When were the Passover Seder customs in their present form formalized?
As a terminus post quem I think we can surely take 70 CE when the Second Temple was destroyed since parts of the Seder wistfully invoke the memory of the Temple rituals.
However, I'm pretty sure the ritual took some time to codify, by analogy with the Mishnah and later religious law books.
This is a tricky question to answer! Based solely on textual evidence, the core component of the Passover seder - the haggadah - is not written out in full until the siddur of Rav Saadiah Gaon in the 10th century, and it certainly undergoes some modification since then. Other ancient versions of the haggadah can be found in the Machzor Vitry (11th century, Rhineland) and Maimonides' Mishne Torah (12th century, Egypt), amongst other places.
These haggadot are based upon the written traditions recorded in the Talmud, but are also indicative of evolving practical customs - such customs being impossible to date. The printed Talmudic material is all found in Tractate Pesachim, and comprises a commentary on that tractate in the Mishna. (The Mishnaic material achieved its final form at the beginning of the 3rd century.)
If you are interested, the relevant material is found in the tenth chapter of Pesachim in the Mishna. I have not checked the following translation, so cannot vouch for it, but here is that entire chapter as a PDF. If you would like to see this material as codified by Maimonides, it can be found in his Laws of Leavened and Unleavened Bread (Hilkhot Chametz uMatzah), chapter 8. This is a reliable translation. The following chapter, chapter 9, contains his version of the haggadah.
You might notice that I still haven't actually answered your question! Some time between the compilation of the Mishna and the formation of Rav Saadiah Gaon's siddur, we have the composition of the haggadah as we know it. It is comprised of a patchwork of different rabbinic sources - a type of midrash, in its genre. So far as the rest of the ritual is concerned, some of that is clearly pre-mishnaic (since it is recorded in the Mishna), while some of it is Talmudic. Some parts of the seder - such as the singing of certain songs - are later still. (The Aramaic song, Chad Gadya, is actually based on a German folk song, for example, and is clearly written at such a time as Aramaic was not spoken.)
If you would like to read more, I would recommend the introduction to Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's Haggadah and History.
Respectfully, I doubt that your question can be easily answered. Alas, my reply does not fit into a comment, so here you go.
The Jewish tradition is alive in Jewish homes; it keeps evolving as we speak. Grab a Chabad edition of Haggadah Shel Pesach and you will find there many additions and elaborations by various Hassidic authorities over the last 2 centuries.
If you limit your question to the 15 items recited in the beginning (Berach… Nirtza), then chances are some of them are relatively recent (few centuries), since they have no ritual meaning other than to arise curiosity in kids and inspire them to ask questions (BTW, the 4 questions were 3 questions 1000 years ago).
The Maggid part is almost verbatim from the Gemorah, so it is about 1500 years old.
PS. You might have more luck on Mi Yodea.
Barry Lewis: A 3,000-year-old tradition that resonates today
Saturday is the first night of Passover. No other holiday on the Jewish calendar shouts family time louder than Passover.
It&rsquos when friends and family gather in homes and partake in religious rituals thousands of years old. It&rsquos the retelling of the story of an enslaved people who were freed from bondage and then made their way through the desert to arrive in the Promised Land.
On the first night of Passover, it&rsquos customary to recite the 10 plagues that took place that enabled Moses to lead the Israelites to their freedom. That journey is commemorated by breaking unleavened bread, better known as matzo, and for Jews to suffer &ndash I mean enjoy &ndash many of the same foods that satisfied the taste buds of our ancestors. Nothing like eating a bland, cracker-like flatbread made out of flour and water to make you appreciate freedom. Amazing what you think tastes good when you&rsquore walking in the desert for 40 years. That was then.
Only, during this holiday we are still bound to eat like our ancestors. And as a result, after about a week we&rsquore left pretty bound from eating lots of matzo: Plain. Onion. Egg. Egg and onion. Slightly salted. Whole wheat. Chocolate covered. Even gluten-free. With it we make matzo ball soup, matzo cake, matzo brei, matzo pie, matzo pizza, matzo lasagna, matzo nachos, matzo s&rsquomores. Endless.
