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The Seder Service in a Nutshell

The Seder Service in a Nutshell

A quick, one-page overview of the Passover Meal’s steps

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A quick overview of the Seder’s steps; click on the print button and it becomes a quick reference during the Seder.

In Our Forefathers’ Footsteps

At the Seder, every person should see himself as if he were going out of Egypt. Beginning with our Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we recount the Jewish people’s descent into Egypt and recall their suffering and persecution. We are with them as G‑d sends the Ten Plagues to punish Pharaoh and his nation, and follow along as they leave Egypt and cross the Sea of Reeds. We witness the miraculous hand of G‑d as the waters part to allow the Israelites to pass, then return to inundate the Egyptian legions.

Kadesh—the Benediction

The Seder service begins with the recitation of kiddush, proclaiming the holiness of the holiday. This is done over a cup of wine, the first of the four cups we will drink (while reclining) at the Seder.

The Four Cups of Wine

Why four cups? The Torah uses four expressions of freedom or deliverance in connection with our liberation from Egypt (see Exodus 6:6–7). Also, the Children of Israel had four great merits even while in exile: (1) They did not change their Hebrew names; (2) they continued to speak their own language, Hebrew; (3) they remained highly moral; (4) they remained loyal to one another.

Wine is used because it is a symbol of joy and happiness.

Why We Recline

When drinking the four cups and eating the matzah, we lean on our left side to accentuate the fact that we are free people. In ancient times only free people had the luxury of reclining while eating.

Urchatz—Purification

We wash our hands in the usual, ritually prescribed manner as is done before a meal, but without the customary blessing.

The next step in the Seder, Karpas, requires dipping food into water, which in turn mandates, according to Jewish law, that either the food be eaten with a utensil or that one’s hands be purified by washing. On the Seder eve we choose the less common observance to arouse the child’s curiosity.

Karpas—the “Appetizer”

A small piece of onion or boiled potato is dipped into saltwater and eaten (after reciting the blessing over vegetables).

Dipping the karpas in saltwater is an act of pleasure and freedom, which further arouses the child’s curiosity.

The Hebrew word karpas, when read backwards, alludes to the backbreaking labor performed by the 600,000 Jews in Egypt. [Samech has the numerical equivalent of 60 (representing 60 times 10,000), while the last three Hebrew letters spell perech, hard work.]

The saltwater represents the tears of our ancestors in Egypt.

Yachatz—Breaking the Matzah

The middle matzah on the Seder plate is broken in two. The larger part is put aside for later use as the afikoman. This unusual action not only attracts the child’s attention once again, but also recalls G‑d’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds to allow the Children of Israel to cross on dry land. The smaller part of the middle matzah is returned to the Seder plate. This broken middle matzah symbolizes humility, and will be eaten later as the “bread of poverty.”

Maggid—the Haggadah

At this point, the poor are invited to join the Seder. The Seder tray is moved aside, a second cup of wine is poured, and the child, who by now is bursting with curiosity, asks the time-honored question: “Mah nishtanah ha-lailah hazeh mikol ha-leilot? Why is this night different from all other nights?” Why only matzah? Why the dipping? Why the bitter herbs? Why are we relaxing and leaning on cushions as if we were kings?

The child’s questioning triggers one of the most significant mitzvot of Passover, which is the highlight of the Seder ceremony: the haggadah, telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The answer includes a brief review of history, a description of the suffering imposed upon the Israelites, a listing of the plagues visited on the Egyptians, and an enumeration of the miracles performed by the Almighty for the redemption of His people.

Rochtzah—Washing Before the Meal

After concluding the first part of the haggadah by drinking the second cup of wine (while reclining), the hands are washed again, this time with the customary blessings, as is usually done before eating bread.

Motzi Matzah—We Eat the Matzah

Taking hold of the three matzot (with the broken one between the two whole ones), recite the customary blessing before bread. Then, letting the bottom matzah drop back onto the plate, and holding the top whole matzah with the broken middle one, recite the special blessing “al achilat matzah.” Then break at least one ounce from each matzah and eat the two pieces together, while reclining.

Maror—the Bitter Herbs

Take at least one ounce of the bitter herbs. Dip it in the charoset, then shake the latter off and make the blessing “al achilat maror.” Eat without reclining.

Korech—the Sandwich

In keeping with the custom instituted by Hillel, the great Talmudic sage, a sandwich of matzah and maror is eaten. Break off two pieces of the bottom matzah, which together should be at least one ounce. Again, take at least one ounce of bitter herbs and dip them in the charoset. Place this between the two pieces of matzah, say “kein asah Hillel . . .” and eat the sandwich while reclining.

Shulchan Orech—the Feast

The holiday meal is now served. We begin the meal with a hard-boiled egg dipped into saltwater.

