The Seder Guide
The first two nights of Pesach, we conduct a Seder -- a festive yet
At a table royally set with our best crystal and silver and the
finest of kosher wines, we re-enact the Exodus from Egypt in ancient
times. We also pray for the forthcoming Redemption speedily in our
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF OUR FOREFATHERS
At the Seder, each person considers himself as if he were going out
of Egypt. We begin with our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; we
are with our people as they descend into exile, and suffer cruel
oppression and persecution. We are with them when G-d sends the ten
plagues to punish Pharaoh and his nation, with them as they leave
Egypt, and with them at the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf).
And we witness the miraculous hand of G-d as the waters part,
allowing the Israelites to pass, and then return, thundering over the
MATZAH, THE "FOOD OF FAITH"
We left Egypt in such haste that there was no time to wait for the
dough to rise, and we ate matzah, unleavened bread. With only this
unleavened food our ancestors faithfully relied on the Al-mighty to
provide sustenance for our entire nation of men, women and children.
Each year to remember this, we eat matzah the first two nights of
Pesach and fulfill the commandment of "Matzahs shall you eat . . ."
THE HUMBLEST OF FOODS
The matzah itself symbolizes faith. For in contrast to leavened
food, the matzah is not "enriched" with oil, honey, etc. It is
rather simple flour and water, which is not allowed to rise.
Similarly, the only "ingredients" for faith are humility and
submission to G-d, which comes from the realization of our
"nothingness" and "intellectual poverty" in the face of the infinite
wisdom of the creator.
Shmurah means watched, and is an apt description of this matzah
(unleavened bread). The wheat used is carefully watched (protected)
against any contact with water from the moment of harvest, since
water would cause leavening, and thus disqualify the wheat for use on
These matzahs are round in form, kneaded and shaped by hand, similar
to the matzahs baked by the Children of Israel on their way out of
They are baked under strict rabbinical supervision to avoid any
possibility of leavening during the baking process. Shmurah matzah
should be used on each of the two Seder nights for the three matzahs
of the Seder plate.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE SEDER
The Pesach Seder is not just to be observed symbolically. Each of
its physical "acts" has great significance and should be fulfilled
properly to make the Seder a meaningful and truly spiritual
THE MAIN MITZVOT
The main mitzvot (commandments) of the Seder are:
- To eat matzah.
- To tell the story of the Exodus (the reciting of the main
parts of the Haggadah)
- To drink four cups of wine.
- To eat morror--bitter herbs.
- To recite "Hallel" -- praise to G-d (found towards the
end of the Haggadah).
On each of the two seder nights shmurah matzah should be used.
Matzah is eaten three times during the Seder.
In each instance, the matzah should be eaten within 4 minutes.
- After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt -- Motzie
Matzah -- two ounces of matzah are eaten.
- For the "sandwich" -- korech -- one ounce of matzah is eaten.
- As the Afikomen at the end of the meal -- Tzofun -- 1-1/2 ounces
of matzah are eaten.
How much is one ounce of matzah?
Half a piece of shmurah matzah is generally one ounce.
If other matzahs are used, the weight of the box of matzahs
divided the number of pieces shows how much matzah equals one
For each of the four cups at the Seder it is preferable to use
undiluted wine only. However, if needed, the wine may be diluted
with grape juice.
Of course, someone who can not drink wine may use straight grape
One drinks a cup of wine four times during the Seder:
It is preferable to drink the entire cup each time.
However, it is sufficient to drink just the majority of each cup.
- At the conclusion of Kiddush.
- After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt, before eating
the 20 matzah of Motzie Matzah.
- At the conclusion of the Grace After Meals.
- After reciting the "Hallel."
How large a cup should be used?
One containing at least 3-1/2 fluid ounces.
The morror is eaten by itself after the matzah, and then together
with the matzah in the (korech) sandwich.
How much morror should be eaten?
Any of two different types of morror may be used at the Seder,
individually or in combination:
- Peeled and grated raw horseradish.
3/4 ounce has a volume of 1 fluid ounce.
