Order of events leading up to the Seder, the traditional Passover evening meal:
The search for chametz (leavened bread, including leavening agents) is Thursday evening, April 21 , immediately after the evening prayers. It is not only a physical search but a spiritual one also. We must check ourselves for misplaced ego - spiritual leaven - the great separator between man and G‑d. If you have not yet done so, that Sunday evening is also the last easily available time to sell your chametz to your local rabbi. Ask lots of questions…
We stop eating chametz by midmorning on Friday (check with your local rabbi or Jewish newspaper for the correct times, which vary according to location). Within the following hour we burn the chametz we found, spiritually destroying any remaining barriers between ourselves and the Divine. Sometime in the afternoon, we read about the bringing of the Pascal lamb. On Friday night we say the evening holiday prayers with much joy and add the Hallel prayer to the regular evening service.
The Passover Seder
This year the Seder will take place on Friday evening, April 22 (and Saturday evening, April 23 outside of Israel). If you don't know how to make one yourself, go to someone else's kosher-for-Passover house. Even if you don't know them well - or at all - they will almost surely be overjoyed to have you. Ask lots of questions.
Haste is a major theme of the Seder. As you know, the unleavened matza we eat on Passover derives from our ancestors departing so quickly that there was not sufficient time for their dough to rise. The law follows the spirit! Be sure to eat a big piece of matza (One-half of a handmade round matza or all of a square machine one) within a short time after saying the blessings (if you don't talk until you finish eating your matza, the times shouldn't be a problem). Wine possesses the power of transformation… The same requirements apply for the afikomen matza at the end of the meal too, and also for the korech "sandwich" that we eat together with the maror after first eating those bitter herbs. It is strongly recommended to use what is called "shmurah" matza to fulfill the commandment. What is shmurah? Ask your rabbi or go to www.passover.net.
Four Cups of Wine
It is a mitzvah to drink each of the traditional four cups of wine quickly, in a few successive swallows. If you prefer to leisurely sip your wine, you can always drink a little more during the meal! On the other hand, if the required four cups is already too much, you can dilute your kosher-for-Passover wine with some kosher-for-Passover grape juice. It is preferable to have a percentage of wine in all the cups than to have some cups all juice and some all wine. One reason that we have wine at each of the four stages of the Seder rather than water or potatoes or matza or whatever, is that wine possesses the power of transformation.
Have a kosher and happy Festival of Our Liberation!