YOUR HOLIDAY GUIDE: Passover 5775 – 2015 (April 3-11, 2015)
Your Passover Guide – 2015
|Editor’s NotePassover begins this year on Friday evening, April 3, 2015, and continues until nightfall, April 11, 2015. We bring you a brief overview of how and when to prepare your home for Passover, along with a daily holiday schedule for the entire holiday. If you have any further questions please consult your local orthodox rabbi or, in case you don’t have one, write to us atwww.chabad.org/asktherabbi.Please read this guide in its entirety before the beginning of the holiday. Some holiday items need pre-holiday “action.” We welcome you to print it and carry it with you in the days before Passover for easy reference, and to distribute this guide to whomever will benefit from it.
Operation Zero Chametz
Passover is a holiday that mandates our complete involvement, not just during its eight days but for weeks before. Aside from the regular holiday obligations, we are also commanded (Exodus 13:3–7): “No leaven shall be eaten . . . For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread . . . and no leaven shall be seen of yours [in your possession].”
We accomplish this by cleaning and inspecting our homes well before Passover, and gradually eliminating chametz from every room and crevice. This intensive cleaning takes place in Jewish homes throughout the world.
What is Chametz?
Chametz is any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, or their derivatives, which has leavened (risen). Our sages have determined that flour from any of these five grains that comes in contact with water or moisture will leaven, unless fully baked within eighteen minutes. As we are commanded by the Torah, if a food contains even a trace of chametz, we don’t eat it, we don’t derive benefit from it, and we make sure not to have any of it in our possession for all the days of Passover.
To be certain that a product is kosher for Passover, it must have rabbinical certification. Otherwise it is possible that it contains chametz ingredients, or traces of chametz if it was processed on the same equipment as chametz products. Thus, unless a product is certified Kosher for Passover, we consider it chametz, and make sure not to have it in our possession on Passover.
Note: Matzah used all year round might be pure chametz, and not for Passover use. Only matzahs baked especially for Passover may be used on Passover.
The medieval Jewish sages placed a ban on eating legumes (kitniyot) on Passover, because they are similar in texture to chametz—even bread can be made out of their flour—so people might assume that if, for example, cornbread can be eaten on Passover, wheat or rye bread can be eaten too. This prohibition includes rice, beans and corn. This injunction was unanimously accepted by Ashkenazic Jews; many Sephardic Jews, however, continue to eat kitniyot on Passover. If you are Sephardic, speak to your rabbi to determine your family and community tradition.
The prohibition is only with regards to consumption ofkitniyot; there is no obligation, however, to destroy or sell kitniyot products before Passover.
Getting Rid of Chametz
Search and Destroy
Any area where one can reasonably suspect that chametz might have been brought throughout the year must be thoroughly cleaned. This includes the home, office, cars, garage, etc. Check carefully to ensure that no crumb is left behind: check and clean desks, drawers, closets, clothing pockets (especially the children’s), pocketbooks, briefcases and attache cases, beds, dining and living room furniture, bookcases, etc.
If You Can’t Destroy it, Sell It
Chametz that you don’t want to destroy, and utensils used throughout the year (and not koshered for Passover), should be stored in closets or rooms which will be sealed for the duration of Passover. The chametz should be sold to a non-Jew through a rabbi.Click here to sell your chametz online.
Preparing the Kitchen
Every part of our homes is cleaned for Passover, but we pay special attention to the kitchen, because (a) that’s where most of our chametz hangs out during the year, and (b) we will be using our kitchens to prepare our Passover food.
Dishes and Utensils
Today, most Passover-savvy homes have a special set of dishes, silverware, pots, pans and other utensils for Passover use only. If necessary, certain year-round utensils can be used—provided they are koshered for Passover. This gets rather complex—you’ll need to consult a competent rabbi about your particular utensils, but you can click here for the basic koshering procedures.
Thoroughly clean and scour every part of the stove. Heat the oven to the highest temperature possible for 1–2 hours. Heat the grates and the iron parts of the stove (and the elements, if electric) until they are red-hot. It is suggested that the oven and the stove top should be covered with aluminum foil afterwards for the duration of Passover.