It&rsquos also when the youngest at the Passover Seder table can question the elders on why this night is different from all other nights. I think it would be a good idea this year to leave some time for the elders to explain to the youngest and anyone else willing to listen, why this past year has been different than any other year in anyone&rsquos life.
This Passover again presents several more questions for those around the Seder table to ponder, given that we&rsquore in the midst of our own plague: Just how, exactly, will we take this metaphorical journey from a sense of slavery to freedom? How can we be free when we are not free to move about in the world? How do we remain present and focused on the holiday and its message while struggling and suffering from this pandemic?
After all, the traditional understanding of being freed from bondage might not feel accurate this year. In fact, we might feel a celebration of freedom to be incongruous, as so many people are staying in their homes, hesitant to travel, still isolated from those they love and fearful to be in a large group that gathers around a Passover Seder table.
But by celebrating Passover &mdash even if it&rsquos via Zoom or again just a pared-down version with our immediate families at home &mdash we are able to consider the significant challenges and traumas experienced by our ancestors over the millennia. The Seder helps us link ourselves to the chain of our people, a chain that has survived for thousands of years.
In the days leading up to Passover my mom would tape up the cupboards, bring out the special holiday dishes and silverware and get rid of our chametz &ndash any foods with leavening agents like cake, cookies, pasta, bread &ndash it&rsquos a long list. The process was tedious and tiresome, but the ritual was a way to connect with our heritage. This year, along with getting rid of the &ldquobad&rdquo food we might consider purging our negative thoughts and remind ourselves that we have survived and will continue to survive.
Our lives will be forever changed by this pandemic. But like our ancestors, we will be stronger, wiser and more resilient.
Why is Passover celebrated?
Passover commemorates the Biblical story of Exodus &mdash where God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The celebration of Passover is prescribed in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament (in Judaism, the first five books of Moses are called the Torah). The holiday is often celebrated for eight days (seven in Israel), and incorporates themes of springtime, a Jewish homeland, family, remembrance of Jewish history, social justice and freedom &mdash including recognizing those who are still being oppressed today. All of these aspects are discussed, if not symbolically represented, during the Passover seder.
Whether or not the Exodus actually happened remains unclear, and it continues to be a mystery that still confounds biblical scholars and archeologists alike.
Elon Gilad, who writes about history and language, told Haaretz that Passover traditions are actually the result of merging of two ancient festivals celebrating spring, one of nomadic origin and one from villages.
“Not only does our modern Seder wildly diverge from the Passover of old: during antiquity itself the holiday underwent radical changes,” Gilad writes.
A brief history of Passover, which honors resilience amid adversity
On this important holiday, Jews around the world commemorate the Israelites' liberation from enslavement in ancient Egypt.
As the days brighten and spring kicks into full swing, Jews all over the world prepare for Passover, a weeklong holiday that is one of Judaism’s most widely celebrated and most important observances. Also known by its Hebrew name Pesach, Passover combines millennia of religious traditions—and it’s about much more than matzoh and gefilte fish.
The story of Passover can be found in the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, which relates the enslavement of the Israelites and their subsequent escape from ancient Egypt.
Fearing that the Israelites will outnumber his people, the Egyptian Pharaoh enslaves them and orders every newly born Jewish son murdered. One son is Moses, whose birth has been foretold as the savior of the Israelites. He is saved and raised by the pharaoh’s daughter.
In adulthood, God speaks to Moses, urging him to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. But the pharaoh refuses. In return, God brings ten consecutive plagues down on Egypt (think: pestilence, swarms of locusts, and water turning to blood), but spares the Israelites. (Who was the Egyptian Pharaoh who challenged Moses?)
During the final plague, an avenging angel goes door to door in Egypt, smiting every household’s firstborn son. God has other plans for the Israelites, instructing Moses to tell them to slaughter a lamb, then brush its blood on the sides and tops of their doorframes so that the avenging angel will “pass over.” Then they are to eat the sacrificial lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened—without yeast—bread. This is the last straw for Pharaoh, who frees the Israelites and banishes them from Egypt.
