Preparations for the Seder
The Seder Plate
1. The Seder plate should be placed to the right of the leader of the Seder (with the salt water to its right)
2. The items on the Seder Plate must be placed in a specific order, based on the principle that one should never “pass over” any mitzvah. The placement is therefore arranged to follow the order of the Haggadah.
3. Although there are several customs, the most widespread way to arrange the Seder plate is according to the Arizal:
4. The Z’ro’ah is preferably a shank bone or poultry wing or neck, but should not be eaten – to differentiate from the actual sacrifice.
5. The Baitzah is roasted or boiled egg (sometimes both)
6. The Maror is usually Romaine Lettuce, endives or Horseradish root (GREAT care must be taken to make sure the lettuce is free of bugs!!!)
7. Chazeres is the other portion of bitter herbs needed for Koreich (can be the same as Maror or different)
8. Charoses is a mixture of nuts, wine, cinnamon and apples
9. Karpas is any vegetable (usually celery, onion or potatoes) that has the blessing “borei pri ha’odomah.”
10. Only the head of the household requires a Seder plate.
The Three Matzos
1. Three Matzos (must be “shmurah matzos”) should also be placed in between the leader of the Seder and the Seder Plate(matzos should be separated from each other – usually by a specially made matzah cover or simple napkins).
2. The Matzos can be hand-made or machine-made (some have customs/concepts that favor one over the other)
3. There must be enough Matzah for everyone to eat the required amount (ie. a kezayis – relying on the strict opinion for the Torah Commandment (roughly ½ of a hand-made Matzah, 2/3 of a machine-made) and the lenient for the Rabbinic Commandment (roughly 1/4 of a hand-made Matzah, less than 1/3 of a machine-made)
4. The Matzos should be covered for Kiddush (and uncovered any other time that wine is not held)
Focus on the Children
1. In the Seder falls on Shabbos, the father should bless the children just like he does the rest of the year.
2. Due to the usually LATE starting time, it’s imperative that all preparations are done and the seder starts on time.
3. Children from the ages of 5-6 should be trained to fulfill the Mitzvos of the Seder.
The Laws of the Heseba (aristocracy)
1. To clearly show that we are no longer slaves, we are commanded to eat like the aristocracy of old, called “heseba.”
2. Heseba is performed by leaning to the left (even for lefties), preferably leaning on a pillow or cushion. (although women are obligated in all the mitzvos of the Seder, the Ashkenazic custom is for women not to recline)
3. If one drank the 2nd cup or ate the Matzah without hesebah, one must drink/eat again.
1. There are 7 mitzvos that are performed at the Seder. Two from the Torah (telling the Exodus story & eating matzah), and the other mitzvot are rabbinic (eating Marror, the Afikomen, saying Hallel, drinking 4 Cups of wine and hesebah)
2. There are many customs regarding the Kittel. It’s usually worn by married men, but not during 1st year of marriage.
The Four Cups of Wine
1. Everyone must drink 4 cups of wine corresponding to the 4 expressions of freedom mentioned in the Torah (Ex. 6:6-7).
2. Since we are free people, we don’t fill our own cup (some have the custom that only the leader’s cup is so filled)
3. It’s preferable to use expensive, red wine. If there is a white wine of a better quality, one may use it; but it is preferable to mix it with a little red wine to give it a red color. (pour the white wine into the red wine when mixing on Yom Tov)
4. If one can not tolerate even weak wine (ie. low-alcohol or wine mixed with water/juice), one may use grape juice.
5. The Kiddush cup must be able to contain at least 3.3 oz. On a Friday night, the 1st cup must contain at least 4.42 oz.
6. It is preferable to drink the entire cup of wine each time, but one should at least drink a majority of the cup. (It’s better to use a small cup containing the minimum amount that can be finished, than a large cup that can’t be)
7. “Drinking” is defined as two swallows without pausing or pausing once (at the least, finish the cup within 4 minutes)
8. One should avoid drinking other wine between the 4-cups, due to a fear of intoxication.
(after the second cup, though, there is no such fear in that one is about to begin the meal)
Kadesh – Reciting the Kiddush:
1. Kiddush should be made as soon as it is nightfall. All preliminary activities may begin earlier (ie. singing, etc.)
2. There are different customs as to who recites the Kiddush:
• The leader of the Seder recites the Kiddush and the others listen.
• Each head of the household recites the Kiddush and their family members listen.
• Everyone recites the Kiddush together, including the women and children.
