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by Rabbi Yochanan Schnall, cRc Rabbinic Coordinator, General Manufacturing and Transportation
*NOTE: Additional details for preparing for the Seder may be found in the Seder Highlights article.
Preparing for the Seder
As noted in Seder Highlights,* the Seder may not begin before nightfall (8:02 PM for 2023 in the Chicago area).1 For the first Seder night, the table should be set and prepared in advance so that the Seder can start as soon as possible.2 For the second Seder, however, one may not prepare on the first day of Yom Tov for the second day, and no distinct preparations may begin before nightfall (8:03 PM for 2023 in the Chicago area).3 (Activities that are not clearly being done for another day, such as straightening up the house, are always permitted.)
The Seder Plate
The Seder plate is a designated plate that contains the symbolic foods necessary for a Seder. A fancy, decorated one is nice but not necessary.
The zeroah and egg are symbolic of the two korbanos that we will bring on this night when the Beis Hamikdash will be rebuilt. While the egg is customarily eaten at the start of Shulchan Orech, the zeroah is not eaten during the Seder night, but rather some other time during Pesach. If a leg or wing is unavailable for the zeroah, any bone with some meat on it may be used.4
While during the year there are various customs and rules concerning whether women recite havdallah and drink the wine, during the Seder they all drink the wine. In addition, those who have the custom to recite Kiddush quietly together with the leader should recite the havdallah portion as well.5
Shehechiyanu is recited at the conclusion of Kiddush. This bracha applies to all the annual mitzvos of the Seder (matzah, marror, drinking four cups of wine, and Sippur Yetziyas Mitzrayim). As the bracha is recited, one should bear this reference in mind.6 Note that women who have the custom to recite Shehechiyanu when lighting candles do not repeat it at the Seder. They should listen to it as it is recited by someone else, and have in mind the annual Seder mitzvos.7
The wine is consumed while reclining. There is a required minimum volume of wine/grape juice that each person must consume. (See Seder Highlights* for more details.)
Hands are washed in the same manner as before eating bread but without reciting a bracha.8 Unnecessary speech or activity is forbidden until the Karpas is eaten.9
A small vegetable piece, less than the volume of a fluid ounce,10 is dipped into salt water, the standard ha’adamah bracha is recited, and the vegetable is eaten.
When reciting the ha’adamah, one must have in mind that it should also apply to the marror.11 There are different opinions whether to recline while eating Karpas, and the common practice is not to.12
Regarding which type of vegetable to use, customs vary between using a potato, celery, parsley, or radish. If one does not have a particular custom, green vegetables are the preferred choice.13
The middle matzah is removed and broken into two pieces. The larger piece is referred to as the afikomen. It is wrapped in a bag or a cloth and saved for Tzafun (Seder Step 11). The smaller piece is returned to its place between the remaining two matzos.14 Simply, the purpose of this step is to prepare for the recounting of Yetzias Mitzrayim, which is said over a piece of broken matzah.15
There is an age-old custom to hide the a komen.16 In some homes, children “snatch” 17 it and then hide it; in others the parents hide it, and the children try to find it. If no children are at the S eder, the leader should merely “hide” the afikomen by placing it inside or under something else.
As elaborated on in Seder Highlights,* this step is the fulfillment of the mitzvah Midioraisa of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim. The texts are read while in an upright position,18 with a full cup of wine in front of each participant.19
Look for the cues in the haggadah: At the beginning, the entire Seder plate is removed, at some points, all in attendance raise their cups of wine, and at others, the matzos are lifted or covered.
Near the beginning of Maggid are the Four Questions. These are asked by a child. If no child is present, they are asked by an adult.20 The Ten Plagues are also mentioned in Maggid. When each one is recited, a small bit of wine is removed from the wine cup. Some have the custom to do this with the index finger,21 and others pour a little from the cup.22 After they are completed, the cups are refilled with fresh wine before continuing.23
Maggid concludes with a long bracha followed by the usual bracha over wine.24 The second of the Four Cups is then consumed while reclining.
All wash their hands as before eating bread. The usual bracha “al netilas yadayim” is recited.25
The matzah is eaten. A minimum volume must be eaten in order to fulfill the mitzvah. (See Seder Highlights* for more details.)
The leader makes two brachos on behalf of everyone present. The first one, “hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz”, is recited while holding all three matzos (the two whole ones with the broken one in between them). The bottom matzah is released, and the second bracha, “al achilas matzah”, is recited over the remaining two.26
A small piece from each of the two matzos is given to every participant. The leader should retain the required amount from these matzos for him/herself – eating about half of the required amount from each one.27 (All other participants usually need to supplement their small pieces with additional matzah in order to have the required amount.)
At the Seder, matzah is not dipped in salt,28 and it is eaten while reclining.29 Once the brach0s over matzah have been recited, unnecessary interruption should be avoided until after Korech (Seder Step 9).30
The marror is dipped into charoses, and a specific bracha is recited. The marror is then eaten while seated in an upright position.31
A statement in the haggadah is recited, and matzah and marror are eaten in the same mouthful. According to one opinion in the Mishnah, this was – and will be – the manner of eating the Korban Pesach.32
The single, remaining matzah the leader has is used for Korech.33 Pieces of it are broken off and distributed to all participants. There are different opinions as to whether it is dipped into charoses,34 and it is eaten while reclining.35 Note that since each person must have the required amount of matzah and marror (See Seder Highlights*), it is likely that the pieces received from the leader will need to be supplemented.