Modern Passover celebrations commemorate and even reenact many of the biblical events. The seder (“order”), the ritual meal that is the centerpiece of Passover celebrations, incorporates foods that represent elements of the story. Bitter herbs (often lettuce and horseradish) stand for the bitterness of slavery. A roasted shank bone commemorates the sacrificial lamb. An egg has multiple interpretations: Some hold that it stands for new life, and others see it as standing for the Jewish people’s mourning over the struggles that awaited them in exile. Vegetables are dipped into saltwater representing the tears of the enslaved Israelites. Haroset, a sweet paste made of apples, wine, and walnuts or dried fruits, represents the mortar the enslaved Israelites used to build Egypt’s store cities.
During a traditional seder, participants eat unleavened bread, or matzoh, three times, and drink wine four times. They read from a Haggadah, a guide to the rite, hear the story of Passover, and answer four questions about the purpose of their meal. Children get involved, too, and search for an afikomen, a piece of broken matzoh, that has been hidden in the home. Every seder is different, and is governed by community and family traditions. (This is the crummy history of matzoh.)
Passover observances vary in and outside of Israel. The holiday lasts one week in Israel and eight days in the rest of the world, in commemoration of the week in which the Israelites were pursued by the Egyptians as they went into exile. During those days, many Jews refrain from eating leavened bread some also abstain from work during the last two days of Passover and attend special services before and during Passover week. Orthodox and Conservative Jews outside of Israel participate in two seders Reform Jews and those inside Israel only celebrate one. (See inside an ancient Passover tradition according to biblical law.)
The Passover celebration underscores powerful themes of strength, hope, and triumph over adversity and anti-Semitism. But this year, seders will take place beneath the shadow of a pandemic. In the face of social distancing and closed synagogues, people will be forced to improvise—and the feast of resistance and renewal will take on even more significance as people celebrate apart.
In the 17th century, as the Spanish Inquisition was taking place, about 300 Jewish families from Spain and Portugal fled to the northeastern Brazilian port of Recife. More arrived after World War I in the 1920s, when they were fleeing from Belarus, where many were being persecuted and forcibly drafted into the Bolshevik army. That’s why many of the Jewish people living in the city today &mdash a community that has somewhere under 2,000 members (a 2005 estimate says 1,200) &mdash eat a mostly Russian-inflected Jewish cuisine.
One resident told Nathan that for Passover she serves a traditional Eastern-European gefilte fish, but made from local fish&mdash snapper, hake, grouper and whiting, instead of carp, whitefish and pike. Horseradish root isn’t found in the country, so she makes a version of it out of wasabi powder, beets, sugar, salt and vinegar for the Seder’s bitter herb.
Kochi (or Cochin) is a port city on India’s southwest coast with a Jewish population that dates back to 1341 C.E., when Jewish spice merchants migrated there from Iraq and then Spain after the Inquisition.
Nathan visited Queenie Halluega, whom she describes as the “doyenne” of the city’s very small remaining Jewish population. Hallegua makes Passover wine from boiled raisins blended with water, and she describes the traditional means of making Passover-friendly food using ingredients found in India: “Pesach work began in January when we bought rice, cleaned and washed it, pounding some into rice flour,” quoted saying in the book. “We also cleaned chilies, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, and cardamom and set aside some for Passover.”
To make haroset, dates were boiled down in a copper cauldron into a jam known as duvo (Iraqi Jews call it halak), which is eaten with chopped cashews, walnuts or almonds.
Brazilian-Belarusian Grouper with Wine, Cilantro, and Oregano
yield: 6 to 8 servings
3 pounds (about 1 1/3 kilos) grouper, striped bass, red snapper, pollock, whiting, or sea bream fillets
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
2 cups (470 ml) dry white wine
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 cup chopped cilantro (from about 1 bunch), divided
¼ cup fresh chopped or tablespoon dried crumbled Mexican oregano
½ green bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
¼ cup snipped chives
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the fillets in a large Pyrex dish or other baking pan. With a mortar and pestle or a small food processor fitted with a steel blade, blend together the garlic, salt, and pepper, and spread on fish.
- Place the bay leaves over the fish. Pour enough wine and olive oil over the fish to almost cover it, then sprinkle ½ cup of the cilantro and the oregano on top. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, spooning pan juices over the fish two or three times. Cool to lukewarm.
