparation without a brachah similar to the requirement before davening.

One more interesting explanation, suggested by Rav Reuven Margoliyos,[21] is that this washing is performed at the very beginning of the Seder night ‘derech cheirus’, to show that we are doing so as free people and nobility, who are accustomed to washing their hands prior to eating even a small amount. This is opposed to slaves, who do not have the rights or ability for such extravagance, but rather ‘eat their bread with sweat’. This ‘nobility’ reasoning would seem to fit well with the minhag many perform of ‘serving’ the Baal Habayis for Urchatz, by bringing him a wash basin and washing his hands.[22]

Divergences of Dipping

Interestingly, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l, the former Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, opines that the dispute among Rishonim whether only the head of the household is supposed to wash Urchatz or if everyone at the Seder does as well (the most common custom) might be dependent on this debate of why the handwashing at the Seder was instituted.[23] According to the majority opinion that Urchartz was enacted due to the halacha of davar hateebulo b’mashkeh, then everyone would be mandated to wash.

However, according to the opinions that this handwashing is only performed on Pesach at the Seder, it is possible that only the head of the household need wash Urchatz, as that should be deemed sufficient enough to arouse the interest and subsequent questions of the children.

Practically, as mentioned previously, the most common custom is that everyone washes Urchatz.[24] Yet, a notable minority minhag, performed mainly by many of Germanic / Dutch origin, as well as Sanz, Lelov, and Satmar Chassidim, is that only the head of the household wash.[25]So it is remarkable that this modern divergence of minhagim might actually depend on how poskim understood the brief statement of the Gemara regarding childrens’ questions.

Finger Food?

Another interesting machlokes that might depend on which hekker the Gemara intended is how to dip the Karpas into the saltwater. If the reason Urchatz was mandated is due to the halacha of davar hateebulo b’mashkeh, then it stands to reason that if one used a fork or other utensil to dip and not actually getting ‘ones’s hands dirty’ then many poskim would hold that handwashing is technically not required.[26] On the other hand, if the washing prior to dipping is considered the unusual action of Seder night, then we should perform Urchatz irregardless of utensil.

Practically, although there are contemporary authorities, including Rav Moshe Sternbuch and Rav Nissim Karelitz,[27] who maintain preference for dipping the Karpas by hand in order that it should satisfy all opinions, nonetheless, due to the other understandings of Urchatz’ s role, many poskim rule that even if one used a fork for the dipping, we should still perform the handwashingprior.[28] Just another insight into the seemingly simple and straightforward, yet remarkable Urchatz.

Urchatz Everyday!

The Chida continues that although many are aware of the halacha of davar hateebulo b’mashkeh, they do not realize that it even applies to something as ubiquitous as dipping cake into coffee![29] One might contend that the connection between vegetables in saltwater to tea biscuits in coffee seems tenuous, but actually, according to the majority of authorities, from a halachic perspective they are remarkably similar.

So the next time you get that dunkin’ urge, it might be prudent to be conscientious by following the Haggada’s hidden exhortation, and head to the sink before diving in to your cup-of-joe.

Thanks are due to my 12th-grade Rebbi in Yeshiva Gedolah Ateres Mordechai of Greater Detroit, Rav Yitzchok Kahan, for first enlightening me to this passage of the Chida’s.

This article was written l’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif u’miyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U’Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”.

[1] Rashi and Rashbam (Pesachim ad loc. s.v. dilma), Rokeach (483).

[2] Well, if this is the question that children ask, then what is the answer? The Bach (O.C. 473: 8 s.v. v’loke’ach; and later cited by the Pri Megadim ad loc. Mishbetzos Zahav 7) cites three diverse solutions: 1) That we are showing Derech Cheirus, that free men dip before a Seudah to whet the appetite. 2) It serves as a small taste, as the Seder’s Seudah is much later, after Haggada and Hallel, so we should not sit so long without eating anything. 3) Citing the Maharal M’Prague (Gevuros Hashem Ch. 50), that the first dipping before the Seudah shows that the second dipping by Maror, is performed exclusively for the Seder Night’s special Mitzvah of eating Maror; otherwise, as many people dip during their meals, it would not appear out of the ordinary. The Taz (ad loc. end 7 s.v. u’me’od) offers an alternate approach, that the fact that the first dipping is performed prior to the Seudah shows that it is not actually performed as part of the Seudah, so too, it proves that the second one, Maror is also not performed as part of the Seudah but rather for its unique Mitzvah. On the other hand, the Pri Chodosh (ad loc. 6 s.v. Rashbam) raises the point that everyone knows that there is a different Mitzvah of dipping and eating Maror that is performed much later on in the Seder, well after the ‘answer’ of ‘Avadim Hayinu’. He therefore suggests that perhaps the main purpose of Karpas is for the children to ask questions, irrelevant of the answer or whether it actually answers that exact question. Once the children realize early on in the Seder that there are actions out of the ordinary being performed on Leil HaSeder, they will notice and ask the purpose of all of them, and thus enable the Mitzvah of ‘Vehigadta Le’vincha’ to be performed in the optimal manner.