3. All participants should have their own cup of wine and hold it during Kiddush, whether the’re listening or reciting it.
4. When reciting Kiddush, one should have in mind to fulfill two Mitzvos: The Mitzvah of Kiddush and the Mitzvah of drinking the first of the four cups of wine.
5. When saying “Shehechiyanu” one should have in mind that it applies to the Holiday and all the Mitzvos of the Seder.
6. When the Seder falls on Saturday night, one should also make the Havdallah blessings, using the Yom Tov candles.
7. Remember to lean to the left and to drink most (preferably all) of the cup.
8. One is permitted to drink non-alcoholic beverages between the first and second cups.
Urchatz – Washing the Hands:
1. All the participants should wash their hands (as if for bread), but no blessing is made. (We do this because any food that has become wet with certain liquids (water, wine, blood, dew, milk, olive oil, and date honey) makes the food susceptible to spiritual uncleanliness and requires washing of hands if the food will be eaten with the hands.
2. Some have the custom that the leader of the Seder has his hands washed at his seat, while others have a custom to eat with a fork and only the leader washes his hands.
3. One should not speak after the washing until the Karpas is eaten, unless the talking is related to the Mitzvah.
Karpas – Eating the Vegetable:
1. Karpas is a vegetable, preferably one that’s eaten raw. Lettuce should not be used, since one may not use a vegetable that qualifies as Maror. (make sure to inspect for insects before Yom Tov)
2. Each person at the Seder is given a piece less than a Kezayis (15 grams), to avoid having to say an after-blessing.
3. The Karpas is dipped in salt water and each person recites the blessing “Borei P’ri Hoadama.” (one should have in mind that this blessing should include the Maror and it will be included in the Birkas Hamazon)
4. The custom is to eat without reclining, but one may do so if he wishes. (the salt water may be removed)
5. if you ate more than a kezayis, you need not say an after blessing
Yachatz – Breaking the Middle Matzah:
1. The middle Matzah is broken into two uneven pieces (the smaller piece is returned to the Matzah cover and the larger one is wrapped in a cloth and put aside to be used as the Afikoman)
2. It s a custom for the children to take the Afikoman and hide it when the leader of the Seder is not watching.
Maggid – Telling the Story of the Exodus:
1. Before beginning the narrative of the Exodus, one should have in mind to fulfill the obligation of telling the Exodus story (the Mitzvah is not fulfilled if the words are not understood.; It is better to read the Haggadah in a language that you understand than to read it in Hebrew and not understand it at all)
2. The leader must ensure that everyone understands at least the most important sections of the narrative: the 10 plagues and from the section that begins “Rabbi Gamliel used to say” until the second cup is drunk.
3. Everyone can either recite the Haggadah or listen to the leader read it, as long as one understands what is being said. Most people follow the custom to recite the Haggadah if they are fluent in Hebrew.
4. The leader of the Seder should hold up the broken (smaller piece) middle Matzah while saying “Ha Lachma Anya.” Then the Seder Plate is removed from the table and the second cup is filled.
6. The custom is for the youngest child capable of asking to sing the “Ma Nishtana.” If the child is hesitant, his father or mother may assist him. If there are no children present, the wife or any of the participants should ask the four questions.
7. The Seder plate is then brought back and left uncovered during the narrative until “l’fikach.” (one should not recline during the narrative – one should sit upright with awe and respect)
8. A total of 16 drops of wine are spilled out for each of the ten plaques and other places in the Haggadah. (one should use the index or small (“pinky”) finger to spill out the drop. Some have a custom not to lick their fingers clean)
9. The cups should be “topped up” before saying “Rabbi Gamliel etc.”
10. When reading “v’hee sh’amda” and “L’fikach” the Matzos should be covered and the cup of wine raised.
11. The leader should raise the broken middle Matzah when saying “This Matzah…” & the Maror when saying “This Maror…”
12. The leader should not hold up the shank bone when saying “This Korban Pesach etc.” The custom is to look at it.
13. You drink the second cup of wine (while reclining) at the conclusion of the Maggid. If a man forgot to recline he should immediately drink another cup without a blessing.
Rochtza – Washing the Hands:
1. All participants wash their hands in the normal way and this time we DO recite the blessing (“Al Netilas Yodayim.”)
2. The leader of the Seder should make announcements so that everyone knows not to speak until after “Korech,” (unless it concerns the Mitzvos) plus he should inform everyone about the next few steps of the Seder, the relevant laws, etc.
