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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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Sort By:
Discussion (45)
March 19, 2013
Passover lamb
When is the passover lamb cooked and eaten?
Andrea Ronzoni
March 15, 2013
To Donna
Mrs. Chana Benjaminson
mychabad.org
March 14, 2013
Passover Seder
As a christian invited to Seder, what can I bring?
Donna C
Brick NJ
April 6, 2012
Why is this night different?
I am rather new at this but I was wondering if the answer to this one question is actually the asking and answering of the other 4 questions?
Lynn Lambert
Martinez, ca
April 5, 2012
seder
very interesting and informing.
I hope this gives an insight into the Jewish
memories of their history.
margaret silver
leeds, england
March 1, 2012
To Naomi
Most Jews do not have the custom to sit with their staffs. However, if that is your custom, I do not see why you cannot recline with your staff at your side?
Gershon McGreevy
February 29, 2012
relax or at the ready?
I know that we are supposed to recline while eating the Seder. However, I heard that we must also eat with shoes on feet and staff in hand as if ready to move quickly. Can one do both?
Naomi
Muenster, Germany
February 27, 2012
Clarice White comment
I agree that as Christians it behooves us to study Judaism. Didn't know anyone else felt the same as me!
Cynthia Garfunkel
Woodstock, NY
April 23, 2011
Acknowledgement, learning and keeping of Biblical
I am a Christian. I believe that God has been leading me to study Judiasm. I am so gratefult that this website is available, and all are allowed to learn and partake of your traditions. I want to learn more about Judaism, so that I might pass it down to my family. Thank you again for providing a means for anyone to become knowledgeable. I begin today, my journey of learning all that I can, and the keeping of the traditions that have been set forth and given to His chosen people. With respect and humility, I offer you my thanks.
Clarice White
Riverside, california
jewishriverside.com
April 18, 2011
Rabbi Berman
I enjoyed reading your traditions; My grandson father celbrates pasover and we do not. We want to repect traditions and teach our grandson both religions.
Our gradson is 19ths and is praticies Christianity in our home..Would like to show he similarities and not the differances..
This tuesday sadar- When should Sadar start ? 1/2 hr before sunset or 5pm?
carol
Freehold, nj
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