The main meal is eaten – ideally while reclining.36 A common custom is to begin the meal with eating the egg from the Seder plate.37
It is important not to overeat, as the afikomen (Seder Step 11) must be eaten with some appetite.38
The afikomen that had been hidden since Yachatz (Seder Step 4) is retrieved at this step. It is eaten for “dessert” to commemorate the Korban Pesach that was also eaten at the end of the meal.39 (See Seder Highlights* for details pertaining to the matzah.) If the afikomen matzah from Yachatz is unavailable or insufficient, any matzah may be used.
The afikomen is eaten while reclining.40 Since the afikomen is eaten in remembrance of the Korban Pesach, the following laws pertaining to the sacrifice are applied to it as well:
Birchas Hamazon is recited over a full cup of wine,46 and the cups are rinsed out and refilled in anticipation.47 If there is a mezuman, it is customary for the homeowner to lead it.48 Following Birchas Hamazon, the bracha over wine is recited, and the third of the Four Cups is drunk while reclining.
At the conclusion of Birchas Hamazon, a cup is poured in honor of Eliyahu Hanavi,49 the front door is opened, and a specific paragraph from the haggadah is recited.50 The door is then closed, and the Seder resumes with the next step.
Specific psalms of thanksgiving to Hashem are recited to acknowledge all that He has done and continues to do for us. While Hallel is recited, every participant must have a full cup of wine in front of him or her.51 It is best to have at least three people – including women and children52 – recite the Hallel together53. When reciting “hodu lashem ki tov…” and “ana Hashem…” one person leads, and the others respond, as it is done at shul.54
Note that Ashkenaz and Sephard versions of the haggadah conclude this Seder Step differently, so be sure to use a haggadah that follows your custom! At its conclusion, the bracha over wine is recited and the fourth cup is drunk while reclining.55
The Seder concludes with the hope that we have done our obligation properly and that next year we will observe Pesach in Yerushalayim.
After the Seder
After the Seder, one continues to discuss Yetziyas Mitzrayim until going to sleep.56 Many people also have the custom to recite the Book of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs).57
*Additional details for preparing for the Seder may be found in the Seder Highlights article, located in the full cRc Pesach Guide 2023.
1 Iggros Moshe volume 4 end of #62
2 Shulchan Aruch 472:1, Regarding the second Seder night, no preparations may begin until 50 minutes after sunset, see Shulchan Aruch 503:1
3 Shulchan Aruch 503:1, Mishnah Berurah ad loc.
4 Mishnah Berurah 473:27
5 See Mishnah Berurah Mahaduras Dirshu (hachadash) 473:1 note 7
6 See Kol Dodi Laws of the Seder Ch. 7 p. 5
7 See Iggros Moshe IV #101
8 Shulchan Aruch 473:6
9 See Mishnah Berurah Mahaduras Dirshu (hachadash) 473:51 note 63
10 Shulchan Aruch 473:6
11 Mishnah Berurah 473:55
12 Kol Dodi Laws of the Seder 10:8
13 See Kol Dodi Laws of the Seder Ch. 9 p. 2
14 Shulchan Aruch 473:6
15 Shulchan Aruch Harav 473:36
16 Chok Yaakov 472:2
17 See Halichos Shlomo Hilchos Pesach Orchos Halacha, Ch. 9, note 210
18 Mishnah Berurah 473:71
19 Rambam Chometz U’ Matzah 7:10
20 Shulchan Aruch 473:7
21 Mishnah Berurah 473:74
22 Sha’ar Hatzion 473:81
23 Kol Dodi Laws of the Seder Ch. 11 p. 12
24 Rema 474:1
25 Shulchan Aruch 475:1
26 Shulchan Aruch 475:1 Rema 475:7
27 Mishnah Berurah 475:9, for volumes see Kol Dodi, Laws of the Seder, Ch. 14 p. 11
28 Rema 475:1
29 Shulchan Aruch 475:1.
30 Shulchan Aruch 475:1
31 Shulchan Aruch 475:1
32 Talmud Bavli Pesachim 115
33 Shulchan Aruch 475:1, Rema 475:7
34 Shulchan Aruch 475:1 Mishnah Berurah ad loc. 19
35 Shulchan Aruch 475:1
36 Rema 472:7
37 Rema 476:2
38 Rema 476:1
39 Shulchan Aruch 477:1
40 Shulchan Aruch 477:1
41 Shulchan Aruch 478:1
42 Kol Dodi Laws of the Seder Ch. 18 p. 9
43 Mishnah Berurah 478:1
44 Mishnah Berurah 491:1
45 Mishnah Berurah 478:4
46 Shulchan Aruch 479:1
47 Mishnah Berurah 479:1
48 Rema 479:1
49 Mishnah Berurah 480:10
50 Rema 480:1
51 Shulchan Aruch 480:1
52 Mishnah Berurah 179:9
53 Mishnah Berurah 179:9
54 Mishnah Berurah 179:9 (A child may be the leader as well – Rema 179)
55 Shulchan Aruch 480:1
56 Shulchan Aruch 481:1
57 Chayei Adam Ch. 130 p.19:16