The Order of the Passover Seder

The word Seder means order, and the Passover Seder has 14 steps.  They are as follows:

  1. Kadesh: We begin the Seder with a blessing over the first cup of wine, and blessings for the Seder.
  2. Urchatz: Our second step is to wash our hands without a blessing.  This represents our freedom, because slaves were unable to wash whenever they wished.
  3. Carpas: Our third step is to take a spring vegetable, like parsley, celery, or a potato and dip it in salt water.  We then say a blessing and eat it.  The vegetable represents the spring, because Passover is also called Chag Ha’Aviv, the Spring Holiday.  The salt water represents the tears of the Israelites as they experienced slavery.
  4. Yachatz: Our fourth step is to take the middle matzah from the Seder Plate and break it in half.  We call the larger of the two halves the Afikoman, and we hide it.  The children then must either find or steal the Afikoman and ransom it for a prize, because the Seder cannot end without it.  Afikoman means dessert, and it should be the last thing we eat at the Seder.
  5. Maggid: The fifth step is to retell the story of the Exodus.  The readings include the youngest child reciting the 4 questions (which the rest of the readings answer), the story of the 4 children, and explanations of the symbols of the Seder.  This is the longest section of the Seder.
  6. Rachtza: For the sixth step, we wash our hands again, this time with the blessing, in preparation for the meal.
  7. Motzi-Matzah: The seventh step is to say the traditional blessing over bread, which begins the meal, and an additional blessing because we are eating Matzah. 
  8. Maror: The eighth step is to eat Maror, bitter herbs, usually horseradish.  The bitterness of the maror represents the bitter life of a slave.
  9. Korech: For the ninth step, we follow the tradition of Rabbi Hillel, and make a sandwich made of matzah, maror, and charoset (a sweet mixture of fruit, nuts, wine, and spices, meant to mimic mortar for bricklaying – the work the Israelites did as slaves).
  10. Shulchan Orech: Step ten, Shulchan Orech, the festive table – finally time to eat dinner!
  11. Tzafun: Step eleven, time for dessert.  We search for the Afikoman, putting both halves of the middle matzah back together.  There are many interpretations of this, one popular one being that it represents the unity of the Jewish people.  Everyone eats a piece of the Afikoman, and it is to be the last thing eaten during the Seder.
  12. Barech: For step twelve, we recite birkat hamazon, the blessings after a meal, thanking God for our food.  We also open the door for Elijah the prophet.  Tradition holds that he will herald in the messianic era, a time of true peace and freedom.
  13. Hallel: We recite Hallel, psalms of praise, for step thirteen, praising all the great things God has done for us, and thanking God for our freedom.
  14. Nirtzah: The last step of the Seder is for us to declare we have done everything according to tradition, wish everyone a good holiday, and hope that next year we will celebrate “in Jerusalem” (depending on personal belief, this can be a literal hope for making Aliyah to Israel in the future, and celebrating Passover in the holy land, or, it can mean a hope that the messianic era will arrive before we next celebrate Passover).

 

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