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An Overview of the Passover Seder

Overview of the Seder -

The Feast of our Freedom

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The Hebrew word seder (סֵדֶר) means "arrangement" or "order," and refers to an orchestrated ceremony or liturgy with a number of distinct phases or steps. For instance, a Shabbat Seder will define liturgy for a Shabbat ceremony, whereas a Passover Seder will define liturgy for observing a Passover ceremony.

Moshe Dadon Art, Safed Israel

A Passover Seder also refers to a ceremonial meal that includes symbolic foods and the reciting of the story of Passover known as the Haggadah (which means the "telling"). The Seder Plate (קְעָרָה) is the central object of the Passover table. The seder plate has six dishes around a bowl of salt water where each dish contains a food that is used while telling the story of Passover during the reading of the Haggadah. These foods include:

A Seder Plate
  1. Beitzah - A roasted egg
  2. Karpas - Parsley (or vegetable)
  3. Ze'roa - Roasted shank bone
  4. Charoset - Chopped apples and nuts
  5. Maror - Bitter herb (horseradish)
  6. Chazeret - Romaine lettuce

In addition to these ceremonial eaten foods, the Seder includes a kosher meal that is eaten later in the ceremony.

Preparing for a Passover Seder involves cleansing your house of all chametz, cooking a kosher meal for the guests, and setting the seder table with special Passover dishes (it is customary to use your most beautiful silver, dishes and tableware for Passover).
For the Seder table you will (minimally) need the following items:

  • Holiday Candles
  • Kosher wine and wine cups for each person
  • Matzah - 3 sheets for use with the Afikomen ceremony
  • A Seder Plate with all the necessary items (see list above)
  • A wine cup for Elijah (not usually included by Messianic Jews)
  • Afikomen bag (matzah tosh)
  • Salt water for dipping
  • A hand washing basin and towels for washing
  • A Haggadah for each person
  • A "kittel" (white robe) for the seder leader
  • Pillows (for reclining)
  • A Bible (for reading selected verses)


The Seder itself starts after the woman of the house performs the candle lighting blessing. The father of the house then leads the other guests through the meal, reciting the various blessings and reading from the Haggadah. Others at the table, including children, are involved in the ceremony. During the Seder, the whole household takes on the sanctity of the Temple where the "sacrifice" becomes the seder meal.

Four cups of wines are drunk during the Passover Seder, remembering the four promises of God given to Moses (in Exodus 6:6-7):

  1. I will bring you out (Cup of Sanctification)
  2. I will free you (Cup of Deliverance)
  3. I will redeem you (Cup of Redemption)
  4. I will take you as my own people (Cup of Restoration)

The Parts of the Passover Seder

The traditional seder contains 14 separate parts (or 15, if you count the Candle Lighting Ceremony that begins the celebration):

0

 

Nerot

Lighting the Candles

 

 

Miriam's Cup

Honoring Women

1

 

Kadesh

Sanctifying the wine

2

 

Ur'chatz

Washing the hands

3

 

Karpas

Dipping the vegetables

4

 

Yachatz

Breaking the Matzah

5

 

Maggid

Telling the Story

6

 

Rachtzah

Netilat Yadayim

7

Motzi Matzah

Eating Matzah

8

Maror

Eating the bitter herb

9

 

Korech

Eating the Hillel Sandwich

10

Shulchan Orech

Eating the Meal

11

 

Tzafun

Eating the Afikomen

12

 

Barech

Blessing after the meal

13

Hallel

Songs of Praise

14

 

Nirtzah

Conclusion of the Seder

Note: Throughout the Passover Seder presentation here, you can click on the following diagram to learn more about each step:

Passover Seder Steps

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