Passover Seder (continued...)
6. Rachatzah - Washing the Hands
Everyone washes his or her hands in preparation for the festive meal.
7. Motsi - Blessing the Matza
The matza is blesse, with the blessing for bread and then eaten..
8. Matzah - Unleavened Bread
Jews eat matza (unleavened bread) instead of chametz (leavened food) on Passover ,for two reasons:
- On the morning of the Exodus, the Jews ate unleavened bread as they did not have time to let their bread rise in their hurry to leave Egypt.
- On the night before the Exodus, the Jews ate unleavened bread because the simple and humble matzah, compared to the puffed up and arrogant chametz, brought them closer to God.
9. Maror - Bitter Herbs
The bitter herb, often horseradish is used, is dipped in charoset. Charoste is a paste made up of ground nuts, apples, wine and spices. It is said to resemble the cement the Israelites used to build with, when they were slaves in Egypt. The bitter herbs are a reminder of the bitterness that the Israelites suffered as slaves in Egypt.
10. Korech - Sandwich
A sandwich is made from 2 pieces of matza and a piece or maror as was done on Passover during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Some also put charoset in the sandwich. Some say that combining the sweet charoset with the bitter herbs is symbolic of God's loving-kindness, which dulled the bitterness of the slavery.
11. Shulchan Orech - The Meal
Some families start the Passover meal with a boiled egg dipped in saltwater. There are several explanations for this custom. Some say it was adopted from the Romans who started their meals with an hors d'oeuvres. Some say the egg is symbolic of spring. Some say the egg replaces the special festival sacrifice, which can no longer be offered since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. And the salt water symbolizes tears, for the destruction of the Temple.
12. Tzafoon - Afikomen
The Afikomen (the half matza put aside earlier). It is customary to hide this piece of matza and to give a prize to the child who finds it. This helps to keep the children interested in the Seder until the end.
The Afikomen represents the Paschal lamb. The Paschal lamb was traditionally the last thing eaten at the Seder so that one would remember its taste. Therefore, the Afikomen should be the last bite everyone takes during the Seder.
13. Barech - Bless
The third cup of wine in blessed. Grace after meals is recited and the third cup of wine is drunk.
Then a cup of wine is poured for The Prophet Elijah. Someone from the Seder table, usually a child, opens the door of the house to invite in Elijah. It is hoped that Elijah will come to announce the arrival of the Messiah.
14. Hallel - Praise
Finally, the fourth cup of wine is poured and Hallel (the psalms of praise) are sung or read. Following Hallel the wine is blessed again and drunk.
There are traditional, fun songs at the end of the Seder service. They are intended to hold the attention of children until the very end of the service.
Nirtzeh marks the end of the Seder with the words:
Ended is the Passover Seder, according to custom, statute and law. As we were worthy to celebrate it this year, so may we perform it in future years? Oh pure one in heaven above, restore the congregation of Israel in your love. Speedily lead your people to Zion in joy. Next year in Jerusalem!
In Judaism, Jerusalem is a metaphor for a perfect world. Jews face Jerusalem when they pray, and every synagogue in the world faces Jerusalem. By saying "Next Year in Jerusalem" at the end of the Seder, it is a request to God of the hope to be redeemed and live in a perfect world. Practicing Jews believe that the Seder is about commemorating God's redemption of the Israelites and moving closer to one's own redemption.