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Passover Seder



The Seder Plate helps set the stage for the centerpiece of the celebration: telling the story of Exodus. It is placed on the table in front of the leader. A special Seder Plate or a large regular platter may be used.

The items on the Seder plate are placed in a very specific order. Starting from the bottom, and going clockwise, the order is: Chazeret (lettuce), Karpas (vegetable), Beitzah (roasted egg), Zero'ah (roasted bone), Charoset (nuts and dates). And in the center is Marror (bitter herbs).

1. Chazeret/Chazeres. Romaine lettuce (or fresh horseradish), used as morror in the "sandwich" later on in the Seder.

2. Karpas. Either parsley, celery, lettuce or potatoes may be used.

3. Baytzah. Hard-boiled egg. Represents the festival sacrifice brought at the Holy Temple.

4. Zero'ah/Z'roah. Roasted shankbone of lamb or chicken neck. Symbolizes the paschal sacrifice at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on the afternoon before Passover.

5. Charoset/Charoses. A mixture of finely chopped dates or apples, nuts and cinnamon moistened with wine. Resembles mortar used by Israelites to make bricks while enslaved in Egypt.

3. Marror/Morror. Bitter herbs cut into small pieces. Or grated, fresh horseradish. Demonstrates the suffering of the Jews in Egypt.

The reason for this order? The Talmud states a concept of Ain ma'avrin al hamitzvot -- we shouldn't "pass over" any mitzvah that is in front of us. For this reason, the Seder plate is arranged to follow the order of the Haggadah, so that whatever you need next will be located closest to you, to avoid having to "skip over" any other item. The Seder plate should be located to the right of the leader.

Other Items On Your Seder Table

Three Matzos. Place them separately in Matzo covers or fold them separately in one or two large napkins. They should be covered and separated from each other by a napkin or cloth.

Wine. Place a wine goblet or glass in front of each setting, and a full wine decanter near the center of the table. Each participant should consume 4 glasses of wine during the Seder.

Saltwater. All celebrants will use saltwater, and a dish of it should be easily accessible to all at the table. Use more than one dish if desired.

Cup of Elijah. Use a large goblet, to be filled with wine and placed near the center of the table.

Pillow. Put a pillow or cushion on the left arm of the leader's chair or on another chair close to it.


There are actually seven different mitzvot that we perform at the Seder. Two are from the Torah:

1) telling the Exodus story

2) eating matzah

The other mitzvot are rabbinical:

3) eating Marror (bitter herbs)

4) eating the Afikomen (an extra piece of matzah for dessert as a reminder of the Passover offering)

5) saying Hallel (Psalms of praise)

6) drinking the Four Cups of wine

7) demonstrating acts of freedom and aristocracy -- e.g. sitting with a pillow cushion and leaning as we eat and drink, and beginning the meal "with a dip."



At the Seder, every Jew should drink four cups of wine corresponding to the four expressions of freedom mentioned in the Torah (Exodus 6: 6-7).

Since we are free people this evening, nobody should pour their own wine, but rather each person should pour for another -- as if we are royalty who have servants.

It is best to use red wine, since this alludes to the blood spilled by Pharaoh, the blood as part of the Ten Plagues, and the blood the Jews put on their doorposts.

Someone who has difficulty drinking wine may use grape juice, but should add a little wine so that the taste of alcohol is detectable.


Kiddush should be recited while seated. You should have in mind to fulfill two mitzvot:

1) the mitzvah of Kiddush that we say on every Shabbat and Yom Tov

2) plus the special mitzvah to drink Four Cups of wine at the Seder

When the Seder falls on Saturday night, you should also make the Havdallah blessings as listed in the text, using the Yom Tov candles as your Havdallah candle.


Everyone at the Seder now washes their hands in the manner of washing for bread -- pouring water from a cup, twice on each hand. This is done WITHOUT a blessing.

We do this because any detached food dipped into one of the seven fluids (water, wine, blood, dew, milk, olive oil, and date honey) makes the food susceptible to spiritual uncleanliness, and requires washing one's hands if the food will be eaten with the hands. Therefore, if the food will be eaten with a fork, then no washing is necessary. In that case, the leader should wash his hands, and then dip all the pieces.


Take the Karpas vegetable (options include celery, parsley, or potato) and dip it in salt water.

