~Washing of the Hands~

Se'u yedechem kodesh uvar'chu et Hashem
Lift up your hands in holiness and praise Hashem.

Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al netilat yadayim
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands.

A traditional Jewish meal begins with the ritual of washing one's hands. Then one recites HaMotzi, the blessing over the bread. Thus there is a moment of composure and silence at the beginning of the meal.

Water--symbolic of Torah; wisdom. Water is the essence of physical life, for without it we would die. Whereas wisdom is the essence of spiritual life, the foundation of self-growth and realization.

Hands--symbolize our interaction in the physical world.

The Talmud (Berachot 46b) speaks of washing the hands before the meal and washing the hands after the meal. Before eating bread that requires the blessing HaMotzi, the observant Jew washes his hands and rubs them together; then, lifting them up, he recites Tehillim 134:2 and, before drying them, he recites the Netilat yadayim.