Clean the oven thoroughly. Fill a completely clean container, that was not used for 24 hours, with water. Turn on the microwave and let it steam heavily. Turn it off and wipe out the inside.
To use the microwave during Passover, use a flat, thick, microwave-safe object as a separation between the bottom of the oven and the cooking dish. When cooking or warming, the food should be covered on all sides.
For 24 hours before koshering the sink, do not pour hot water from chametz pots into it. Meticulously clean the sink, boil water in a clean pot which was not used for 24 hours, and pour three times onto every part of the sink, including the drain stopper. Then line the sink with foil or liner.
Refrigerator, Freezer, Cupboards, Closets, Tables, and Counters
Thoroughly clean and scrub them to remove any crumbs and residue. Afterwards, place a heavy covering over those surfaces that come into contact with hot food or utensils.
Tablecloths and Napkins
Launder without starch.
Cars, Garages, etc.
Vacuum your car or van; thoroughly clean your basement, garage, or any property you own. Special care should be taken with items you will be using, or rooms you will be accessing, during Passover.
While shopping for Passover we must be careful that the foods we buy are not only kosher, but are also kosher for Passover—that is, chametz-free.
Starting “From Scratch”
All fruits and vegetables, as well as all kosher cuts of meat and kosher fish, are kosher for Passover, provided they have been prepared in accordance with Jewish law and have not come into contact withchametz or chametz utensils.
The prevailing custom in Ashkenazi communities is that on Passover we do not eat rice, millet, corn, mustard, legumes (beans, etc.) or food made from any of these.
Commercially Prepared Products
Today there are many kosher-for-Passover packaged foods available. However, care must be used to purchase only those packaged foods that have reliable rabbinical supervision which is valid for Passover.
Obviously, all leavened foods made from—or that contain among their ingredients—wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt are actual chametz and are prohibited on Passover. Examples are bread, cake, cereal, spaghetti, beer and whiskey.
Check That Medicine Cabinet!
Many medicines, sprays, and cosmetics contain chametz. Consult a competent rabbi as to which ones may be used on Passover. The same applies to pet food.
Click here to to purchase your Passover essentials from our store.
The Passover Calendar—2015
|| April 2—13 NissanDid you remember to sell your chametz? Your local Chabad rabbican help, or complete an online “Authorization for the Sale of Chametz” form by clicking here.Search for the chametz after dark (click here for the exact time). Recite the blessing prior to the search, and the nullification of thechametz (Kol Chamira) following the search. Click here for more information on the search and removal of chametz.
||April 3—14 Nissan
The day before PassoverFast of the Firstborn. For a male firstborn to be exempt from fasting, he must participate in a meal marking the fulfillment of a mitzvah; such a meal is generally held in a synagogue after morning prayers on this day.Have you sold your chametz? Final call! Your local Chabad rabbican help, or complete an online “Authorization for the Sale of Chametz” form by clicking here.Stop eating chametz before the end of the fourth seasonal hour (click here for the exact time).
Burn your remaining (unsold) chametz before the fifth seasonal hour (click here for the exact time).
It is customary to recite the “Order of the Passover Offering” after the afternoon Minchah prayer.
Light the Passover candles, reciting blessings 2 & 4. Click here for the blessings, and here for local candle-lighting times. Click herefor a summary of the laws of Yom Tov.
According to Chabad custom, complete Hallel is recited during Maariv (evening) services.
First Seder: The Seder contains the observance of many biblical and rabbinical mitzvot, including: eating matzah, eating maror(bitter herbs), drinking four cups of wine, relating the story of the Exodus to our children, reclining as a symbol of freedom, etc. (Click here for a How-To Seder guide.)
To locate a public Seder near you, please click here.
The first night of Passover is referred to as leil shimurim (a night of guarding), based on Exodus 12:42.
||April 4—15 Nissan
1st day of PassoverMorning service. Full Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Exodus 12:21–51 and Numbers 28:16–25.
Haftorah: Joshua 3:5–7, 5:2–6:1, 6:27.Beginning with the Musaf Amidah, we recite morid hatal, the prayer for dew, and we omit the prayer for rain. This practice continues until Shemini Atzeret, the day after Sukkot.The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.