[3] Tur (O.C. 473: 6). Many later authorities, (e.g., Shulchan Aruch Harav ad loc. 14, and Kaf Hachaim ad loc. 105) understand the Gemara this way as well.

[4] Rashi and Tosafos (ad loc. s.v. hakol).

[5] Including the Maharam M’Rottenberg (cited in Tashbatz Kattan 99 and Tur ibid.), Rashbat (cited by the Mordechai on Pesachim 34a), Baal HaItur (Aseres HaDibros Matzah U’Maror pg. 134b, third column), Maharil(Hilchos Hahaggada, pg. 14a s.v. darash Maharash; explaining that this handwashing on Pesach is essentially a ‘chumra b’alma meshum srach Terumah, ul’didan ha’idna ain shayach’; thanks are due to Sydney Strauss for pointing out this essential source), Maharshal (Yam Shel Shlomo on Chullin, Ch. 8: 18), Lechem Chamudos (Divrei Chamudos on the Rosh, Chullin Ch. 8: 41), Levush (O.C. 473: 6), Magen Avraham (O.C. 158: end 8), Ateres Zekeinim (O.C. 158: 4, end s.v. oh hapri), Chok Yaakov (O.C. 473: 28), and Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 158: 4 & 5). The Yaavetz (Mor U’Ketziah 158 end s.v. v’ha) is also melamed zechus for those who are lenient with this. On a more contemporary note, Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Hilchos HaGr”a U’minhagav 135; pg. 149-150) adds a compelling reason for the common custom of not washing. He cites that the Brisker Rav zt”l explained that the handwashing necessitated for a davar hateebulo b’mashkeh is not for the same reason as the washing for bread. Whereas for bread we wash due to the need for Kedushah, on the other hand, for a davar hateebulo b’mashkeh all that is necessary is to have ‘yadayim tahoros’, but not necessarily is an actual maaseh to make them tahor required. Hence, since nowadays we generally make sure that our hands are not ‘halachically dirty’ (as we make sure to wash our hands in many situations throughout the day – see Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 4: 18), it is sufficient for these halachos and handwashing is technically not actually mandated. The Kozoglover Gaon, Rav Aryeh Leib Frommer zt”l (Shu”t Eretz Tzvi vol. 1: 32) and Rav Shalom Messas (Meshash) zt”l (Shu”t Shemesh U’Magein vol. 2: 45) also defended the common practice not to wash before eating dipped food items. See also footnote 7.

[6] Rambam (Hilchos Brachos Ch. 6: 1), Tur (O.C. 158: 2 and 473: 6), Shulchan Aruch and Rema (O.C. 158: 4), Biur HaGr”a (O.C. 158: 4 s.v. blo bracha and Maaseh Rav 81), Chayei Adam (vol. 1, 36: 4), Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 158: end 3), Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Tazria 19), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (40: 17), Mishnah Berurah (O.C. 158: 20), Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 158: 13 & 25), and Chazon Ish (O.C. 25: 14 & 15 s.v. kasav b’M”B). The Chazon Ish and Steipler Gaon were known to be very stringent with this - see Orchos Rabbeinu (5775 edition; vol. 1, pg. 153 - 154, Dinei Netillas Yadayim V’Seudah 6 and 7). See also next footnote.

