The Seder Ritual: The Order of the Passover Seder
Passover, a holiday steeped in tradition, is one of the most important celebrations in the Jewish faith—it lasts for up to eight days, but the highlight of the holiday is always the Passover seder. The Hebrew terms below lay out the sequence of the seder. (Seder actually means "order" in Hebrew, and it refers to the 15 steps of a ritual dating back thousands of years.) The seder unfolds according to an elaborate script called the Haggadah, of which there are many modern versions, but the important points have stayed the same throughout the religion's long history. While the contents of the seder plate, which serves as the focal point of the table, have stayed the same, the plate itself has taken on more modern forms as time progresses.
Once the table is set (with the seder plate ready) and the candles are lit, the following steps take place in the order below, accompanied by sacred prayers and rituals that make this dinner so special. Then, after a number of the prayers and rituals have been completed, the feast begins; families typically enjoy holiday classics like matzoh-ball soup, brisket, and delicious flour-free desserts.
The first of four cups of wine is poured; the blessing is said to sanctify the feast day.
The hands are washed before handling the karpas.
A vegetable is dipped in salt water, then eaten.
The middle of three matzos is broken. The larger half is wrapped in a napkin and hidden for afikoman (dessert).
The second cup of wine is poured, and the story of the flight of the Jewish slaves from Egypt is told.
The hands are washed before the meal.
A prayer is said before breaking bread.
The matzo is blessed.
The bitter herb is tasted.
A "sandwich" of matzo, bitter herbs, and charoset is eaten.
The meal begins.
A child discovers the afikoman, which is then eaten.
The third cup of wine is poured, and the grace after meals is recited. An extra cup of wine is also poured for the prophet Elijah, and a child opens the door of the house to invite him in.
The fourth cup of wine is poured, followed by psalms of praise and a prayer.
The service concludes with a hymn, which is traditionally followed by playful songs for the children.