Festive lunch meal.
According to Chabad custom, complete Hallel is recited during Maariv evening prayers, followed by the “Counting of the Omer.” We count the 1st day of the Omer. The counting of the Omer is recited during each of the next 49 days, leading up to the holiday of Shavuot on the 50th day. The 49 days embody the 49 steps of self-improvement—beginning with the departure from our “personal” Egypt, until our arrival at Mount Sinai, when we are ready to accept the wisdom of the Torah.
After dark, light candles for the second day of Passover, using an existing flame, and recite blessings 2 & 4. Click here for the blessings, and here for local candle-lighting times.
Second Seder: The Seder contains the observance of many biblical and rabbinical mitzvot, including: eating matzah, eatingmaror (bitter herbs), drinking four cups of wine, relating the story of the Exodus to our children, reclining as a symbol of freedom, etc. (Click here for a How-To Seder guide.)
||April 5—16 Nissan
2nd day of Passover
Morning service. Full Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Leviticus 22:26–23:44 and Numbers 28:16–25.
Haftorah: II Kings 23:1–9, 21–25.The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.Festive lunch meal.
After nightfall, count the 2nd day of the Omer, and perform thehavdalah ceremony, omitting the blessings on the spices and candle.
Celebrate Passover’s intermediate days. Between now and the last two days of Passover, we may resume much (not all) of our regular workday activities; but, of course, we continue to eat Kosher for Passover foods exclusively. It is customary to drink a glass of wine each day, in celebration of the festival.
||April 6—17 Nissan
3rd day of Passover
1st day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)Morning service: In many communities, throughout the intermediate days of Passover, tefillin are not worn.Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Torah reading: Exodus 13:1-16 and Numbers 28:19–25. The Musaf Amidah is recited. During all of the intermediate days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.The intermediate days are observed with limited work restrictions.
After nightfall, count the 3rd day of the Omer.
||April 7—18 Nissan
4th day of Passover
2nd day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)Morning service: In many communities, throughout the intermediate days of Passover, tefillin are not worn.Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Torah reading: Exodus 22:24–23:19 and Numbers 28:19–25. The Musaf Amidah is recited. During all of the intermediate days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.The intermediate days are observed with limited work restrictions.
Light Shabbat candles and recite blessing 1. Click here for the blessing, and here for local candle-lighting times.
After nightfall, count the 4th day of the Omer.
Festive holiday meal, complete with kiddush.
||April 8—19 Nissan
5th day of Passover
3rd day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)
Torah reading: Exodus 33:12-34:26 and Numbers 28:19–25.
Haftorah: Ezekiel 37:1-14.
Morning service: Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. During all of the intermediate days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.Festive holiday meal, complete with kiddush.Evening prayers and havdalah, including the blessings on the spices and fire, are recited after dark.
After nightfall, count the 5th day of the Omer.
||April 9—20 Nissan
6th day of Passover
4th day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)Morning service: In many communities, throughout the intermediate days of Passover, tefillin are not worn.Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Torah reading: Numbers 9:1–15 and Numbers 28:19–25. The Musaf Amidah is recited. During all of the Intermediate Days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.The Intermediate Days are observed with limited work restrictions.
Light candles for the 7th day of Passover, and recite blessing 2.Click here for the blessing, and here for local candle-lighting times.
Evening prayers. After the Amidah, count the 6th day of the Omer.
Festive holiday meal, complete with the holiday kiddush.
It is customary in many communities to remain awake all night, studying Torah, in commemoration of the great miracle of the splitting of the sea, which occurred on the 7th day of Passover.
||April 10—21 Nissan
7th day of Passover—Shevi’i Shel PesachMorning service. Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Exodus 13:17–15:26 and Numbers 28:19–25.
Haftorah: II Samuel 22:1–51.The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.Festive lunch meal.
Evening prayers. After the Amidah, count the 7th day of the Omer.
Light candles after dark for the 8th day of Passover before sunset, using an existing flame, and recite blessing 2. Click here for the blessing, and here for local candle-lighting times.
Festive holiday meal, complete with the holiday kiddush.
||April 11—22 Nissan
Final Day of Passover—Acharon Shel PesachMorning service. Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Deuteronomy 14:22–16:17 and Numbers 28:19–25.