3. Each person should be given a piece of Matzah weighing at least 25 grams (or 7 inches x 61/4 inches) in preparation for the Mitzvah of eating Matzah (roughly ½ of a hand-made Matzah, 3/4 of a machine-made) Kids are given 10 grams each.
5. The steps “Rochtza, Motzi-Matzah” should be announced.
6. Some have the custom that the leader of the Seder has his hands washed at his seat by one of the children.
Motzi-Matzah – Two Blessings Are Recited on the Matzah:
1. The leader of the Seder should have in mind to include everyone else with his blessings.
2. Everyone else should have in mind a) to fulfill his obligation by listening to the blessings, b) to fulfill the Mitzvah of eating Matzah on the first night of Pesach, c) that it also applies to the Korech and Afikoman d) to recline.
3. All three Matzos should be held for the first blessing, after which the lowest Matzah is released. The remaining two Matzos are held for the second blessing. (The Matzos should be covered while the blessing of “Hamotzei” is recited)
4. Ideally, the two Matzos should be broken simultaneously after the blessing.
5. The leader of the Seder (and only the leader) should take for himself 15 grams (a quarter of a hand-made matzah) from the top matzah and 15 grams from the middle one. Both pieces should be eaten together.
6. Everyone else should be given a small piece from the top matzah in addition to the prepared piece of 25 grams that was distributed before washing. Both pieces should be eaten together (hand-made = 50-80 grams; machine-made = 30 grams)
7. The custom is not to dip the Matzah in salt, so they may taste the Mazah itself
8. The Matzah should be eaten in two minutes (or 4 minutes, if difficult). This is measured from the time that one begins to swallow the Matzah (One should not eat in a frenzy, but rather with dignity and joy).
9. One may drink a little water to facilitate swallowing if one’s mouth is too dry to swallow.
10. If one forgot to recline while eating, they must eat another 30 grams of Matzah while reclining without a blessing.
Maror – Eat the Bitter Herbs:
1. We eat maror as a remembrance of the Torah commandment of eating the Korban Pesach with Maror.
2. One may use either romaine, iceberg lettuce or grated horseradish (commercially processed horseradish is not allowed)
3. One should eat a quantity of lettuce leaves that covers an area of 8” X 10” or lettuce stalks that covers an area 3” X 5”. If
grated horseradish is used, one should eat 27 cc. If this is difficult, one may eat 17 cc (1 heaping tablespoon].
4. One may combine both types of Maror to make the required amount.
5. The Maror should be eaten in 2 minutes. (4 minutes, it difficult), measured from the time that one begins to swallow.
6. Dip the Maror in the Charoses and then shake it off.
7. The custom is for each person to recite his own blessing of “Al Achilas Maror.”
8. When making the blessing one should think about fulfilling the Mitzvah of eating Maror and that the blessing should also apply to the Korech. (One does not recline when eating Maror)
Korech – Eating the Sandwich of Matzah and Maror:
1. According to Hillel, when the temple stood, we ate the three required foods (pesach, matzah, maror) in a sandwich
2. The bottom Matzah is used for Korech. If this is (usually) n0t enough for everyone, each person should receive a small piece from this Matzah and add it to the other Matzah to make the required quantity of 15 grams (3/4 of a machine-made)
3. One eats the same amount of Maror for Korech as one eats for Maror.
4. Some have a custom is to dip the Maror in Charoses and most place the Maror between the two pieces of Matzah.
5. No blessing is said, but a paragraph is said (by one or all) beginning with the words “Zeicher LeMikdash KiHillel.”
6. The Korech should be eaten in two minutes (4 minutes if difficult), measured from the time one begins to swallow.
7. Men should recline when eating Korech (if one forgot to recline, he need not eat another Korech)
Shulchan Orech – Eating the Yom Tov Meal:
1. The custom is to begin the meal with eggs dipped in salt water. Some people eat the egg from the Seder plate.
2. Some have the custom to eat fish as well. (The shank bone should not be eaten)
3. One must not eat poultry or meat that is prepared without any liquid. This includes roasted, barbequed, and broiled.
4. One may not eat poultry or meat that is roasted in a pot without any liquid. One may eat poultry or meat that is
roasted in a pot with some liquid.
5. One should not eat too much. Overeating may cause drowsiness and one will not be able to conclude the Seder successfully or cause one to not have sufficient appetite for the Afikoman at the end of the meal.