- Remove the bay leaves and mix the remaining cilantro with the green pepper, tomato, and chives. Sprinkle over the fish and serve.
Rickshaw Rebbetzin&rsquos Thatte Idli, Indian Steamed Rice Dumplings with Nuts and Raisins
yield: about 8 dumplings
1 cup (55 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut, fresh or dried
10 to 15 raisins
1 tablespoon grated jaggery, piloncillo, or brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup (140 grams) white rice flour
- Pulse the coconut, almonds, pistachios, raisins, cashews, and jaggery or other sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Remove and set aside.
- Bring 1 cup (235 ml) of water and 1&frasl2 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the rice flour with the remaining 1&frasl2 teaspoon salt. Remove from the heat and mix until the water is totally absorbed. Spoon the rice flour mixture into the food processor and pulse until thoroughly mixed and thick.
- Fill a large sauté pan with about 1 inch of water. Put a bamboo steamer in the pan and line the steamer with a moist paper towel. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat.
- Fill a small bowl with cold water, then moisten your hands in the water. Scoop up a small, walnut-size clump of the rice flour dough and form into a flat disc, just smaller than your palm. Put about 1 tablespoon of the filling into the center of the disc. Pinch closed, either into a half-moon shape or by folding the sides on top of the filling so they meet in the middle. With wet hands, smooth out the sides. The result will look somewhat like a dumpling. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
- Put the dumplings in the steamer, leaving some space between them, as they will expand. Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove and serve warm.
Note: You can substitute haroset during Passover or even chopped trail mix for the filling. If you don&rsquot have a bamboo steamer, you can use a regular steamer or anything heatproof with holes in the bottom to set over the simmering water.
Recipes excerpted from KING SOLOMON&rsquoS TABLE by Joan Nathan. Copyright © 2017 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Passover Seder Meal History - Origin of the Passover Celebration
Note: Regarding all dates on this Passover Seder Meal web page, see the footnote near the bottom of this web page.
Passover Seder Meal History - Origin of the Passover Celebration - the following discussion describes the origin of the Passover celebration and how the Passover Seder meal was celebrated from pre-Passover of Egypt times until the Roman period in Israel. To read about the contemporary version of how the Passover Seder is celebrated, head on over to our Passover Seder web page. To read about the origin of the Passover Haggadah, which is the "instruction manual" for the contemporary Passover Seder, and about the origin of the contemporary Passover Seder, which began to develop in Roman times in Israel, steer over to the section in our Passover Haggadah web page that describes the Origin of the Passover Haggadah.
Passover as we know it today is a commemoration of the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt. However, the origin of how the Passover celebration came to be in its present form is a result of the adoption and transfer of two earlier customs - each borrowed from other neighbouring cultures by the Hebrews - onto specific events of the first Passover, or the "Passover of Egypt". What were these two customs? The first custom was practiced by early nomadic breeders of sheep and goats and was a pastoral feast called the "Passover" that had two parts: (1) Early nomadic sheep and goat breeders sacrificed and ate a paschal lamb in order to secure protection from their G-ds for a safe journey just before they were about to migrate from their desert winter pastures for cultivated areas. This sacrificial event was also known as the "Passover", and the lamb itself was also known as the "Passover" (2) The second part of the first custom of the nomadic sheep and goat breeders that was adopted by the Hebrews was the practice of spreading the doorposts and lintel ("beam" in Hebrew) of their tents (and later their households) with the blood of the sacrificed lamb, which was, as mentioned, known as the "Passover". The second custom that the Hebrews adopted was most likely practiced by the Canaanites and was an agricultural feast that consisted of the eating of unleavened bread to celebrate the start of the grain harvest season. What was the order of how these