Haftorah: Isaiah 10:32–12:6.The Yizkor memorial service is recited following the Torah reading.The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.
Festive lunch meal.
On this final day of Passover we strive for the highest level of freedom, and focus on the final redemption. Following the Baal Shem Tov’s custom, we end Passover with “Moshiach’s Feast”—a festive meal complete with matzah and four cups of wine, during which we celebrate the imminent arrival of the Messiah. The feast begins before sunset and continues until after nightfall.
Evening prayers. After the Amidah, count the 8th day of the Omer.
After nightfall, perform the havdalah ceremony, omitting the blessings on the spices and the candle.
Nightfall is the official end of Passover (for the exact time, click here). Wait an hour to give the rabbi enough time to buy back yourchametz before eating it.
||April 12—23 NissanThe day following the holiday is known as Isru Chag. It is forbidden to fast on this day.
Passover Candle-Lighting Blessings
Note: Please refer to the Holiday Calendar above to determine which blessings are recited on which holiday and Shabbat nights.
- BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM AH-SHER KEE-DEH-SHAH-NOO BEH-MITZ-VOH-TAHV VEH-TZEE-VAH-NOO LEH-HAD-LEEK NER SHEL SHAH-BAHT KOH-DESH.
Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the holy Shabbat.
- BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM AH-SHER KEE-DEH-SHAH-NOO BEH-MITZ-VOH-TAHV VEH-TZEE-VAH-NOO LEH-HAD-LEEK NER SHEL YOHM TOHV.
Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Yom Tov light.
- BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM AH-SHER KEE-DEH-SHAH-NOO BEH-MITZ-VOH-TAHV VEH-TZEE-VAH-NOO LEH-HAD-LEEK NER SHEL SHAH-BAHT VEH-SHEL YOHM TOHV.
Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Shabbat and Yom Tov light.
- BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM SHEH-HEH-CHEH-YAH-NOO VEH-KEE-YEH-MAH-NOO VEH-HEE-GHEE-AH-NOO LIZ-MAHN HAH-ZEH.
Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
The Seder Ingredients
Matzah, the “Food of Faith”
When our forefathers left Egypt, they were in such a hurry that there was no time to wait for the dough to rise. They therefore ate matzah, unleavened bread. With only this food (but with great faith), our ancestors relied on the Almighty to provide sustenance for the entire Jewish nation—men, women and children. Each year, to remember this, we eat matzah on the first two nights of Pesach, thereby fulfilling the Torah’s commandment, “Matzot shall you eat . . .”
The Humblest of Foods
Matzah symbolizes faith. In contrast to leavened bread, matzah is not enriched with oil, honey or other substances. It consists only of flour and water, and is not allowed to rise. Similarly, the only “ingredients” for faith are humility and submission to G‑d, which come from recognizing our “nothingness” when compared with the infinite wisdom of the Creator.
One of the holiday’s primary obligations is to eat matzah during the Seder. It is strongly recommended to use shmurah matzah to fulfill this commandment.
Matzah is eaten three times during the Seder:
- After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt (Maggid), washing our hands for bread (Rachtzah) and reciting the blessings (Motzi Matzah), 1¾ ounces of matzah are eaten.
- For the sandwich (Korech), ¾ of an ounce of matzah is eaten.
- For the afikoman at the end of the meal (Tzafun), a minimum of ¾ of an ounce (and ideally 1½ 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 store-bought matzot are used, the weight of the box of matzot divided by the number of pieces shows how much matzah is the equivalent of one ounce.
Shmurah means “watched,” and it is an apt description of this matzah, the ingredients of which (the flour and water) are watched from the moment of harvesting and drawing.
The day chosen for the harvesting of the wheat is a clear, dry day. The moment it is harvested, the wheat is inspected to ensure that there is absolutely no moisture. From then on, careful watch is kept upon the grains as they are transported to the mill. The mill is meticulously inspected by rabbis and supervision professionals to ensure that every piece of equipment is absolutely clean and dry. After the wheat is milled, the flour is again guarded in its transportation to the bakery. Thus, from the moment of harvesting through the actual baking of the matzah, the flour is carefully watched to ensure against any contact with water.