[7] Other authorities who hold this way include Rabbeinu Yonah (Brachos 41a s.v. kol), the Rosh (Chullin Ch. 8: 10), the Knesses HaGedolah (Shiyurei Knesses Hagedolah, O.C. 158 Hagahos on Beis Yosef 3), Matteh Yosef (Shu”t vol. 2, 18: 19 - who uses extremely strong terms against those who are lackadaisical with this), Taz (O.C. 473: 6; who concludes that at the very least one should be makpid during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva), Chida (Birkei Yosef, O.C. 158: 5), Shlah (Shaar Ha’Osiyos 81b, haghah), and Ba’er Heitiv (O.C. 158: 11). See also Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Ch. 9, pg. 253, footnote 184) which quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l as maintaining that even though in previous generations many were lenient with this issue, adding that the Chayei Adam, in his hesped for his son (titled ‘Matzeves Moshe’) stressed that the niftar was a tzaddik and illustrated this by stating that he was makpid to always wash his hands before dipping food items into liquid, implying that even in his time and place it was an uncommon procedure, nevertheless, nowadays we should definitely do our utmost to fulfill this halacha. Likewise, Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner zt”l is quoted (Kovetz M’Beis Levi vol. 17, pg. 17, 3) as sharing a similar assessment, that although the common custom seems not to be makpid, nonetheless, it is indeed preferable to strive to do so. Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l (Chazon Ovadia vol. 1 - Pesach, Hilchos Leil HaSeder pg. 32, Urchatz 1) likewise stresses that since the majority of poskim, including the Shulchan Aruch, hold that one need be makpid year-round, ‘b’vaday hachi naktinan’. For more on this topic, as well as which Gedolim over the ages were or were not makpid, see Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Brodt’s Bein Kesseh L’Essor (Ch. 9, ppg. 148 - 153).

[8] Beis Yosef, Shulchan Aruch, and Rema (O.C. 158: 4), Taz (ad loc. 6), Chayei Adam (vol. 1, 36: 4), Shulchan Aruch Harav (158: 3), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (40: 17), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 158: 5), Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Tazria 17), Mishnah Berurah (158: 20), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 13; citing ‘the Acharonim’). However, the Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGr”a ad loc. 11 and Maaseh Rav 81) and several others actually do mandate a brachah on the washing for a davar hateebulo b’mashkeh. See next footnotes.

[9] Tur (ibid.),Abudraham (Seder Hahaggada s.v. u’le’acheir).

[10] Tur (ibid.), adding that although the Maharam M’Rottenberg and Baal Ha’Itur (ibid.) are of the opinion that nowadays it is not necessary, nevertheless, as the Gaonim, as well as Rashi, as quoted by Rav Shmayah, mandate it, the ikar is to make Netillas Yadayim by Urchatz. The Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah Ch. 8: 1) rules this way as well. The Levush (O.C. 473: 6) and Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGr”a ad loc. 30 and Maaseh Rav beg. 191; also cited in Shaar Hatziyun ad loc. 70) also rule this way by Urchatz. Interestingly, in the famous 1526 Illuminated Prague Haggada, it cites that Urchatz should be recited with a brachah. Thanks are due to Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Brodt for pointing this out. See his article titled ‘The 1526 Prague Haggadah and its Illustrations’ (Ami Magazine, Issue 313; April 5, 2017 / 9 Nissan 5777; Double Issue pg. 143). Yet, it is important to note that there is a practical difference between the shittos of the Levush and Gr”a. The Gr”a maintains that Urchatz shares the same status as any davar hateebulo b’mashkeh, which in his opinion is obligated in handwashing with a brachah. However, and quite conversely, the Levush maintains that generally we rule that nowadays a davar hateebulo b’mashkeh does not require handwashing. It is only at the Seder, due to Chovas HaRegel (some editions have ‘Chibas HaRegel’) that we do so by Urchatz. Accordingly, since we are performing this handwashing specially for the Seder, it requires the full status of the Gemara’s ruling and therefore, in his opinion, does require Netillas Yadayim as well. See also footnote 18. On the other hand, theTaz (ad loc. end 7 s.v. u’me’od) questions the Tur’s (and Levush’s) ruling, as by Pesach he mandates Urchatz with a brachah, whereas year-round rules one does not make the brachah for such handwashing at all. The Taz states that it is inconceivable that the same action for the same purpose can require a brachah parts of the year, whereas other times not. Interestingly, in his Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (119: 8), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu writes that those who generally follow the rulings of the Rambam should wash with a brachah for Urchatz, and not like the common halachic consensus. Interestingly, Rav Yitzchak Isaac Tirna (Tyrnau) in his Sefer HaMinhagim (Minhag HaPesach) cites both sides of this machlokes regarding Urchatz with a bracha or not, with no clear ruling. Even more interesting, is that the Haghos ad loc. (89) succinctly adds that this very same machlokes applies year round regardingdevarim hateebulo b’mashkeh.

