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What is a Seder?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

Library » Holidays » Passover » Seder » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The first two nights of Pesach (in Israel only the first night) is marked by a ritual meal called the Seder (pronounced SAY-dur).

Seder means “order,” and refers to the fifteen symbolic parts of the meal performed in consecutive order. Following is a very brief outline of those 15 steps: Being a holiday, the feast is opened with

1) Kadeish (pronounced KAH-daysh), the standard Kiddush, followed by

2) Urchatz (pronounced OOR-khatz), the washing-the-hands ritual Halachically required before eating a wet vegetable, which is

#3: Karpas (pronounced KAHR-pass), a vegetable slice dunked in salt water representing the tears of the Jewish slaves.

Numero quatro is Yachatz (pronounced YAH-khahtz), when you crack in two the middle Matzah in that pile of three in front of you, followed by Positive Mitzvah #157:

Maggid (pronounced MAH-gid)—telling the Exodus story by reading it from the Haggadah, the Seder guidebook. When you’re done talking, you proceed to

#6: Rachtzah (pronounced RAHKH-tzah), which consists of the washing-the-hands ritual done before

#7: Motzi (pronounced MOH-tzee) and

#8: Matzah, reciting the blessings over the matzah and then eating some, respectively.

Number Nine is chewing and swallowing real raw horseradish, guaranteed to blow your head off with a real raw reminder of slavery’s pain, followed by

#10: koreich (pronounced KOH-raykh), the world’s most original sandwich—more Maror (horseradish) squeezed between two shards of matzah and devoured together. Finally, we indulge in

#11: Shulchan Orech (pronounced SHOOL-khan OH-rehkh), or Set Table, when conventional foods are served and everyone relaxes and talks, and the Seder wraps up with

#12: Tzafun (pronounced TZAH-foon), or eating the remainder of Matzah #2,

#13: Beirach (pronounced BAY-rahkh), or Grace After Meals,

#14: Hallel (pronounced HAH-lell), or praises to G-d, and

#15: Nirtzah (pronounced NEER-tzah), a short concluding statement. The entire shebang goes anywhere from one hour to all night long. But do get yourself invited to a Chabad center for a community seder to see what it’s really like, or visit www.passover.net for a gold mine of Passover info.

See our Practical Seder Guide for more detailed instructions for the Seder. See our Soulful Seder Guide and Passover's 15 Step Program for a spiritual perspective of the Seder.


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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Matzah
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Hallel
Hebrew word meaning "praise." Normally is a reference to Psalms 113-118-- Psalms of jubilation which are recited during the morning prayers of all joyous holidays.
Halachically
According to Jewish law.
Grace After Meals
Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.
Kiddush
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
Haggadah
Text read at the Passover Eve feasts. The Haggadah recounts in great detail the story of our Exodus from Egypt.
Seder
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Maror
Bitter herbs consumed at the Passover Seder, commemorating how the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors.
Pesach
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.