Passover is traditionally spent with family and friends, a celebration of the Divine gift of Jewish survival and community. But with coronavirus curtailing travel plans and social interactions, many are facing the prospect of celebrating Passover alone. In response to those asking for guidance on how to prepare for the Seder for the first time, we’ve prepared this list of FAQs. Did we miss something? Leave us a comment below, and our Ask the Rabbi team will reply to you as soon as we can.

Wishing you and yours a joyous and safe Passover!

How will I get the house clean in time?

The key is that spring cleaning is not Passover cleaning. You only need to remove actual edible chametz residue, not dust, and only from places where you could have conceivably put chametz in the first place.

Read: How to Clean for Passover in 10 Days or Less

Also, if there is a place that you cannot clean or check, you can simply close it off and sell it to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday. This may include your second car, which is not being used to ferry the kids to school or soccer practice since everything is closed. Just lock it, include it in your sale, and you need not worry about the pretzels lodged in the bucket seats.

Click here to sell your chametz online

How will I know what to do when?

Leading a Seder is a lot simpler than it seems. Why? Because you have your cheat sheet right in front of you. A standard Haggadah has all the instructions and guidance necessary to walk through the 15 steps of the Seder like a pro. So just pull out your Haggadah and read through it in advance.

Want to have some witty and wise thoughts to share with your (truncated) crowd of participants? Start with our treasury of Seder insights.

What supplies do I need?

Here’s what you’ll need for the Seder:

  1. Haggadah booklets
  2. Matzah (handmade shmurah matzah is ideal)
  3. Wine or grape juice
  4. Maror (bitter herbs, typically romaine lettuce and grated horseradish)
  5. Vegetable for dipping (karpas)
  6. Saltwater (yep, just salt and water)
  7. Food for your Passover feast (make sure it’s kosher for Passover and does not contain roast meat)
  8. Roasted shank (Make sure it still has some meat on it, or the bone is invalid. The Chabad custom is to use a chicken neck, which may be easier to procure than a lamb shank.)
  9. Charoset (Chabad custom is to make it out of chopped apple, pear, nuts and wine.)
  10. Eggs (hardboiled)
  11. Cutlery (either disposable or kosher for Passover)

More: Full Seder Shopping List

Can you suggest some ballpark quantities?

Wine: Every individual needs to drink four cups of wine or grape juice, so a bottle of wine per person per Seder is a safe bet. (If you have small, 3 oz. cups, a single bottle should just be enough for two nights.)

Matzah: If you’re alone, three matzahs for each evening will cover you just fine. You should factor in an additional two matzahs per additional participant, as well as some extra for snacking during the meal.1

Maror: Each person needs to have two portions of maror (one eaten alone and one as part of the korech sandwich), each one at least 2/3rds of an ounce (total). Preparing two ounces per person per night will have you covered.

Vegetables, Saltwater and Charoset: Even a minimal amount will do (in fact, you should eat less than a kezayit [olive-size] of the dipping vegetable).

Roasted shank: This is not eaten at all, so you just need one per Seder plate.

Egg: One egg per Seder plate is fine. Some have the custom for all participants to eat an egg during the meal. If this is the case, prepare a few extra.

Feast Food: Bear in mind that you will be eating after having imbibed two cups of wine, and lots of matzah and maror, so you may not be too hungry.

Can you suggest a Haggadah I can print online?

Chabad.org has a number of options. Pick one to fit your style and print as many as you need. Print My Haggadah

Can we do it over the phone or via Skype?

As tempting as it may be, the answer is no. Shabbat and Jewish holidays are a blessed respite from all digital connectivity. This means that you have the opportunity to lead your own Seder, live and in person, for your household.

Read: Electricity on Shabbat

What if I cannot get the supplies?

Matzah is quite hard to bake at home, so try to purchase some in advance. Your local Chabad rabbi can probably help with that.

Technically, if you have a supply of fresh grapes or kosher-for-Passover raisins, you may be able to make your own wine or grape juice. If you can’t procure kosher wine, using non-kosher wine is not an option, so it would be better to use another (kosher) fruit juice.

Most groceries carry romaine lettuce and horseradish for bitter herbs, and as of now, it seems that these supplies will remain available in the U.S., but shop sooner rather than later to be sure. If you can only get romaine, that’s fine.