[11] Maharil (Seder Hahaggada), Beis Yosef (O.C. 173: 6 s.v. u’m”sh Rabbeinu) and Darchei Moshe (ad loc. 12), and conclusively ruled in Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.), and followed authoritatively by the Bach (ad loc. s.v. ul’inyan halacha), Taz (ad loc. 7), Elyah Rabbah (ad loc. 23), Hagahos Mohar”a Azulai (on the Levush ad loc. 6), Malbushei Yom Tov (ad loc. 3), Pri Chodosh (ad loc.), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. 19), Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav ad loc. 6), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 130, HaSeder B’Ketzara 4, s.v. Urchatz), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (119: 3), Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parshas Tzav 31), Mishnah Berurah (473: 52), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 18), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 106). This is also cited lemaaseh in most Haggados. There is also some discussion as to if one eats less than a kezayis of dipped Karpas if he may be lenient with washing with a brachah according to the opinions who mandate it. One can posit that this idea is logical, as the Rambam, Levush, and Vilna Gaon, who all mandate Urchatz with a brachah, also hold that one should eat a kezayis of Karpas. Therefore, it would stand to reason that if one eats less than that amount, washing with a brachah is not necessitated. On the other hand, the Tur also mandates washing with a brachah but writes that eating a kezayis in not necessary. See Shaar Hatziyun (ad loc. 70), Biur Halacha (ad loc. s.v. pachos m’kezayis), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. end 106 and 158: 20), and the Mekoros U’Biurim to the recent Weinreb edition of Maaseh Rav (191: footnote 58, pg. 210).

[12] The Chida’s Simchas HaRegel Haggada - in the end of his passage explaining Urchatz.

[13] Midrash Rabba (Parshas Toldos, Ch. 66: 3), cited by Rashi (ad loc. s.v. v’yitein l’cha).

[14] Haggada of the Chasam Sofer and Chasan Sofer (Urchatz), Taz (O.C. 473: 6), and Ben Ish Chai (Year 1 Parshas Tzav 31).

[15] Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Seder Leil Pesach, pg. 253, Orchos Halacha 184).

[16] Chok Yaakov (473: 28). See also footnote 5.

[17] Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 130, HaSeder B’Ketzara 4, s.v. Urchatz), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 473: 18), Shaar Hatziyun (ad loc. 69). Interestingly, in his Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 51), he implies conversely, like the basic understanding of the Tur and most commentaries, that the Urchatz handwashing is due to the halacha ofdavar hateebulo b’mashkeh.

[18] The Levush (O.C. 473: 6) understands Urchatz differently than the other two main opinions. He explains that since the dipping of Karpas at the Pesach Seder is due to “Chovas HaRegel” and is considered a “Tevillah shel Mitzvah” we should therefore to strive for an increase in purity and that is why the handwashing is performed, even though the rest of the year it is deemed non-mandatory; quite the opposite of the Chida’s and Chasam Sofer’s understanding. Rav Shmuel Avigdor zt”l (Haggada shel Pesach im Pirush Maharsha; cited in Bein Kesseh L’Essor, Ch. 9, pg. 152 - 153), the Pri Megadim (ad loc. Mishbetzos Zahav 6; although he implies that it should apply equally to every Yom Tov) and Shlah (Shaar Ha’Osiyos ibid.) understand Urchatz akin to the Levush. The Taz (ibid.) also mentions the idea of being more stringent at the Seder due to Chovas Haregel [however, as mentioned previously, he ultimately concludes that it is preferable to be makpid year-round, and at least during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva]. This understanding is also cited by the Kozoglover Gaon (Shu”t Eretz Tzvi vol. 1: 32 s.v. amnam), and later by Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo ibid.). For more on this topic, as to Urchatz being mandated due to the inherent extra-Kedusha of the Chag, seeBein Kesseh L’Essor (Ch. 9, ppg. 152 - 153). In a sort-of similar vein, the Maharil (Seder Hahaggada) writes succinctly that a ‘Rechitza Gemura’ (without a bracha) is necessitated to ensure that our hands remain pure when dipping the vegetables, as liquid makes an item huchshar l’Tumah (enabled to become Tamei).

[19] In the introduction to the Netziv’s Imrei Shefer commentary on the Haggada. Thanks are due to Rabbi Yaakov Luban for providing me with this important source. In his words: “This thought of the Netziv takes on even greater significance if we accept the position of the Rosh (Pesachim Ch. 10: 34), that the Afikoman matzah is eaten in place of the Korban Pesach. Accordingly, one can suggest that at the Pesach Seder we not only remember the Korban Pesach as a historical event last practiced 2,000 years ago. Rather, when we eat the Afikoman, we replicate the experience and feel the excitement of eating the Korban Pesach in Yerushalayim in the close proximity of the Beis Hamikdash. As we relive this experience we feel compelled to wash Urchatz, just as we did in the days of old.”

