The Seder Guide
 
Friday, September 21, 2018 - 12 Tishrei 5779
 
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The Seder Guide
The first two nights of Pesach, we conduct a Seder -- a festive yet solemn event.

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 days.


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 Egyptian legions. 


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 MATZAH

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 Pesach.

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 Egypt.

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 experience.


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).


THE MATZAH

On each of the two seder nights shmurah matzah should be used.

Matzah is eaten three times during the Seder.

  1. After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt -- Motzie Matzah -- two ounces of matzah are eaten.
  2. For the "sandwich" -- korech -- one ounce of matzah is eaten.
  3. As the Afikomen at the end of the meal -- Tzofun -- 1-1/2 ounces of matzah are eaten.
In each instance, the matzah should be eaten within 4 minutes.

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 ounce.


THE WINE

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 juice.

One drinks a cup of wine four times during the Seder:

  1. At the conclusion of Kiddush.
  2. After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt, before eating the 20 matzah of Motzie Matzah.
  3. At the conclusion of the Grace After Meals.
  4. After reciting the "Hallel."
It is preferable to drink the entire cup each time. However, it is sufficient to drink just the majority of each cup.

How large a cup should be used?

One containing at least 3-1/2 fluid ounces.


THE MORROR

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?

3/4 ounce.

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 small insects.

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

General Note:

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


KADESH--THE BENEDICTION

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 merits:

  1. they did not change their Hebrew names;
  2. they did not change their Hebrew language;
  3. they remained highly moral; and
  4. they remained loyal to one another.
Wine is used because it is a symbol of joy and happiness.


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 people.

In ancient times only free people were allowed to recline while eating.


UR'CHATZ--PURIFICATION

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 water.

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.


KARPAS--THE APPETIZER

A small piece of onion or boiled potato is dipped into salt water and eaten. Before eating, the blessing over vegetables is recited. Eaten not reclined.

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."


MAGGID--THE HAGGADAH

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?

  1. On all nights we need not dip even once; on this night we do so twice!
  2. On all nights we eat chametz or matzah, and on this night only matzah.
  3. On all nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this night morror (bitter herbs)!
  4. 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 people.


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 together, reclining.


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.


KORECH--THE SANDWICH

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 righteous Messiah.


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.


NIRTZOH--ACCEPTANCE

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 Yom Tov.

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!
 

 


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