6. One must leave sufficient time after the meal to eat the Afikoman before Halachik midnight.
7. It is praiseworthy for a man to recline during the meal, but it’s not a requirement.
8. According to some, it’s a Mitzvah to drink some wine during the meal in honor of the holiday.
Tzafun – Eating the Afikoman:
1. The Afikoman (the piece of the broken middle Matzah that was put aside at the beginning of the Seder) is now eaten.
2. Since this is usually not sufficient for everyone, the leader of the Seder gives each person a small piece from this Matzah and adds it to the other Matzah to make the required 2 K’zaisim (30 grams, 15 grams if this is difficult)
3. There is no blessing said, but one should have in mind that he is fulfilling the Mitzvah of eating the Afikoman.
4. A man should recline when eating the Afikoman (if one forgot to recline, he should eat another Afikoman if it is not too difficult. However, if he already washed his hands for “Mayim Acharonim” he should not eat another Afikoman)
5. An effort should be made to eat the Afikoman before Halachik midnight. (if this time passed, it should still be eaten)
6. If the Afikoman can not be found, other Shmura Matzah should be eaten instead.
7. One may not eat anything else after the Afikoman. One should drink water if he is thirsty after eating the Afikoman. After Birchas Hamazon one should preferably refrain from any other drinks, but in a case of great need one my drink tea, seltzer, apple juice, lemonade, or mildly flavored soda, But not Coffee. One should not smoke after the Afikoman as well.
Barech – Saying the Birchas Hamazon:
1. The third cup of wine is poured before the Birchas Hamazon and one should wash Mayim Acharonim.
2. If there are three men present, the custom is for the head of the household to lead the “Zimun.”
3. If there is someone who led the Zimun, only he must hold the cup of wine during the Birchas Hamazon. If there is no leader, then everyone should hold the cup of wine.
4. Men should recline when drinking the cup of wine after Birchas Hamazon. If he forgot, he need not drink another cup.
5. After drinking the third cup, the cups are refilled with wine. An extra cup, the cup of Eliyahu, is also filled.
7. The custom is for the leader of the Seder to fill the cup of Eliyahu. It should be a large and especially beautiful cup.
8. The door is opened and “Shfoch Chamascha” is recited standing (Many have the custom to leave the full cup of Eliyahu covered on the table overnight and use it for Kiddush on Yom Tov morning. Others pour it out or back into the bottle)
Hallel – Reciting the Hallel:
1. Women are obligated to remain at the Seder table for Hallel and the fourth cup of wine. Children aged five or six should be encouraged to do so if possible.
2. One should not recline during Hallel. Rather one should sit upright with awe and respect.
3. If there are three people present, including one’s wife and children, the verses of “Hodo” and “Ana” should be said responsively, as is done in Shul. The leader of the Seder should recite these verses and the others should respond.
4. The fourth cup of wine is drunk at the conclusion of the Hallel.
5. Men should recline when drinking the fourth cup, and do not drink it again if they forgot to recline.
6. Some have the custom to drink the whole cup (one should try to drink 3 oz of wine in order to recite the after blessing)
7. The after blessing is recited by everyone who drank 3 ounces. When making the blessing, one should have in mind that it also applies to all the other three cups of wine.
Nirtzah – The Seder is Accepted:
1. After the paragraph of “Chasal Siddur Pesach,” the final part of the Haggadah comprises songs of praise to Hashem. Since these songs were added later, a person who is exhausted is not obligated to say them.
2. Some people have the custom to recite “Shir Hashirim” after the Seder.
3. Tonight is the only night of the year where it is a Mitzvah to remain awake as long as possible after the Seder and study the laws of Pesach and continue relating the miracles of the Exodus. (Shavuos is only a custom) It would be preferred to stay up all night and pray Shacharis at sunrise. A person is exempt if he is overcome by sleep. Similarly, if he will not be able to pray Shacharis properly without a good night’s sleep, he may go to bed.
4. Before going to sleep, the custom is to recite only the first paragraph of the bed-time Shema and “Hamapil.”
The Second Seder
The following differences at the second Seder:
• All preparations for the second night of Yom Tov may not begin before nightfall.
• One may be lenient and only eat 15 grams for the first eating of Matzah. Nevertheless, the leader of the Seder must
eat 30 grams. A sick or elderly person may be lenient and eat 10 grams of Matzah.
• Some have the custom to not hurry and eat the Afikoman before Halachik midnight.
• One may have any non-intoxicating drinks after the Afikoman.
• One may retire to bed immediately after the Seder.