[20] Darchei Moshe (O.C. 473: beg. 12). Washing before Tefillah (and without a brachah) is based on Gemara Brachos (15a) and ruled accordingly in Shulchan Aruch and Rema and main commentaries (O.C. 92: 4 and 5).

[21] In his Haggada (as cited in sefer Haggada V’Aggadata pg. 81).

[22] This was the minhag of the Chasam Sofer (cited in his Haggada pg. 43) in order to show ‘Derech Cheirus’ and aristocracy. Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited in his Haggada pg. 100) was noheg this way as well. For more on this minhag, see Vayaged Moshe (16: 5), Rav Asher Weiss’s Haggada shel Pesach Minchas Asher (pg. 30, Urchatz 3), Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Pesach vol. 2, Ch. 81: 10), and Rabbi Yaakov Skocylas’s Ohel Yaakov (on Hilchos U’Minhagei Leil HaSeder, pg. 51: 2 and footnote 5).

[23] Mikraei Kodesh (Pesach vol. 2: 39, pg. 142). This logic is also later cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah (vol. 3, pg. 133 - 134: 14), and Ohel Yaakov (on Hilchos U’Minhagei Leil HaSeder, pg. 51, footnote 4). Although there does not seem to be a direct dispute regarding whether everyone at the Seder or just the head of the household wash by Urchatz, it is implied by their specific writings. For example, the Rambam (ibid.) when discussing the customs of the Seder, uses plural tense (lashon rabbim) for almost all of the minhagim, except Urchatz, which he uses the singular tense (lashon yachid), implying that in his opinion only the one leading the Seder need to wash. On the other hand, from the way the Ritva (Pesachim, Seder Hahaggada), Maharil (Seder Hahaggada), Abudraham (Seder Hahaggada s.v. u’le’acheir), and Mordechai (Pesachim 37b; cited by the Beis Yosef ibid. s.v. u’mashekasav v’lo) discuss the topic, it is clear that they are of the opinion that everyone should be washing.

[24] As aside for the aforementioned Rishonim, is also explicitly cited by the Seder HaYom (Seder Tefillas Arvis V’Kiddush [shel Pesach] s.v. achar), and Misgeres Hashulchan (on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 119: 3). See also Halichos Even Yisrael (Moadim vol. 1, pg. 163, Urchatz 1 and footnote 6), Haggada shel Pesach of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (pg. 109), Haggada shel Pesach Chazon Ovadiah (‘Urchatz’; at the end of Sefer Chazon Ovadiah vol. 1 - Pesach), Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Pesach vol. 2, Ch. 81: 11), and Ohel Yaakov (ibid; citing Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l and others).

[25] This is cited as the proper minhag in Sefer Minhagei Amsterdam (new edition, Ch. 3: 6, 4; pg. 52), as well as the minhag of Rav Shalom M’Neustadt (Minhagei Maharash, 302: 3; also cited by his talmid, the Maharil, Seder Hahaggada ibid.; although the Maharil himself seems to side with his other Rabbeim who mandated everyone washing Urchatz – the Mahari Weil and Mahari Segal; see also Leket Yosher vol. 1, pg. 88, and Shu”t V’Drashos Mahari Weil 193). Thanks are due to R’ Avraham Schijveschuurder for pointing out several of these important sources. In Rav Asher Weiss’s Haggada shel Pesach Minchas Asher (pg. 30, Urchatz 5) he cites this as Minhag Sanz, following the precedent of the Divrei Chaim and Kedushas Yom Tov. See also Vayaged Moshe (16: 2), Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Pesach vol. 2, Ch. 81: 11, and footnote 20 and 21), Minhag Yisrael Torah (ibid.), and Ohel Yaakov (ibid.) who cite different minhagim on this. Sanz, Satmar, Lelov, and Ziditchov, as well as Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner zt”l, maintain that only the Baal Habayis needs to wash, and that this was also the personal hanhaga of the Chasam Sofer, while Belz, Gur, Ropshitz, Spinka, Skver, Boyan, and Chabad hold everyone washes. Vizhnitz minhag is that only once one is married does he wash for Urchatz.