The water, too, is carefully guarded to prevent any contact with wheat or other grain. It is drawn the night before the baking, and kept pure until the moment it is mixed with the flour to bake the shmurah matzah.
Also in the bakery itself, shmurah matzot are under strict supervision to avoid any possibility of leavening during the baking process. This intensive process and careful guarding gives the shmurah matzah an added infusion of faith and sanctity—in fact, as the matzah is being made, all those involved constantly repeat, “L’shem matzot mitzvah”—“We are doing this for the sake of the mitzvah of matzah.”
Shmurah matzot are round, kneaded and shaped by hand, and are similar to the matzot that were baked by the Children of Israel as they left Egypt. It is thus fitting to useshmurah matzah on each of the two Seder nights for the matzot of the Seder plate.
Click to order your own shmurah matzah.
For each of the four cups at the Seder, it is preferable to use undiluted wine. However, if needed, the wine may be diluted with grape juice. (One who cannot drink wine may use grape juice alone.)
One drinks a cup of wine four times during the Seder:
- At the conclusion of kiddush.
- After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt, before eating the matzah ofMotzi Matzah.
- At the conclusion of the Grace After Meals.
- After reciting the Hallel.
It is preferable to drink the entire cup each time. However, it is sufficient to drink only the majority of each cup.
How large a cup should be used? One that contains at least 3½ fluid ounces.
The Bitter Herbs
The bitter herbs are eaten once after the matzah (step 9 of the Seder), and then again with matzah in the Korech sandwich (step 10).
How much bitter herbs should one eat each time? Three-quarters of an ounce (a little more than 7 grams).
Either of two different types of bitter herbs may be used at the Seder, individually or in combination:
- Peeled and grated raw horseradish.
- Romaine lettuce. [Some suggest that the stalks be used rather than the leafy parts, because of the difficulty in properly examining and ridding the leafy parts of commonly present tiny insects.] Three-quarters of an ounce of stalks covers an area 3″ × 5″.
Click here to learn more about the bitter herbs used on the Passover seder plate.
Introduction to the Seder Plate
Preparing the items for the Seder plate requires some time. It is best to prepare all the Seder foods before the onset of the holiday, in order to avoid halachic questions.
Three matzot are placed on top of each other on a plate or napkin, and then covered. (Some also have the custom to separate the matzot from each other with interleaved plates, napkins or the like.)
The matzot are symbolic of the three castes of Jews: Priests, Levites, and Israelites. They also commemorate the three measures of fine flour that Abraham told Sarah to bake into matzah when they were visited by the three angels (Genesis 18:6).
On a practical level, three matzot are needed so that when we break the middle matzah, we are still left with two whole ones to pronounce the hamotzi blessing (as required on Shabbat and holidays).
On a cloth or plate placed above the three matzot, we place the following items:
The Shank Bone
A piece of roasted meat represents the lamb that was the special Paschal sacrifice on the eve of the exodus from Egypt, and annually, on the afternoon before Passover, in the Holy Temple.
Since we can’t offer the Paschal sacrifice in the absence of the Holy Temple, we take care to use something that is relatively dissimilar to the actual offering. Accordingly, many communities have the custom to use a roasted chicken neck or the like.
Preparation: Roast the neck on all sides over an open fire on the stove. Afterwards, some have the custom to remove the majority of the meat of the neck.
Role in the Seder: The shank bone is not eaten. After the meal it is refrigerated, and used a second time on the Seder plate the following night.
A hard-boiled egg represents the holiday offering brought in the days of the Holy Temple. The meat of this animal constituted the main part of the Passover meal.
Preparation: Boil one egg per Seder plate, and possibly more for use during the meal.
Role in the Seder: Place one egg on each plate. As soon as the actual meal is about to begin, remove the egg from the Seder plate and use during the meal.
A popular way of eating these eggs is to chop and mix them with the saltwater which was set on the table. The eggs prepared this way are then served as an appetizer before the fish.
The Bitter Herbs
Bitter herbs (maror) remind us of the bitterness of the slavery of our forefathers in Egypt. Fresh grated horseradish, romaine lettuce, and endive are the most common choices.