two customs were celebrated? The "Passover" was the first custom of these two customs to be celebrated, and was followed the next day by the feast of the unleavened bread, which was observed for 6 days. Now, regarding the first part of the first custom, how was this sacrificial event first practiced by the nomadic breeders and later by the Hebrews connected with the Passover of Egypt? The answer is that the nomadic breeders' act of migrating from the desert pastures to cultivated areas was similar to the Hebrews' act of migrating from Egypt to the Sinai desert, and so it was easy for the Hebrews to connect the nomadic breeders' migration event to the Passover of Egypt migration event. The sacrifice of a lamb, in which the lamb itself was called the "Passover", became associated with the Exodus from Egypt as a result, and over time, was "historicized" and "traditionalized" into the Hebrew and Jewish culture, respectively. Regarding the second part of the first custom, how did the Hebrews connect the spreading of the doorposts and lintel with blood with the events of the Passover of Egypt? Since the spreading of the lamb's blood on the doorposts and lintel was associated with the death of the "Passover", or the sacrificial lamb, the Hebrews connected the spreading of the doorposts and lintel with blood to the story of the Death of the First-Born Son in each Egyptian household which comprised the 10th and final Plague on the Egyptians by G-d, where the Hebrews spread the blood of the paschal lamb on the doorposts and lintel of their homes, sparing the first-born son in each Hebrew household from death as the Angel of Death "passed over" the Hebrew households that had the blood of the paschal lamb on the doorposts and lintel of their homes, as instructed by G-d to Moses who relayed this information to the Hebrews. This explained why the Pharaoh finally let the Hebrews leave Egypt. The second custom was an agricultural festival most likely adopted from the Canaanites by the Hebrews, where unleavened bread was baked and eaten to celebrate the start of the grain harvest season. How did the Hebrews connect this festival with the Passover of Egypt? Since the start of the grain harvest season was close in time to the Exodus from Egypt, it was also easy for the Hebrews to identify the festival of eating unleavened bread with the Exodus from Egypt. In addition, because the Exodus from Egypt was the main theme of the Passover of Egypt story, this helped to solidify the identification of the two earlier festivals with the Passover of Egypt story. After the Hebrews identified these two ancient customs with the events of the Passover of Egypt, the two customs were initially celebrated as separate festivals. Over time, the two customs or festivals were then "historicized" and "traditionalized" as part of the Passover of Egypt story. After the Exile of most of the Hebrews from the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Judea by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E., the two separate festivals were merged into one festival known simply as "Passover".
The festival of unleavened bread that pre-dated the Passover of Egypt story was a pilgrimage festival which originally required that participants journey to a local sanctuary, and later on, to the Temple in Jerusalem when the 7th century B.C.E. King Josiah* of the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Judea centralized both Hebrew worship and the festival of unleavened bread in the main sanctuary, the Temple in Jerusalem. However, performing this pilgrimage was secondary to the eating of matzah, which was the main custom of this festival. This festival was celebrated in the month of Abib, later known as the Hebrew month of Nissan or Nisan. It was originally celebrated for more than one week and began on a "morrow after the Sabbath" ("morrow" means "morning" in archaic language terms.). Since this festival extended for over a week, there was a need for the Jews who resided in Babylonia after the Exile of the Jews or Hebrews from the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Babylonia in either 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. to fix a common date for the festival of unleavened bread. Therefore, after 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E., the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan to the 21st day of the Hebrew month of Nissan was established as the dates for the festival of unleavened bread, thus connecting it with the dates of the Passover of Egypt story.