[26] Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l (Mikraei Kodesh ibid.) makes this distinction as well. Rav Yaakov Emden (Mor U’Ketziah 158 end s.v. v’ha) writes leshittaso regarding a ‘davar hateebulo b’mashkeh’ that those who dipped with a fork or spoon are not required to wash their hands. Many other authorities rule similarly regarding a ‘davar hateebulo b’mashkeh’ that is always eaten with a spoon (or fork etc.), including the Taz (O.C. 158: 9), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. 3), Derech Hachaim (Din Netilas Yadayim L’Seudah 5), Chayei Adam (vol. 1, 36: 8), Magen Giborim (Shiltei Hagiborim 7), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 158: 12), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 26). However, see Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 23) who cites several authorities who differ and rules that even though there is what to rely upon, nevertheless one should be stringent and wash his hands. This machlokes of understanding between the Yaavetz and Kaf Hachaim (citing Mekubalim) is extant in many issues of handwashing, including the one mandated in-between milk and meat and also regarding Mayim Acharonim. An alternate approach, given by several Poskim including the Pri Megadim (Y”D 89 S.D 20), is that even if not required me’ikar hadin, nonetheless, optimally one should still wash his hands after eating a dairy product with a fork, as handwashing does not usually entail too much effort. See previous articles titled ‘Mayim Acharonim Chovah?’ and ‘The Halachic Power of a Diyuk’. Interestingly, this machlokes seems to be originally based on different understandings of a debate amongst Tannaim (Nedarim 49b; thanks are due to R’ Baruch Ritholtz for pointing this out) regarding whether it is more proper to eat die’sah (porridge) with one’s fingers or a ‘hutza’, a sliver of wood. The Yaavetz understood that this topic was only relevant in their time, as they apparently did not have proper eating utensils. Accordingly, nowadays, when everyone uses cutlery, this debate would seem somewhat irrelevant. Others, however [see Maharsha and Ben Yehoyada (ad loc.), and Bnei Tzion (vol. 3, O.C. 181: 9; from Rav Ben Tzion Lichtman, Chief Rabbi of Beirut, Lebanon approximately seventy-five years ago)], seem to understand that the Tannaim did generally have spoons, but in that instance did not have them readily available. Thus, the Gemara’s discussion was only regarding when spoons were not available, debating whether it was preferable to use fingers or a wood chip in such an instance. Following the latter approach would seemingly unsubstantiate the Yaavetz’s proof from this Gemara. Remarkably, the earliest use of forks as cutlery in Rabbinic literature seems to be from Rabbeinu Chananel (990 -1053) in his commentary on Bava Metzia (25b s.v. pi’ homnick), which was first published as part of the famous Vilna Shas by the Brothers Romm, in the 1870s and 1880s. To describe the Gemara’s ‘homnick’ (or ‘hemnick’), he explains that it is a two-pronged fork, similar to a ‘mazleig’, which he elucidates is a three-pronged fork that ‘Bnei Yavan’ use to hold pieces of meat and help cut them with a knife, as an aid for eating without touching the food with one’s hands. As implied from Rabbeinu Chananel’s terminology that using a fork was a novelty even in his days, it seems that his phraseology can be used as proof to Rav Yaakov Emden’s understanding of the Tannaic debate in the Gemara Nedarim, some 700 years later. Thanks are due to Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein, author of ‘Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness, and Hebrew’, and ‘God versus gods’ for pointing out the location of this comment of Rabbeinu Chananel’s.

[27] Haggada shel Pesach Moadim Uzmanim (pg. 58; see also Shu”t Teshuvos V’hanhagos vol. 2: 116 and Hilchos HaGr”a U’Minhagav 135; pg. 150 s.v. uvmk”a) and Chut Shani on Hilchos Pesach (Ch. 17: 16); cited in Ohel Yaakov (ibid. pg. 52: 3 and footnote 6).

[28] See Mikraei Kodesh (ibid.), Haggada shel Pesach Minchas Asher (pg. 30, Urchatz 7), Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Pesach vol. 2, Ch. 81: 5), and Ohel Yaakov (ibid.). Also, the fact that this issue is not even raised by the majority of poskim proves that they were of the opinion that it should not matter lemaaseh regarding Urchatz.

[29] See also Orchos Rabbeinu (5775 edition; vol. 1, pg. 153, 154, and 159 Dinei Netillas Yadayim V’Seudah 6, 7, and 27) which records that the Chazon Ish and Steipler Gaon were known to be very stringent with this halacha, and always washing before dipping cake into tea, eating washed fruit, and even fruit taken from the fridge that is slightly damp.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.

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