"Rechatz" in Aramaic means trust. While washing is a tangible act, trusting is a response of the heart. It is only in the aftermath of recognizing the sacredness of life through joy that one is able to extend the heart and hand with a sense of trust. As the heart opens to all that is, it is touched by the capacity to let go and to love.Washing the hands is wedded symbolically and spiritually to an act of inner cleansing. As the prophet Ezekiel states in the segment read for Parashat Parah-the Sabbath not long before Passover-"I will sprinkle pure water upon you...I will purify you from all impurities and all your fetishes..and I will give you a new heart-I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh."(Ezekiel 36:25-26)
What is a heart of stone?
The impurities and fetishes referred to by Ezekiel are the constituent parts of a heart of stone. Such a heart is impervious to feeling, to empathy, to trust. It is a heart rooted in suspicion and fear, hardening itself to form an artificial barricade of self protection. Behind barriers of defensiveness and distrust, the world is seen as a place of danger, and life , a burden of blight.
What is the desired heart of flesh? Waters of purity, of gentle goodness will wash away the hardness. Instead of stone, the heart will pulsate with the soft and pliant fleshiness of feeling and vulnerability. The Targum, the Aramaic translation of the Bible, interestingly renders heart of flesh as "Lev Dachil-" a heart of fear of God, reverence, awe perhaps vulnerability.
By incorporating the simple and ordinary act of washing the hands the Seder introduces a further stage in the unfolding of the spiritual process of greater God awareness. Without the capacity of trust, without allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable and sensitive to the pain,the joy, the compassion and tenderness of life, our hearts remain implacable and stony, callous and unfeeling, even inhuman. A human heart of flesh is necessary to begin to touch the transcendent divinity within us and in the world.
A trusting and gratefully joyful heart is the beginning of attaining a heart of wisdom, the divine destination of the Seder experience.