Preparation: This must be done before the holiday begins. Peel the raw horseradish roots, and rinse them off well.
Note: Dry the roots very carefully, since they will be eaten with the matzah later on for the korech sandwich; to avoidgebrokts, not even a drop of water should be left on the horseradish.
Next, grate the horseradish with a hand grater or electric grinder. (Whoever will be grating the horseradish will begin to shed copious tears or cough a lot. Covering the face with a cloth from the eyes downwards helps prevent inhalation of the strong, bitter odor.)
The lettuce or endive leaves must be washed, carefully checked for insects, and thoroughly dried. You can instead use just the stalks, which are easier to clean and check.
Place the horseradish on the Seder plate, on top of a few cleaned, dried leaves of romaine lettuce.
Role in the Seder: After the recital of most of the haggadah comes the ritual handwashing. Then matzah is eaten, followed by some maror, followed in turn by a sandwich of matzah and maror.
A mixture of apples, nuts and wine which resembles the mortar and brick made by the Jews when they toiled for Pharaoh.
Preparation: Shell walnuts and peel apples and chop finely. Mix together and add a small amount of wine.
Role in the Seder: This is used as a type of relish into which the maror is dipped (and then shaken off) before eating.
A non-bitter root vegetable alludes to the backbreaking work of the Jews as slaves. The Hebrew letters of the word karpas can be arranged to spell “perech samech.”
Perech means backbreaking work, and samech is numerically equivalent to 60, referring to 60 myriads, equaling 600,000, which was the number of Jewish males over 20 years of age who were enslaved in Egypt.
Preparation: Peel an onion or boiled potato. Cut off a slice and place on Seder plate. On the table, next to the Seder plate, place a small bowl of salted water.
Role in the Seder: After recital of kiddush, the family goes to the sink and ritually washes hands, but without saying the usual blessing.
Then the head of the household cuts a small piece of the root vegetable used, dips it in saltwater, and gives each person at the table a very small piece over which they say the appropriate blessing. Care should be taken that each person eats less than 17 grams (about ½ ounce).
The lettuce symbolizes the bitter enslavement of our fathers in Egypt. The leaves of romaine lettuce are not bitter, but the stem, when left to grow in the ground, turns hard and bitter.
So it was with our enslavement in Egypt. At first the deceitful approach of Pharaoh was soft and sensible, and the work was done voluntarily and even for pay. Gradually, it evolved into forced and cruel labor.
Preparation: Romaine lettuce is often very sandy. Wash each of the leaves separately, checking very carefully for insects. (Pat gently with a towel and let sit until completely dry, so that there will be no moisture to come in contact with the matzah.)
Depending on how much romaine lettuce is needed, it can take several hours to prepare. This task should be completed before candle-lighting time on the first night. Prepare enough leaves for both nights and store in the refrigerator. Soaking of the romaine leaves may not be done on the holiday.
Role in the Seder: The lettuce is used in conjunction with horseradish. It is used when eating the maror and when eating the matzah-and-maror sandwich.
Place the leaves in two piles on the Seder plate, one under the maror and one separately at the bottom.
Keep a stack of extra cleaned leaves handy in the refrigerator in case additional leaves are needed.
The Seder Service in a Nutshell
Click here for a more detailed Seder wizard, and here for a spiritual guide to the Seder.
In Our Forefathers’ Footsteps
At the Seder, every person should see himself as if he were going out of Egypt. Beginning with our Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we recount the Jewish people’s descent into Egypt and recall their suffering and persecution. We are with them as G‑d sends the Ten Plagues to punish Pharaoh and his nation, and follow along as they leave Egypt and cross the Sea of Reeds. We witness the miraculous hand of G‑d as the waters part to allow the Israelites to pass, then return to inundate the Egyptian legions.
The Seder service begins with the recitation of kiddush, proclaiming the holiness of the holiday. This is done over a cup of wine, the first of the four cups we will drink (while reclining) at the Seder.