One should eat LESS than the size of a kezayit (15 grams), to avoid having to say an after-blessing.


The leader of the Seder breaks the middle matzah in two. The smaller piece is put back in between the other two matzot, to be eaten later at Hamotzi. The larger piece is wrapped up and becomes the Afikomen.

Notice that the two mitzvot of eating matzah at the Seder will be from the same piece.


As we begin the main part of the Seder -- the telling of the Exodus -- it is important to have a good translation of the Haggadah so you can understand what you are saying.

Many have the custom of saying aloud, "I hereby am about to fulfill the mitzvah of telling the Exodus story."

We uncover the matzot, then keep the broken matzah raised for all to see, until the start of the Four Questions.


Remove the Seder plate from the table until it is time to eat. We do this in order to prompt questions, and also to show that we're not going to eat until we've told the story!

It is customary for the youngest person at the Seder to recite the Four Questions.

At this time, we also pour the Second Cup of wine.


Every time one of the plagues is mentioned, we dip our finger in the wine and spill a drop. This reminds us that our cup of joy is not complete because people had to die for our salvation. Thus it is considered insensitive -- after completing the drops -- to lick one's finger!

Rather than your "pinky" finger, you should use your "pointer finger" (Etzba in Hebrew), which corresponds to the declaration in the Torah that the plagues were Etzba Elohim -- "the finger of God" (Exodus 8:15).

You should spill a total of 16 drops -- three for "blood, fire and pillars of smoke," 10 more for the plagues, and another three for Rabbi Yehudah's abbreviation.

After all the drops have been spilled, the cup should be refilled.


It is a Torah mitzvah to eat matzah on Seder night.



Take an amount of Marror equivalent to the size of a kezayit. Even though many have the custom of using horseradish, the Talmud nevertheless includes Chasa -- Romaine lettuce - as one vegetable which may be used as Marror.

If Romaine lettuce is used, the leaves should total eight-by-ten inches, or about 25-29 cc. Extreme care should be taken to check the lettuce since frequently there are small bugs in the leaves.

If horseradish is used, it should be compacted into 1.1 fluid ounce -- an amount equivalent to one half of a typical egg.

Before making the blessing, the Marror should be dipped into the Charoset, and then shaken off. The Talmud says a bit of Charoset serves as an "antiseptic" to dilute the harsh effects of the Marror. When reciting the blessing, have in mind that the Marror will be eaten in the "Korech sandwich" as well.


Take the bottom matzah (remaining from the original three) and make a sandwich with the Marror.

For this mitzvah, it is okay to use smaller amounts. The amount of matzah should be approximately 23-25 cc -- roughly one-third of a square matzah, or one-fourth of a round matzah. (According to the Chazon Ish, the amount is about 25 percent bigger.)

The amount of Marror needed is 3.6 by 2.7 inches of Romaine lettuce, or 0.7 compacted fluid ounce of horseradish.

Dip the sandwich into the Charoset and then shake it off.



Eat a festive meal. It is traditional to begin the meal with an egg, which symbolizes the Chagigah offering. This way, everyone starts the Seder meal with the same thing -- as in Temple times when everyone ate the Chagigah offering.

The meal should preferably end before midnight, in order to eat the Afikomen by that time. It is important not to eat so much that you will be too full to eat the Afikomen.

The meal should not include any roasted meat, in order to distinguish our meal from that of Temple times, when the "Pascal lamb" was eaten roasted.


The Afikomen should preferably be eaten before the middle of the night. (This exact time will vary depending on geographic location; check with your local rabbi.) If eating the Afikomen by that time will mean rushing through the Seder, then it may be eaten later.

The Afikomen should be eaten while you are "full" -- yet with some room still left in your stomach.

After the Afikomen, nothing else should be eaten for the remainder of the night -- except for the drinking of water, tea, and the remaining two cups of wine.


Everyone should rinse their wine cup clean, and then fill it for the Third Cup, which will be drunk at the conclusion of "Grace After Meals."

It is customary for the master of the house to lead the "Grace After Meals" on the night of Passover.

On various occasions during the year, the leader will say "Grace After Meals" while holding a cup of wine. At the Seder, everyone may do so!



Pour the Fourth Cup, and also the extra cup for Elijah.

It is customary to use the "leftovers" from Elijah's cup for Kiddush the next day.




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