If you cannot get an egg or a bone for the Seder plate, any kosher-for-Passover cooked food will do.

When trying to source your Seder supplies (especially matzah and kosher wine), remember that the Internet is your friend, and that online retailers can ship these staples to you anywhere in the US.

Who should light the candles?

All women and girls (from around the age of three) should light candles. Unmarried women light one candle, and married women light two. If you are in a male-only household, a man should light two candles and say the appropriate blessings.

Read: Passover Candle-Lighting Blessings

What should I do if my Hebrew isn’t good enough?

The word haggadah means “telling,” and the main purpose of the evening is to tell over the events of the Exodus and to expound upon them in the traditional manner. If you don’t understand Hebrew, it is perfectly acceptable to use a translation.

Read: Must I Pray in Hebrew?

What do you do if there is no child to ask the Four Questions?

Everyone at the Seder, even adults, should ask the Four Questions. The Previous Rebbe explains that when we ask these questions, we are really asking them of G‑d Himself, our ever-present and ever-loving Father in Heaven.2

Should I still open the door for Elijah?

This question should be answered after you carefully review the guidelines from your local health officials as close as you can to Passover. However, I’m going to hazard a guess that as long as your door does not face your neighbor’s door and you’re keeping your distance, opening the door for Elijah should be fine.

Read: Why Is Elijah Even Invited to the Seder?

When is the earliest time to begin?

The Seder must begin after night has fallen. This is in accordance with the verse, “In the evening, you shall eat unleavened cakes.” Practically, this means that the entire Seder, which centers around the consumption of matzah, must begin after night has fallen. Also note that on the second night, you cannot even begin to prepare for the Seder until nightfall. This is the same no matter how many people are in attendance.

Read: When Is the Earliest Time to Start the Seder?

If I am all alone, how long should the Seder last?

There is no specific amount of time you must spend on the Seder, but remember what we read right when we begin the Seder: “Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

Even if you have done this 100 times or more, surely there are new insights and new applications you can tease out of the words of the Haggadah.

Can I at least invite my neighbors?

Assuming the facts on the ground are the same they are now in the U.S., I would say no, no and no! The less we mix, the safer we are. Yes, we want to celebrate Passover as beautifully as possible, but we all want to survive to celebrate next year, so please do not invite anyone other than those already in your household to your Seder. If the local guidelines are different where you are when Passover arrives, by all means do what is deemed safe.

If you fear that someone will be without Seder supplies, please prepare a box and drop it off before Passover outside his or her home, taking whatever precautions are necessary.

Read: 10 Things You Can Do for People in Quarantine

Is it really important to do a Seder both nights?

Yes, it may seem like a rerun, but the second Seder is important. To shake things up, use a Haggadah with some different commentaries for you to read on the second night. And if you’re celebrating with family members, make sure to have some fresh stories or insights reserved for night number two.

Read: How Important Is the Second Seder?

What is the very minimum I can do?

In a perfect world, every Jew should celebrate the entire Seder, from the first cup to the last. However, if you will not be doing that, here are the basics:

At your kitchen sink, fill a cup with water, and pour three times on your right hand and three times on your left. Then say the following blessing:

Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the washing of hands.

Pick up your matzah in your right hand and say the following two blessings:

Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Blessed are You, G‑d, our L‑rd, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the eating of matzah.

Eat the matzah while reclining to your left, in the manner of ancient nobility.

Ideally you should have a member of your household join you as you discuss the Exodus. Retell some aspects of the 10 Plagues, the Splitting of the Sea and the miraculous story of our nation’s journey from slavery to freedom. If you are alone, you can be your own captive audience.

(Don’t forget to do this again the following night.)

And last but not least, let’s use these nights to be grateful for the many gifts we have. We are freer than we have been since our nation was exiled from Jerusalem two millennia ago. The Divine gift of technology is helping us combat this plague in ways we could have never imagined, and we are able to interact and be productive despite the restrictions and precautions we are taking (except for Shabbat and holidays, when we have a respite from the 24-hour news cycle and similar disturbances).

Join Jews around the world in thanking G‑d for the miracles of the past and praying for greater miracles yet to come.

Next year in Jerusalem!