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Passover Seder

If you have the time and want more detailed information about the Passover Seder, please go to our main Passover Seder web page on our main Passover website.

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What is the Passover Seder?

The Passover Seder is the festive meal celebrated on the first two nights of the Passover holiday for Jews who celebrate Passover for 8 days. For Jews who celebrate Passover for 7 days, the Passover Seder is celebrated only on the first night of the Passover holiday.

What does the Passover Seder" mean?

The word "Seder" means "order" in Hebrew. The Passover Seder is a strict "order" of 15 steps that are performed at different points in the Passover Seder meal. These 15 steps were established by the ancient rabbis in the Talmudic period who lived from about the beginning of the Common Era to about 200 C.E.

Why celebrate the Passover Seder?

Simply put, it is a commandment from G-d as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible to observe the time that G-d helped the Hebrews to be taken out of slavery in Egypt. The Passover Seder is a reflection of that observance. The Passover Seder is a ritual meal that is a symbolic fusion of many ancient practices performed by Middle Eastern peoples, including the Hebrews. Each food in the Passover Seder represents, or symbolizes many different concepts and events that took place in the Passover story of the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt, but at the same time there are also symbolisms from other ancient, pre-Passover of Egypt practices performed by the Hebrews and many other ancient peoples of the Middle East. There are also spiritual symbolisms connected with each Passover Seder food on top of the concepts and events that took place in the Passover of Egypt story.

What are Passover Seder symbolic foods?

The Passover Seder has many symbolic foods. Unleavened bread called "matzah" in Hebrew is eaten throughout the Passover holiday. The reason is that matzah was the unleavened bread that resulted when the Hebrews did not have enough time to bake leavened bread in the evening just before they fled Egypt and so matzah came to symbolize the "bread of affliction" as well as "poor man's bread", among many other symbolisms. Other foods, mostly eaten at the festive meal known as the Passover Seder, include "Beitzah", meaning a hard-boiled or roasted egg in Hebrew, symbolizing Springtime when the Passover story took place; "Mei Melach", meaning "salt-water" in Hebrew. Salt-water is used for the eggs that symbolize the tears shed by the Hebrews while in slavery in Egypt; Karpas, which is a green vegetable, usually a bitter green vegetable, also symbolizing the tears and sweat experienced by the Hebrews as they toiled as slaves in Egypt. A second bitter vegetable is also eaten by some families and it is called "chazeret" in Hebrew. It is always a different bitter herb from the Karpas; "Zeroh", meaning "wing" or "arm" in Hebrew, which is usually a roasted shank bone from a chicken that symbolizes the lamb that was sacrificed for the ancient festival called the "Pesach" festival which actually, predated the Passover story and was practiced by many ancient peoples, including the Hebrews. "Marror" is another symbolic food of Passover and it is bitter herbs. It collectively represents the hardships experienced by the Hebrews while enslaved in Egypt. "Charoset" is another food that is eaten during the Passover Seder and in its most basic form is a mixture of fruits, nuts, honey, cinnamon, and wine, however different ingredients are added into the mix depending on the family, and/or customs of Jews from different countries. Charoset symbolizes the bricks and mortar used by the Hebrews in building store-houses and cities for the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. Some scholars believe the word "Charoset" either means or comes from the word "clay" in Hebrew. Finally, there is "Yayin", meaning "wine" in Hebrew, and wine is used for and symbolizes this joyous occasion when we celebrate being physically free from slavery in Egypt, since it is commanded by G-d that in every generation, a Jewish person must celebrate being free as if he or she was just released from slavery in Egypt.

Who leads the Passover Seder?

The Passover Seder is led either by a chosen person or by all participants at the Passover Seder table. How the Passover Seder is led depends on the traditions and customs of the family, group, organization, or whoever is organizing and hosting the Passover Seder.

Where is the Passover Seder held?

The Passover Seder is traditionally held in one's home, but Passover Seders have also been hosted and celebrated in a synagogue or Jewish temple, at a place of business, or even in a restaurant!

When is the Passover Seder held?

We mentioned this already, but I'll reiterate it again: the Passover Seder is held on the first two evenings of the Passover holiday for Jews who celebrate Passover for eight days, and only on the first evening of the Passover holiday for Jews who celebrate Passover for seven days. Most Jews outside of Israel celebrate Passover for eight days, and almost all Jews celebrate Passover for seven days in Israel, which was the original amount of days that Passover was celebrated. The reason for this difference is that in ancient times, Jews outside of Israel did not hear news from Israel for a period of time, and so news about the religious observance times in the Jewish calendar reached Jews outside of Israel at a later date. So this problem resulted in the rabbis in Israel adding an extra day of observance for the Passover holiday for Jews who lived outside of Israel to compensate for the differences in time.

How is the Passover Seder celebrated?

The Passover Seder is usually celebrated by many people sitting around a table. In fact, it is mentioned that "all who are hungry are invited to eat" at the Passover Seder table, for this is a joyous occasion about celebrating physical freedom from bondage. At the same time, it is also a sad occasion in that we are recalling our slavery in Egypt and the hardships our ancestors faced and dealt with. But as we move throught he Passover Seder, we move from past recollections to the present to future hopes that freedom, peace, and prosperity will arrive for all humanity when the Messiah arrives to usher in the age of redemption.

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