- Romaine lettuce. It is suggested that the stalks rather than
the leafy parts be used because of the difficulty in properly
examining and ridding the leafy parts of commonly present very
3/4 ounce of stalks cover an area of 3" X 5".
HOW TO PREPARE THE SEDER PLATE
THE K'AHRAH--THE SEDER PLATE
Three matzahs are placed on the table, one on top of the other. They
are symbolic of the three types of Jews: Kohen, Levi and Yisroel.
They also commemorate the three measure of fine flour that Abraham
told Sarah to bake into matzahs when the three angels visited them.
And when we later break the middle matzah, we are still left with two
whole loaves for lehchem mishne, as on all Sabbaths and Festivals.
On a cloth spread over the three matzahs, or a plate, the following
items are placed:
BAYTZAH; ZROAH; MORROR; KARPAS; CHAROSET; CHAZERET
Z'roah-- a roasted chicken neck.
Preparation: remove most of the meat from the neck of a chicken and
roast it on all sides. It is symbolic of the pascal sacrifice brought
at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on the afternoon before Pesach.
Baytzah -- the hard boiled egg. It is symbolic of the festival
sacrifice brought at the Holy Temple, in addition to the pascal lamb.
Morror -- bitter herbs (Horseradish and/or Romaine Lettuce stalks).
It is symbolic of the bitter suffering of the Jews in Egypt.
Charoset -- the mixture of chopped apples, pears, walnuts and a small
amount of wine (red, if possible). The mixture resembles mortar,
symbolic of the mortar used by the Israelites to make bricks while
enslaved in Egypt.
Karpas -- the cooked potato or raw onion.
Chazeret -- more bitter herbs. Used as morror in the sandwich
(korech) later in the Seder.
THE ORDER OF THE SEDER SERVICE
Whenever we eat or drink during one of the acts of the Seder, the
leader of the Seder should give to each person present the required
amount(s) of wine, matzah or bitter herbs
The Seder service begins with the recitation of Kiddush, proclaiming
the holiness of the holiday. This is done over a cup of wine, and on
this evening it is the first of four cups that we all drink,
reclining, at the Seder.
THE FOUR CUPS OF WINE
Two of the explanations of the four cups:
Four expressions of freedom or deliverance are mentioned in the Torah
in connection with our liberation from Egypt (Ex. 6:6,7).
The Children of Israel, even while in Egyptian exile, had four great
Wine is used because it is a symbol of joy and happiness.
- they did not change their Hebrew names;
- they did not change their Hebrew language;
- they remained highly moral; and
- they remained loyal to one another.
WHY WE RECLINE
When drinking the four cups, as during most of the acts of the Seder,
we lean on our left side to accentuate the fact that we are free
In ancient times only free people were allowed to recline while
We wash our hands in the usual prescribed manner of washing before a
meal, but without the customary blessing.
The next step in the Seder, Karpas, requires dipping food into
Such an act calls for purification of the hands by washing,
beforehand. This observance is one of the first acts designed to
arouse the child's curiosity.
A small piece of onion or boiled potato is dipped into salt water and
eaten. Before eating, the blessing over vegetables is recited. Eaten
The dipping of this appetizer in salt water is an act of pleasure and
freedom which further arouses the curiosity of the child.
The four-letter Hebrew word karpas when read backwards connotes that
the 600,000 Jews in Egypt (the Hebrew letter samech 60 times 10,000)
were forced to perform back-breaking labor (the other three Hebrew
letters spell perech--hard work.)
The salt water represents the tears of our ancestors in Egypt.
YACHATZ--BREAKING THE MATZAH
The middle matzah of the three placed on the Seder plate is broken in
two. The larger part is put aside for use later as the Afikomen.
This unusual action not only attracts the child's special attention
once again, but also recalls G-d's breaking the Red Sea asunder, to
make a path for 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."
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, by now
bursting with curiosity, asks the time-honored question:
"Mah Nish-tah-na Hah-lailo Ha-zeh Me-kol Hah-leiloat?
What makes this night different from all other nights?
- On all nights we need not dip even once; on this night we
do so twice!
- On all nights we eat chametz or matzah, and on this night
- On all nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this
night morror (bitter herbs)!