A rabbi was once asked why Jews eat eggs on Passover. “Because eggs symbolize the Jew,” the rabbi answered. “The more an egg is burned or boiled, the harder it gets.”

Note: The chicken neck is not eaten at the Seder.

Tzafun—Out of Hiding

After the meal, the half-matzah which had been “hidden,” set aside for the afikoman (“dessert”), is taken out and eaten. It symbolizes the Paschal lamb, which was eaten at the end of the meal.

Everyone should eat at least 1½ ounces of matzah, reclining, before midnight. After eating the afikoman, we do not eat or drink anything except for the two remaining cups of wine.

Berach—Blessings After the Meal

A third cup of wine is filled and Grace is recited. After the Grace we recite the blessing over wine and drink the third cup while reclining.

Now we fill the cup of Elijah and our own cups with wine. We open the door and recite the passage which is an invitation to the Prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the coming of Moshiach, our righteous Messiah.

Hallel—Songs of Praise

At this point, having recognized the Almighty and His unique guidance of the Jewish people, we go still further and sing His praises as L‑rd of the entire universe.

After reciting the Hallel, we again recite the blessing over wine and drink the fourth cup, reclining.

Nirtzah—Acceptance

Having carried out the Seder service properly, we are sure that it has been well received by the Almighty. We then say “Leshanah haba’ah bee-rushalayim—Next year in Jerusalem.”

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Discussion (56)
April 3, 2015
Very interesting read
Thanx, will help me as a guideline.
Casper
Netherlands
April 2, 2015
The first tip is to have your child take a nice long nap on Friday afternoon. I know this can be easier said than done, but make it a priority. Secondly, use a hagadda with pictures (two different hagaddas with pictures is even better). Look at them with her, and talk about what the pictures mean. Remember that the Seder is about telling the story of Pesach, even if the one you're telling it to is a two year old.

Make sure you have food as well that you can give your child if she gets hungry. He or she does not need to wait until the hagadda is through. And last, bring along a stroller to wherever you're going to be for the Seder, and your little one can go to sleep when needed.
Malkie Janowski
for Chabad.org
April 2, 2015
Why not just say the words in the vernacular? In this country the language is English. Since we are
being overrun by Mexico, why not in Spanish?
J.
Jim
So. California
April 1, 2015
I am s single mother of a 2year old and this is the first sader away from my family any suggestions on how I can make it more bareable for a wee child to sit through?
Esther Featherston
March 31, 2015
to Aaron
Correct, we make the blessing on matzah as we may not eat challah on Pesach. This Friday night we follow the order included in the Haggadah, that is Kiddush first, washing of the hands and dipping a vegetable in salt water, reading of the Haggadah then washing again for matzah etc.
Mrs. Chana Benjaminson
mychabad.org
March 30, 2015
Re:
While doing Korech only the lettuce is dipped into Charoset and not the Matzah. Those that are especially careful from having the Matzah come into contact with water don't even dip the lettuce, rather they carefully place a small amount of dry Charoset onto the lettuce and then shake it off.
Shaul Wolf
Chabad.org
March 30, 2015
Since the Seder is also Friday, do we still do the kiddush over wine and matza instead of bread?
Aaron
israel
March 29, 2015
matzo
aren't you wetting the matzo here?
Korech—the Sandwich

In keeping with the custom instituted by Hillel, the great Talmudic sage, a sandwich of matzah and maror is eaten. Break off two pieces of the bottom matzah, which together should be at least one ounce. Again, take at least one ounce of bitter herbs and dip them in the charoset. Place this between the two pieces of matzah, say “kein asah Hillel . . .” and eat the sandwich while reclining.
jacki
florida
March 29, 2015
We're having a small seder w our 21 yr old college son at NYU.
Will go through the hagadah, but looking for some good discussion ideas for thoughtful provocative conversation.
Any ideas and suggestions?
Many thanks
Anonymous
March 26, 2015
Answer to Mary
HI Mary

What you are referring to is the children looking for the afikoman. When the matah is broken early on in the seder part of it is put away until later to be eaten as the last bit of the meal after which it is forbidden to eat anything else.

There is a tradition that the afikoman is hidden and the children look for it and get a prize when it is found. This is done so as to keep the children interested and awake during the seder. It generally works as it is a highlight of the evening for many kids. As a side note- some work the tradition differently and the children hide the afikoman and the person leading the seder then has to find it. Somehow he never does and he ends up giving the children gifts in exchange for the afikoman. Different families have different customs- but in the end the effect is the same, the kids look forward to the afikoma and end up staying awake and paying attention until the end of the story of our redemption from Egypt has been completed
Mar
South Africa
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