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Passover Primer - 15 Steps of the Seder

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The Story  | The Setup  |  15 Steps of the Seder

From beginning to end, the Seder is comprised of 15 specific experiences. The Hebrew word seder actually means order and relates to the fact that the Seder follows a precise order or pattern, which embodies these 15 experiences. The Seder is traditionally held on the first two nights of Passover.

First, make sure you wait until sundown to begin, as every Jewish day actually starts at the sundown the night before. Next: RELAX. That's actually a commandment on this holiday. Because relaxing and reclining indicate freedom, which is exactly what we are celebrating.

An outline of the seder's 15 steps:

1.      Drink wine.
2.      Wash hands.
3.      Dip vegetables in salt water and eat.
4.      Break middle matzah.
5.      Tell story of Passover. Drink more wine.
6.      Wash hands.
7.      Say blessing over matzah.
8.      Eat matzah.
9.      Eat bitter herbs.
10.  Eat matzah, bitter herbs and charoset (sweet) together.
11.  Eat meal.
12.  Eat matzah.
13.  Drink wine.
14.  Drink wine.
15.  Give thanks.

Now for some details (for even more, visit www.kosher4passover.com)

1.                  KADESH:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Drink wine.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: A special blessing is recited over a glass of wine that speaks of the role all holidays play in Jewish life. Recite the following blessings (the second blessing on the first night only), then drink the first glass of wine.

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, boray p'ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, she-he-he-yanu, ve-kiy'manu, ve-higi-anu la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this specific time.

2.                  URECHATZ:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Wash hands.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Fill a large cup with water. Pour twice on right hand and twice on left hand. Dry hands.

3.                  KARPAS:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Dip veggie in salt water and eat.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Dip veggie in salt water. The veggies represent the Spring, rebirth and a flourishing existence. The salt water represents the tears of our forefathers. Recite the following blessing and eat:

Baruch attah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, boray p'ri ha-adamah.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the ground.

4.                  YACHATZ:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Break middle matzah (see "SET UP")

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: The middle matzah (see "SET UP") is broken in half to remind us that as slaves in

5.                  MAGGID:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Read the Haggadah. Tell the story of Passover. Drink second glass of wine.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Read the Haggadah (which literally means "to tell), tell the story of the exodus from Egypt and explore the origins of our people and the meaning of our Jewish identity. Spend time reflecting on what freedom means to you personally. Include...

...the "Four Questions" of why this night is different from all other nights:

Q1) On all other nights we eat leavened bread AND matzah, on this night, why ONLY matzah?

A1) Matzah reminds us that when the Jews left Egypt they had no time to bake their bread. They took the dough on their journey and baked it in the hot desert sun into hard crackers called matzah.

Q2) On all other nights we eat VARIOUS veggies and herbs, on this night, why only BITTER ones?

A2) Bitter herbs remind us of the cruelty the Jewish people endured during their slavery in Egypt.

Q3) On all other nights we do not dip one food into another even ONCE, on this night, why dip TWICE?

A3)We dip bitter herbs into charoset to remind us of how hard the Jews were forced to work as slaves in Egypt. The chopped apples and nuts of the charoset represent the bricks and mortar they used to build the Pharoah's city. When we dip veggies in salt water, the veggies remind us that spring is here and new life will grow while the salt water reminds us of the tears of the Jewish slaves.

Q4) On all other nights we either sit OR recline, on this night, why ONLY recline?

A4) We lean on a pillow to be comfortable so that we are reminded that while once we were slaves, now we are free.

...the 10 plagues that ultimately led to our freedom:

1.      blood

2.      frogs

3.      lice

4.      wild beasts

5.      pestilence

6.      boils

7.      hail

8.      locusts

9.      darkness

10.  death of firstborn

...and finally, recite the following blessing, then drink the second glass of wine:

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, boray p'ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

(For information about the other elements of the Passover story, view www.kosher4passover.com)

6.                  RACHTZAH:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Wash hands.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Wash hands and recite the following:

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, asher kid-shanu b'mitzvo-tav, ve-tzivanu al ne-tilat yada-yim.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us with the washing of the hands.

7.                  MOTZI:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Say blessing over matzah.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Recite the following blessing over the matzah:

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, ha-motzi lechen min ha-aretz.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the ground.

8.                  MATZAH:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Eat Matzah.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Recite the following blessing, then eat matzah, in accordance with the commandment to eat matzah on the night of Passover:

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, asher kid-shanu b'mitzvo-tav, ve-tzivanu al achilat matzah.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments, and has commanded us with the eating of matzah.

9.                  MAROR:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Eat bitter herbs.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Recite the following blessing, then eat bitter herbs, which remind us of the bitterness of slavery:

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, asher kid-shanu b'mitzvo-tav, ve-tzivanu al achilat maror.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us with the eating of maror.

10.              KORECH:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Eat matzah, bitter herbs and charoset (sweet) together.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: Having just eaten matzah and bitter herbs separately, now eat them together with charoset as a sandwich. This combines three important symbols of Passover – matzah, which is unleavened to remind us of the haste with which our forefathers fled Egypt, bitter herbs which remind us of the bitterness of slavery and charoset, the consistency of which represents the bricks and mortar used by Jewish slaves in Egypt and the sweetness of which represents freedom.

11.              SHULCHAN ORECH:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: EAT!

B)SLIGHTLY MORE: EAT! But leave room for the after-dinner matzah, the afikomen.

12.              TZAFON:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Eat the remaining matzah.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: The afikomen, which had been put away (or hidden) earlier, is now brought back and everyone eats a piece as his or her own personal afikomen.

13.              BARECH:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Meal is over. Drink third glass of wine.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: The blessing after meals is recited expressing our gratitude to God. We recite the following blessing, then drink the third glass of wine:

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, boray p'ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

We also now pour an extra glass of wine for "Elijah, The Prophet" who represents the Messiah, and we open our front door, briefly, allowing him to enter.

14.              HALLEL:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Sing songs. Drink fourth glass of wine.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: The "Songs of Praise," authored by King David, are recited. Recite the following blessing, then drink fourth glass of wine:

Baruch attah Adonai, eloheynu melech ha-olam, boray p'ri ha-gafen.

Blessed are You, our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

15.              NIRTZAH:

A) SIMPLE DESCRIPTION: Give thanks.

B) SLIGHTLY MORE: We pray that we have successfully fulfilled all the observances of the Seder. We seal our hopes for a brighter future with the words, "Next year in Jerusalem."