Passover Seder

Passover comes from the Bible, first mentioned in the book of Exodus. As God pronounced to the people of Israel enslaved in Egypt that he would free them, he said he would “Smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.” However, he instructed the Israelites to put a sign of lamb’s blood on their door posts: “and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12) also see: Jewish Holidays – Names of Jewish Months

Kadeish (The First Cup of Wine)

Throughout a Passover Seder, each participant drinks four cups of wine. It is common for children to substitute grape juice for wine. The Kiddush bracha is recited.

Ur’chatz (Wash Hands)

In traditional Jewish homes, it is common to ritually wash the hands before a meal. Usually, a bracha is recited, but the bracha is not recited at this point of the Seder.

Karpas (Appetizer)

Jews dip a green vegetable in vinegar or salt water (older custom: charoset) as a reminder of the tears of their enslaved ancestors.

[also see: what is on a seder plate]

Yachatz (Break the middle matzah) The matzah, a flat, crispy, unleavened bread, is silently introduced in a stack of three, covered by a cloth. The middle matzah is broken in two. Half will be hidden later, as the afikomen, the dessert of the meal.

Ha Lachma Anya (Invitation)

The matzot (plural of matzah) are uncovered, and referred to as the “bread of affliction”. Jews assume the role of their enslaved ancestors, and acknowledge their enslavement, but express hope to be free. They also express an invitation to all who are hungry or needy to join in the Seder.

Maggid (The Telling)

The story of Passover, and the change from slavery to freedom, are told in four different ways.

The First Telling

The first telling begins with the youngest child’s recitation of the four questions, which are then answered by the Haggadah.

The Four Questions

Ashkenazi version: Mah nishtanah ha-lahylah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-layloht, mi-kol ha-layloht How different is this night from all other nights! She-b’khol ha-layloht anu okhlin chameytz u-matzah, chameytz u-matzah. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, kooloh matzah? Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matzoh, but on this night we eat only matzoh? She-b’khol ha-layloht anu okhlin sh’ar y’rakot, sh’ar y’rakot. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, maror? Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat bitter herbs? She-b’khol ha-layloht ayn anu mat’bilin afilu pa’am echat, afilu pa’am echat. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, sh’tay p’amim? Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once, but on this night we dip them twice? She-b’khol ha-layloht anu okhlin bayn yosh’bin u’vayn m’soobin, bayn yosh’bin u’vayn m’soobin. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, koolanu m’soobin? Why is it that on all other nights we sit straight or leaning, but on this night we are all seated leaning?

The Second Telling

The second telling begins with the questions asked by the “four sons”. They each phrase the question “What is the meaning of this service?” in different ways. The four sons are characterized as being wise, being simple, being evil, or being too young to ask. The Haggadah says that the wise son, who inquires at length of the service, should be answered with the complete set of customs of the service. The wicked son, whose asks his father “What is this cult of yours?”, isolates himself from the Jewish people. Therefore, he is rebuked by the explanation that “It is because God acted for my sake when I left Egypt.” The one who is too young to ask is told “It is because of what the Almighty did for me when I left Egypt.” The simple son, who asks “What is this?” is answered with “With a strong hand the Almighty led us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

The Third Telling

The third telling consists of the story of Exodus, from four verses in Deuteronomy. The Haggadah explores the meaning of those verses, and embellishes the story. This telling refers to the life of Moses, and his demand that Pharaoh free the Jewish slaves. According to the Bible, when the Egyptian Pharaoh refused, God caused ten plagues to occur in Egypt. The ten plagues were:

All of the water was changed to blood An infestation of frogs sprang up in Egypt The Egyptians were afflicted by gnats An infestation of wild animals (some say flies) sprang up in Egypt Egyptian cattle died An epidemic of boils affected the Egyptians Hail rained from the sky Locusts swarmed over Egypt Egypt was covered in darkness

The first-born children of the Egyptians were slain by God

Throughout the plagues, Pharaoh promises to free the Jewish slaves, but refuses when the plague subsides. The Jewish slaves were not affected by any of the plagues. After the last plague, Pharaoh ordered the Jewish slaves to leave Egypt, to end the plague. However, the Egyptians soon chased after the Jewish slaves on horseback and nearly caught up with them, when the Jews were stranded at the Red Sea. At that point, Moses was commanded by God to lift up his staff, and the waters parted. The slaves safely passed through the sea, and the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned. At this part in the Seder, songs of praise are sung, including the song Dayeinu, which proclaims that if God had performed any single deed of many deeds performed for the Jewish people, it would have been enough.

The Fourth Telling

The fourth telling refers to questions about the customs of the Seder, and their answers. The Seder suggests that each Jew should feel as if he or she had just been themselves liberated from slavery.

Kos Sheini (The second cup of wine)

At this point, after having told the story of the Exodus four times, participants in the Seder celebrate their redemption with the second cup of wine. Rochtza The ritual hand washing is repeated, this time with the traditional blessing before breaking bread. Motzi/Matzah God is praised for bringing forth bread from the Earth, and then he is praised for the mitzvah of matzah, which is now referred to as the bread of freedom. Maror Bitter herbs, referred to as maror are eaten as a symbol of former slavery. Koreich The matzah and maror are combined, similar to a sandwich, and eaten. This follows the tradition of Rabbi Hillel, who did the same at his Seder 2000 years ago. Shulchan Orech (Set the table) The meal is eaten. Tzafun (dessert) The afikomen, which was hidden earlier in the Seder, is the last morsel of food eaten by participants in the Seder. In some homes, after an adult hides it, children search the house, trying to locate it. They are rewarded by money or a small gift after they locate it, since the Seder cannot be completed without the afikomen. Bareich (Blessing after the food) God is praised for providing the food, the Promised Land (Israel), Passover, Jerusalem, and all that is good in ones life.

Kos Shli’shee (The Third Cup of Wine)

The meal concludes with a third cup of wine. Eliahu ha-Navi (Elijah the prophet) In Ashkenazi tradition, the song Eliahu ha-Navi is sung to welcome the prophet Elijah to the table, whose coming would signify the coming of the Messiah. Traditional lyrics: Eliahu ha-Navi, Eliahu ha-Tishbi Eliahu, Eliahu, Eliahu ha-Giladi Bimhera biyamenu, Yavo aylenu Im Mashiach ben David, Im Mashiach ben David Hallel (songs of praise) Various psalms of praise for God are sung for redeeming the Jewish people. Ruach (spirit) The mood turns more festive with songs to celebrate freedom.

Kos R’vi’i/Nirtzah (The fourth cup of wine/acceptance)

The Seder is concluded with the final cup of wine, and a prayer that the Seder be accepted. The hope for the Messiah is expressed:

“Next year in Jerusalem!”

Jewish Secular Calendar Starting after sunset Ending before sunset
5765 23 April 2005 1 May 2005
5766 12 April 2006 20 April 2006
5767 2 April 2007 10 April 2007
5768 19 April 2008 27 April 2008

Mile Chai Jewish Books Judaica and Everything to make your home kosher – Torah – Judaism copyright 2002
Spreading Torah at the Speed of Light copyright 2002

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