Out of all the sections of the Seder, there’s one anomaly – Urchatz. It starts with ו – “and.” Unlike all the other standalone titles, it is attached to the previous section of Kadesh. We say kiddush, and we wash our hands, like all year round.
And yet it seems counterintuitive. Like a doctor sanitizes before seeing a patient, wouldn’t you expect to clean yourself before making kiddush?
R’ Moshe Feinstein explains that we have to kickstart our lives with good deeds despite the fact we still carry baggage.
There is an old Chassidic fable of a man with dirty boots in a muddy field. He should only clean his boots at the end of the field; there’s just no point cleaning them halfway through.
R’ Shlomo Farhi notes that we search for chametz in our homes with a candle. A person who uses a burning torch needs to search again with a candle because a burning torch is a fire hazard that will scare people off checking too closely, from fear of burning the house down. So look through the cracks of your soul with a candle, and be careful you don’t burn the whole thing down.
You can try to be a good person while acknowledging you are flawed, and there are still things about you that aren’t perfect. It’s a Kadesh before an Urchatz.
And when a person finds those flaws, they might feel broken – Yachatz.
But crucially, we don’t break the Matza and throw it out; we save it for later, and the poor man’s bread is transformed into the afikoman, the defining mitzvah of the evening.
The broken heart of improvement doesn’t go to waste; it is fully redeemable.
We are capable of being good, of fielding constructive criticism, and improving incrementally. We needn’t beat ourselves up too badly.