Jul 23, 1997 - 12:26 -
I have a question:
Thank you for your question, Ailsa.
The sinks are for ritual handwashing in preparation for prayer. The blessing and procedure is the same as when washing hands at home:
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu, Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
Magnify yourself HaShem, Our God, Sovereign over Space-Time,
I have deliberately translated Baruch as an imperative (meaning to intensify or enlarge) rather than an accolade (Blessed, praised, or worshipped) as is more commonly done. It can connote both. Our acts, evidencing our partnership, empower the divine.
The sinks are also used by the Levites and Kohanim before duchening. In that case the Levite pours the water over the Kohein's hands.
There are many different relationships one can have with every mitzvah and every liturgical text. One way to experience handwashing is as follows:
Everything in material reality is animated by its correspondence with one of the ten sefirot, the divine attributes. Water (by virtue of its transparency) is associated with chesed (lovingkindness, best exemplified by good deeds done without hope or possibility of reward). Your hands represent what you do in this world. Gathering the water in the vessel is a marshalling of chesed, with which you charge your hands.
I hope this information is helpful.