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Soulful Seder Guide

by The Farbrengen Magazine


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


We start our Seder as any other enjoyable evening begins — with a toast to Someone special. So after praising G-d, we drink the first of four glasses, of wine (or grape juice) to be savored throughout the entire Seder. The four glasses of wine represent the four elements of redemption we experienced during our Exodus.
 "...Blessed are You G-d...Who has given us this day of the Festival of Matzot, the SEASON OF OUR FREEDOM..."1

The Seder begins. We are now reliving the actual events of 3,3202 years ago....

Then it's time to do some serious relaxing — we recline to our left when drinking the four glasses to emphasize our freedom. It may seem strange in our modern world of La-Z-Boy recliners and couch potatoes, but in ancient days only free people were allowed to eat in this position.

America is the “land of the free”3. Why do we need a “Season of Freedom"?4 

Man, no matter how free of external constraints, is a finite creature, ever subject to the limits of his own nature and character. To attain true freedom he must therefore transcend his humanity - his emotional, intellectual, even spiritual self - and access his spark of G-dliness, the infinite, supra-human self.

We wash our hands in the ritual manner (without reciting a blessing). This ritual, among other things, serves as an important role: it is meant to keep the children constantly active in the Seder experience by piquing their interest . . .

Are kids that important?

Well, yes. In fact, many interesting customs are scattered throughout the Seder to compel the child to ask questions. Indeed, the entire “retelling” is built around the concept of “When your child will ask . . . you shall tell your child.”5

We start our Seder as any other enjoyable evening begins - with a toast to Someone special
The child is the most important participant of the Seder. Mystically, it is the child who opens our eyes to the significance of Passover. It is the child who evokes in us the realization that we, too, are children, the children of G-d, and are thus inherently free just as the worry-free child. Tonight, we enter the mind and heart of our child within.

“And the Egyptians forced the children of Israel to do backbreaking labor.”6 What are we going to do about it?
After washing our hands (Urchatz), we dip a raw vegetable into salt water after reciting the appropriate blessing for eating vegetables. Karpas symbolizes the “crushing labor” our people endured in Egypt and the salt water represents their tears of anguish and despair.

"Crushing labor" is endless and purposeless work7. In our own lives, we often find a similar predicament when work spills out from the five-day, forty-hour week to invade our every private moment and thought. Ironically, it is our own inner spark of G-dliness that gives us the capacity for ‘endless labor.’ This inner spark, which yearns to reveal the Divine in the material aspects of our world, often suffers from watching its own potential for ‘endless labor’ for G-d distort into an endless quest for material gain. So tonight, we take a break from the material and make room for the spiritual.

“This is the bread of affliction that our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt".8 The Matzah is introduced. Simple and humble, what does this bread of affliction have to say?

The middle Matzah (of the three) is broken in two. The LARGER PIECE, designated as the Afikoman, is wrapped and hidden away. Both steps are important. The wrapping dramatizes the way we left Egypt with our food wrapped on our shoulders. What’s with the hiding? That helps keep the children alert, because traditionally they search for the Afikoman and are rewarded for finding it. (We hope they don't eat it first.) The story of the Exodus is told over the SMALLER PIECE, which, like the poor man’s bread, is never whole, symbolizing the “bread of poverty”9 that we ate while under Egyptian slavery.

“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G-d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm".10 So, what's the story?

The story of our Exodus now begins. The Seder plate is moved aside and the second glass of wine is filled. Children ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”— and ask the Four Questions. “Why are we dipping? Why only Matzah? Why the bitter herbs? Why are we relaxing, reclined as kings?”


  • 1. Liturgy of Passover Kiddush and Prayers.
  • 2. In reference to 2008 - i.e. 1312 BCE
  • 3. The Star Spangled Banner.
  • 4. An alternative name for Passover as seen in Jewish liturgy.
  • 5. Exodus 12:26-27, Exodus 13:14-16 and Deuteronomy 6:20-21
  • 6. Exodus 1:13.
  • 7. See Rashi on Leviticus 25:43
  • 8. Haggadah - Seder Liturgy.
  • 9. Deuteronomy 16:3 as explained in Talmud Tractate Pesachim the end of page 115b.
  • 10. Deuteronomy 6:21 - recited in the Haggadah.


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Your Site

Posted by: Georgina, England on Jan 26, 2005

I am doing religious stidies as a GCSE course at my grammar school. I found you site extremely helpful, and really interesting. It really made me understand the Jewish religion and made it sound really good. Although I am not religious myself, I find this religion amazing and fascinating. I really enjoy studying it. Thank you for posting this site, i will be visiting again soon x

Holy days

Posted by: Audrey Spero, Durban, Kwazula Natal, South Africa on Apr 16, 2005

I am non-Jew with a Jewish husband. We both have very open views about each other's religions. I have found your site to be incredibly helpful in teaching me about his religious beliefs and in particular, about the various holy days and traditions. Many thanks.


Posted by: Stef, Rotherham, UK on Apr 17, 2005

i am nursery nurse in the uk and needed to find out about the passover meal to help the children in my class understand it better. i can now go through the passover meal in the role play with the childen. thank you


Posted by: Lisa Tonkin, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on May 05, 2005

Thanks for helping answer the hard questions and in assist my daughter with her project.

Boy she's going to think I am quite the Yiddisha mumma....lets keep this our secret!SHHH
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Any leavened product which is produced from wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. This includes bread, cake, cereals, crackers, biscuits, yeast, pasta and whisky. It is forbidden for a Jew to possess or consume Chametz throughout Passover.
(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.
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
The blessing recited over bread, Challah, or Matzah.
Text read at the Passover Eve feasts. The Haggadah recounts in great detail the story of our Exodus from Egypt.
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.
(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.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
A legendary prophet who lived in the 8th century BCE, and saved the Jewish religion from being corrupted by the pagan worship of Baal. He never died, he was taken to heaven alive. According to Jewish tradition, he visits every circumcision and every Passover Seder table.
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.
Bitter herbs consumed at the Passover Seder, commemorating how the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors.
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
A mixture of ground fruit and nuts, flavored with a splash of red wine. During the Passover seder, the maror (bitter herbs) are dipped into the Charoset.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
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.
The larger portion of the broken middle matzah on the seder plate. The afikoman is eaten towards the end of the seder. In many families, it is traditionally "stolen" by the children and "ransomed" by the parents with the promise of a gift.