The brachah made on washing one's hands is "al netilas yadayim." Why do we call it "taking the hands" instead of "washing the hands" (rechitzas yadayim)?

Notice that at the Seder we call the washing "Urchatz" and "Rachtzah" instead of "v'natal" and "netilah," respectively.

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    Notice also that at the Seder some do call it נטילה not רחצה. Others call it רחיצה נטול קידוש ידים or other variations. Basically looking at the one poem for the order of the Seder that became most popular isn't that valuable.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 17:08

2 Answers 2


The Taamei HaMinhagim, in "הנהגות אדם בבוקר" says:

ג טעם שתקנו רז״ל לומר על נט״י בנוסח ברכה זו לשון נטילה, מפני שהוא לשון הגבהה מתרגום "ותשאני רוח" "ונטלתני", וכתיב (ישעיה ס"ג) "וינטלם וינשאם כל ימי עולם" - שצריך שיגביה ידיו למעלה (שלחן ארבע) :‏

ד עוד טעם לפי שצריך ליטול מן הכלי והכלי שמו נטלא בלשון תלמוד. אבודרהם:‏

That is, that according to the Shulchan Arba it is called that because Netilah means "raising", and you have to raise your hands after pouring the water on them, and according to the Abudirham it is because the vessel with which you pour the water is called a Natla in the Talmud (see in Chulin 104a: "נטלא בת רביעתא").

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    On the first, note also netilat lulav, which we definitely raise up. Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 13:49
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    Also on the first note, the Maharal Nesiv HaAvoda ch. 15 (or maybe 16?) explains the significance of this - in short, that by lifting your hands they reach above your head, so the "elevated" status of hands comes from lifting them - they are thereby more primary. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 18:56
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    @MonicaCellio maybe it means to take the lulav.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 18:29
  • @mevaqesh maybe it does; I was just pointing out another use of the word that's accompanied by raising. Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 18:30
  • another reason for raising them is so that after washing there isn't a possibility of impure water which just washed your hands off falling back down onto your hands
    – Laser123
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 6:12
  1. The reason being that it is done with a vessel called a natla, antal, or antil, cited in the other answer, is stated by numerous early Rishonim, including Raavya (Teshuvot Uveiurei Sugyot 1109) quoting R. Hai Gaon, Arukh (נטל), Rashi, (responsum 266 and Likkutei HaPardes pg. 11a), Raavan (Hulin 271), Rokeah (Commentary to Siddur: al Netilat Yadayim: page 4), Seffer Hassidim (58 in ed. Margolis), Manhig (Hilkhot S'uda pg. 204) and others.
  2. In addition to citing this explanation, Sefer HaPardes (of R. Hayyim Navyu in Sha'ar HaMaaseh: Birkat Netillat Yadayim) cites a similar explanation, that netillat means taking, and refers to taking the vessel.
  3. Meiri also cites the explanation that "netillat" is a reference to the vessel, known as a natla (Berakhot: Kundres Beit Yad s.v. netila), but he also cites another explanation (mentioned in the above answer), that the term refers to raising the hands done when washing. This is also quoted by Shibbolei Haleket (Seder Berakhot 136) and Rashba (Shu"t 7:534) in the name of R. Hai Gaon. (In apparent contradiction to Raavya's reference to R. Hai Gaon).
  4. HaKtav V'HaKabbalah (Leviticus 11:44) gives an additional explanation: that the hands are spiritually elevated through the washing, hence the term 'netilla'; raising.

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