And this day shall become a memorial for you, and you shall observe it as a festival for the L-RD, for your generations, as an eternal decree shall you observe it. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove the leaven from your homes ... you shall guard the unleavened bread, because on this very day I will take you out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day for your generations as an eternal decree. - Exodus 12:14-17
Pesach Laws and Customs
The Pesach Seder
And if your son asks you in the future, saying, What are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, that the L-RD our G-d commanded you? You will say to your son, We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt; and the L-RD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The L-RD gave signs and wonders, great and harmful, against Egypt, against Pharaoh, and against all his household, before our eyes: And he brought us out of there to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised our fathers. -Deuteronomy 6:20-23
- Kaddesh, Urechatz,
- Karpas, Yachatz,
- Maggid, Rachtzah,
- Motzi, Matzah,
- Maror, Korekh,
- Shulchan Orekh,
- Tzafun, Barekh,
- Hallel, Nirtzah
- 1. Kaddesh: Sanctification
- A blessing over wine in honor of the holiday. The wine is drunk, and a second cup is poured.
- 2. Urechatz: Washing
- A washing of the hands without a blessing, in preparation for eating the Karpas.
- 3. Karpas: Vegetable
- A vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped in salt water and eaten. The vegetable symbolizes the lowly origins of the Jewish people; the salt water symbolizes the tears shed as a result of our slavery. Parsley is a good vegetable to use for this purpose, because when you shake off the salt water, it looks like tears.
- 4. Yachatz: Breaking
- One of the three matzahs on the table is broken. Part is returned to the pile, the other part is set aside for the afikomen (see below).
- 5. Maggid: The Story
- A retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the first Pesach. This begins with the youngest person asking The Four Questions, a set of questions about the proceedings designed to encourage participation in the seder. The Four Questions are also known as Mah Nishtanah (Why is it different?), which are the first words of the Four Questions. This is often sung. See below.
- The maggid is designed to satisfy the needs of four different types of people: the wise one, who wants to know the technical details; the wicked one, who excludes himself (and learns the penalty for doing so); the simple one, who needs to know the basics; and the one who is unable to ask, who doesn't even know enough to know what he needs to know.
- At the end of the maggid, a blessing is recited over the second cup of wine and it is drunk.
- 6. Rachtzah: Washing
- A second washing of the hands, this time with a blessing, in preparation for eating the matzah
- 7. Motzi: Blessing over Grain Products
- The ha-motzi blessing, a generic blessing for bread or grain products used as a meal, is recited over the matzah.
- 8. Matzah: Blessing over Matzah
- A blessing specific to matzah is recited, and a bit of matzah is eaten.
- 9. Maror: Bitter Herbs
- A blessing is recited over a bitter vegetable (usually raw horseradish; sometimes romaine lettuce), and it is eaten. This symbolizes the bitterness of slavery. The maror is dipped in charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine, which symbolizes the mortar used by the Jews in building during their slavery. (I highly recommend it -- it's the best tasting thing on the holiday, and goes surprisingly well with horseradish! My recipe is included below.)
- Note that there are two bitter herbs on the seder plate: one labeled Maror and one labeled Chazeret. The one labeled Maror should be used for Maror and the one labeled Chazeret should be used in the Korekh, below.
- 10. Korekh: The Sandwich
- Rabbi Hillel was of the opinion that the maror should be eaten together with matzah and the paschal offering in a sandwich. In his honor, we eat some maror on a piece of matzah, with some charoset (we don't do animal sacrifice anymore, so there is no paschal offering to eat).
- 11. Shulchan Orekh: Dinner
- A festive meal is eaten. There is no particular requirement regarding what to eat at this meal (except, of course, that chametz cannot be eaten). Among Ashkenazic Jews, gefilte fish and matzah ball soup are traditionally eaten at the beginning of the meal. Roast chicken or turkey are common as a main course, as is beef brisket.
- 12. Tzafun: The Afikomen
- The piece of matzah set aside earlier is eaten as "dessert," the last food of the meal. Different families have different traditions relating to the afikomen. Some have the children hide it, while the parents have to either find it or ransom it back. Others have the parents hide it. The idea is to keep the children awake and attentive throughout the pre-meal proceedings, waiting for this part.
- 13. Barekh: Grace after Meals
- The third cup of wine is poured, and birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited. This is similar to the grace that would be said on anyShabbat. At the end, a blessing is said over the third cup and it is drunk. The fourth cup is poured, including a cup set aside for the prophet Elijah, who is supposed to herald the Messiah, and is supposed to come on Pesach to do this. The door is opened for a while at this point (supposedly for Elijah, but historically because Jews were accused of nonsense like putting the blood of Christian babies in matzah, and we wanted to show our Christian neighbors that we weren't doing anything unseemly).
- 14. Hallel: Praises
- Several psalms are recited. A blessing is recited over the last cup of wine and it is drunk.
- 15. Nirtzah: Closing
- A simple statement that the seder has been completed, with a wish that next year, we may celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem (i.e., that the Messiahwill come within the next year). This is followed by various hymns and stories.
Recipe for Charoset
- 4 medium apples, 2 tart and 2 sweet
- 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
- 1/4 cup sweet wine
- 1/4 cup dry wine
- 1 Tbs. cinnamon