Seder can mean two different things: either the Seder, the prayer service, or the meal after. Both are beautiful traditions: full of sounds, smells, and tastes, often not together at any other time, but they are actually both part of the whole.
The Passover Meal is “the Seder.” Since we don’t live in Israel, we eat Seder on the first and the second nights. Each night we use Seder plates and have special foods, full of symbolism. I’ll explain each part of the Seder plate, in order of the service. Some families use one Seder plate for the table, while others make individual plates. It varies from home to home. During the Seder, we eat another dinner, this one steeped in tradition and often including Matzoh ball soup and gefilte fish.
So, grab your wine bottle and let’s get started!
The Passover Meal
- Kadesh. This is the first prayer. It is said with the first of 4 cups of wine. This is when we proclaim the holiness of the holiday and rejoice in sharing the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.
- Urchatz. The hand washing. This is a ceremonial practice; however, during the Seder it is done without prayer.
- Karpas. The appetizer; we dip parsley in salt water. (Very few Jews will describe this as an appetizer; rather it is the beginning of what could be a long evening, especially if you have kids and a long-winded adult leading the service.)
- Yachatz. The Breaking of Matzah. But don’t eat it yet!
- Maggid. The Haggadah. Now we tell the story of Passover and ask the 4 holy questions (Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we eat either unleavened or leavened bread, but tonight we eat only unleavened bread? On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight, we eat only bitter herbs? On all other nights, we do not dip [our food] even once, but tonight we dip twice? On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but tonight we only recline?). We conclude the story and questions with cup 2 of the 4 cups.
- Rachtzah. The washing of hands before the meal.
- and 8. Motzi Matzah. The prayer over and eating of the matzah.
- Maror. The bitter herb. We usually use raw horseradish. The tradition is to dip it in charoset, shake it off, then eat it. It’s really hard for some people to do.
- Korech. The Hillel sandwich. Also full of tradition. This is made and eaten while telling the story of Rabbi Hillel.
- Shulchan Orech. The eating of the feast. We begin with a hardboiled egg dipped in salt water. It is a reminder that we no longer sacrifice a lamb. Now it’s time for the matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish, and the works!
- Tzafun. Out of hiding! My children’s favorite part. The leader of the service hides matzah (afikoman, a treat) for the children to find and ransom to him/her for a reward.
- Berach. The 3rd cup of wine is poured and the prayers after the meal are recited.
- Hallel. Songs of praise. We sing to celebrate all that has happened in this rich history. Then, after the prayers are recited, the 4th cup of wine is poured.
- Nirtzah. Acceptance. After performing the rituals of the Seder, it is concluded with…
“Next year, in Jerusalem.”