The Four Cups of Wine
Why four cups? The Torah uses four expressions of freedom or deliverance in connection with our liberation from Egypt (see Exodus 6:6–7). Also, the Children of Israel had four great merits even while in exile: (1) They did not change their Hebrew names; (2) they continued to speak their own language, Hebrew; (3) they remained highly moral; (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 and eating the matzah, we lean on our left side to accentuate the fact that we are free people. In ancient times only free people had the luxury of reclining while eating.
We wash our hands in the usual, ritually prescribed manner as is done before a meal, but without the customary blessing.
The next step in the Seder, Karpas, requires dipping food into water, which in turn mandates, according to Jewish law, that either the food be eaten with a utensil or that one’s hands be purified by washing. On the Seder eve we choose the less common observance to arouse the child’s curiosity.
A small piece of onion or boiled potato is dipped into saltwater and eaten (after reciting the blessing over vegetables).
Dipping the karpas in saltwater is an act of pleasure and freedom, which further arouses the child’s curiosity.
The Hebrew word karpas, when read backwards, alludes to the backbreaking labor performed by the 600,000 Jews in Egypt. [Samech has the numerical equivalent of 60 (representing 60 times 10,000), while the last three Hebrew letters spell perech, hard work.]
The saltwater represents the tears of our ancestors in Egypt.
Yachatz—Breaking the Matzah
The middle matzah on the Seder plate is broken in two. The larger part is put aside for later use as the afikoman. This unusual action not only attracts the child’s attention once again, but also recalls G‑d’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds to allow 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, who by now is bursting with curiosity, asks the time-honored question: “Mah nishtanah ha-lailah hazeh mikol ha-leilot? Why is this night different from all other nights?” Why only matzah? Why the dipping? Why the bitter herbs? Why are we relaxing and leaning on cushions as if we were kings?
The child’s questioning triggers one of the most significant mitzvot of Passover, which is the highlight of the Seder ceremony: the haggadah, telling 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 on the Egyptians, and an enumeration of the miracles performed by the Almighty for the redemption of His people.
Rochtzah—Washing Before the Meal
After concluding the first part of the haggadah by drinking the second cup of wine (while reclining), the hands are washed again, this time with the customary blessings, as is usually done before eating bread.
Motzi Matzah—We Eat the Matzah
Taking hold of the three matzot (with the broken one between the two whole ones), recite the customary blessing before bread. Then, letting the bottom matzah drop back onto the plate, and holding the top whole matzah with the broken middle one, recite the special blessing “al achilat matzah.” Then break at least one ounce from each matzah and eat the two pieces together, while reclining.
Maror—the Bitter Herbs
Take at least one ounce of the bitter herbs. Dip it in the charoset, then shake the latter off and make the blessing “al achilat maror.” Eat without reclining.
In keeping with the custom instituted by Hillel, the great Talmudic sage, a sandwich of matzah and maror is eaten. Break off two pieces of the bottom matzah, which together should be at least one ounce. Again, take at least one ounce of bitter herbs and dip them in the charoset. Place this between the two pieces of matzah, say “kein asah Hillel . . .” and eat the sandwich while reclining.
Shulchan Orech—the Feast
The holiday meal is now served. We begin the meal with a hard-boiled egg dipped into saltwater.
A rabbi was once asked why Jews eat eggs on Passover. “Because eggs symbolize the Jew,” the rabbi answered. “The more an egg is burned or boiled, the harder it gets.”
Note: The chicken neck is not eaten at the Seder.
Tzafun—Out of Hiding
After the meal, the half-matzah which had been “hidden,” set aside for the afikoman(“dessert”), is taken out and eaten. It symbolizes the Paschal lamb, which was eaten at the end of the meal.
Everyone should eat at least 1½ ounces of matzah, reclining, before midnight. After eating the afikoman, we do not eat or drink anything except for the two remaining cups of wine.
Berach—Blessings After the Meal
A third cup of wine is filled and Grace is recited. After the Grace we recite the blessing over 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 which is an invitation to the Prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the coming of Moshiach, our righteous Messiah.
Hallel—Songs of Praise
At this point, having recognized the Almighty and His unique guidance of the Jewish people, we go still further and sing His praises as L‑rd of the entire universe.
After reciting the Hallel, we again recite the blessing over 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 Almighty. We then say “Leshanah haba’ah bee-rushalayim—Next year in Jerusalem.”