- On all nights we eat sitting upright or reclining, and on
this night we all recline!
The child's questioning triggers one of the most significant mitzvot
of Pesach and the highlight of the Seder ceremony: the Haggadah, the
telling of 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 upon the Egyptians, and an enumeration of the miracles
performed by the Al-mighty for the formation and redemption of His
ROCHTZOH--WASHING BEFORE THE MEAL
After concluding the first part of the Haggadah with the drinking of
the second cup of wine (reclining), the hands are washed -- this time
with the customary blessing, as usually done before eating bread.
Motzie Matzah--Eating Matzah
Taking hold of the three matzahs, the broken one between the two
whole ones, recite the customary blessing before bread. Then, letting
the bottom matzah drop back on the plate, and holding the top whole
matzah with the broken middle one, recite the special blessing ". . .
Al Ah-chee-las Matzah."
Then break at least one ounce from each matzah and eat the two pieces
MORROR--THE BITTER HERBS
Take at least 3/4 ounce of the bitter herbs. Dip it in the charoset,
then shake the latter off and make the blessing ".....Al Ah-chee-las
Morror." Eat without reclining.
In keeping with the custom instituted by Hillel, a great talmudic
rabbi, a sandwich of matzah and morror is eaten.
Break off two pieces of the bottom matzah, which together are at
least one ounce. Again take at least 3/4 ounce of bitter herbs and
dip them in charoset. Place them between the two pieces of matzah,
say: "Kein Ah-saw Hillel. . ." and eat the sandwich reclining.
SHULCHAN OREICH--THE FEAST
The holiday meal is now served. We begin the meal with a hard-
boiled egg dipped into salt water.
A rabbi was once asked why Jews eat eggs on Pesach. "Because eggs
symbolize the Jew," the rabbi answered. "The more an egg is boiled,
the harder it gets."
Note: The chicken neck is not eaten at the Seder.
TZOFUN--"OUT OF HIDING"
After the meal, the half matzah that had been "hidden" -- set aside
for the afikomen -- "dessert" is taken out and eaten. It symbolizes
the pascal lamb that was eaten at the end of the meal.
Everyone should eat at least 1-1/2 ounce of matzah, reclining, before
midnight. After the Afikomen, we do not eat or drink anything except
for the two remaining cups of wine.
BAIRACH--BLESSINGS AFTER THE MEAL
A third cup of wine is filled and grace is recited. After grace we
recite the blessing on 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 that symbolizes an invitation to the
Prophet Elijah, who is the harbinger of the coming of Moshiach, our
HALLEL--SONGS OF PRAISE
At this point, having recognized the Al-mighty, and His unique
guidance of His people Israel, we go still further and turn to sing
His praises as L-rd of the entire Universe.
After reciting the "Hallel," we again recite the blessing for wine
and drink the fourth cup, reclining.
Having carried out the Seder service properly, we are sure that it
has been well received by the Al-mighty. Then we say: "Leh-shah-na
Hah- bah-ah Be-ru-sha-law-yim" -- Next year in Jerusalem!
THE CONCLUDING DAYS OF PESACH
Pesach is eight days long. The last two days of Pesach are also
The seventh day of Pesach commemorates the miracle of the "Splitting
of the Sea of Reeds," which completed the Redemption from Egypt. On
the eighth day of Pesach, Yizkor is recited after the Torah reading.
A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME
The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, instituted the custom
of eating a special third meal on the last day of Pesach, after
Minchah, complete with matzah and wine. The meal is called the Feast
of Moshiach, and it is intended to deepen our awareness of the
imminence of the final Redemption. On this day, it is said, one can
actually feel the approach of Moshiach. "Behold," says the verse in
Song of Songs, "he is standing behind our wall, watching through the
windows, peering through the crevices . . ."
COUNTING OF THE OMER
On the second night of Pesach, we begin Sefirat Ha'omer, counting
forty-nine days between Pesach and Shavuot, the day when the Torah
was given to the Jewish People. This is done every night following
the evening prayer leading up to the night before Shavuot.
HAVE A KOSHER & HAPPY PESACH!