After the Hebrews left Egypt, they eventually journeyed to Mount Sinai where Moses received the 10 Commandments on the summit of Mount Sinai. After the sin of the Golden calf, which occurred when Moses discovered the Hebrews worshipping a Golden Calf after he descended from Mount Sinai, G-d restricted Himself to appearing in the Mishkan ("dwelling place" or "abode" in Hebrew, also known as the Tabernacle, or the "Ohel Mo'ed", meaning "tent of meeting" in Hebrew, or the "Miqdash", meaning "sanctuary" in Hebrew), which meant that G-d could only be heard by a select few. The Tabernacle had three functions as expressed in the aforementioned names for the Tabernacle: (1) It was an earthly abode for the deity of G-d (2) It was a sacred area for sacrificial worship and (3) It was the place where Moshe or Moses was to meet with and receive the 10 Commandments from G-d. When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the tablets containing the 10 Commandments, he was first given detailed instructions for the building of the Tabernacle. G-d ensured Moses carried out these instructions correctly by displaying a heavenly image of the Tabernacle to Moses. The instructions were then delivered to the Hebrew people, who willingly contributed all the materials that they could toward building the Tabernacle. Guided by Bezalel and Oholiab who were both craftsmen or architects, the Hebrews also eagerly participated in the construction of the Tabernacle. By the beginning of the following year, the Tabernacle was completed. G-d's presence then appeared in the form of a fiery cloud, and then resided in the Tabernacle. Moses met with G-d through a series of meetings, with the voice of G-d emanating from the Tabernacle. It was in this series of meetings that G-d gave the laws of sacrifice to Moses. As well, the Tabernacle and its priesthood were consecrated, beginning the sacrificial worship of G-d. After this, the remaining laws were given to Moses. The Tabernacle was meant to be a portable but majestic-looking sanctuary for the Hebrews' wanderings in the Sinai desert, and so it was constructed to be easily dismantled and transported by the members of the Hebrew tribe of Levi, which consisted of the priests and the assistants to the priests, known simply as Levites. When the Hebrews began their wanderings in the Sinai desert, the Tabernacle was disassembled and transported by the Levites, and when the Hebrews reached a new location to temporarily settle, the Tabernacle was reassembled, and disassembled and transported again when the Hebrews departed for a new location to temporarily settle. The Tabernacle was brought into Canaan from the desert by the Hebrews first to Gilgal. The Hebrew Bible mentions in the Book of Joshua that the Passover feast was kept by the Hebrews at Gilgal (Joshua 5:10-11), and it was led by Joshua. After the Hebrews conquered Canaan, the Tabernacle was moved and erected in Shiloh, where it became a fixed sanctuary until it was moved to Jerusalem by King David and eventually preserved in King Solomon's Temple. After the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Judea in either 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E., the Ark was no longer mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and it is thought that either the Ark was destroyed by the Babylonians or another foreign army or it was hidden.
What did the Tabernacle look like? The Tabernacle was rectangular structure of 30 cubits x 10 cubits (45 feet or 14 meters long x 15 feet or 4.6 meters high x 15 feet or 4.6 meters in width) (1 cubit = about 18 inches). The north, west, and south walls of the Tabernacle consisted of upright wooden planks or boards that were inserted into silver sockets and held together by bars and bolts. Each board had gold rings through which passed acacia wood bars plated with gold to give the structure stability. The wooden planks or boards were made from acacia wood, and the three walls were covered with gold. The roof or ceiling of the Tabernacle consisted of a set of curtains of fine fabrics (white linen) made up of five sections joined together that were stretched out over the top and draped down over the north, west, and southern sides of the Tabernacle. These curtains had cherub or angel motifs of blue, scarlet, and purple embroidered onto them. Over these cherub-embroidered curtains were a set of twelve goat-haired curtains or sections. The goat-haired curtains were, in turn, draped by ram skins and badger skins. Because there were only fabric coverings for the roof and no other coverings, this made the Tabernacle a tent. But what about the fourth side of the Tabernacle? The fourth side was the eastern side of the Tabernacle, and it had a woven screen of fine fabrics embroidered with cherubs that were suspended on five wooden pillars. This formed the entrance to the Tabernacle. The interior of the Tabernacle consisted of two parts: an inner sanctum (the western end of the Tabernacle) and an outer sanctum (the eastern end of the Tabernacle). The Parokhet ("veil" in Hebrew) was another screen of fabric embroidered with the cherub motif, and was the divider between the inner sanctum and the outer sanctum. The Parokhet or veil hung on five wooden pillars and was made of "blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen" (Exodus 26:31). Later on, in Temple times, the task of making the Parokhet was given to the Hebrew women. Today, in Ashkenazic synagogues, the Parokhet is draped in front of the Ark. The Parokhet in Ashkenazic synagogues today is based on the Parokhet of Tabernacle and Temple times. The term "Parokhet" is only used by Ashkenazic Jews. In Sephardic synagogues, there is no Parokhet except for the holiday of Tisha B'Av, when the Ark is covered with a black curtain. In contrast, the Ashkenazic custom is to remove the Parokhet altogether to reveal the Ark for the Tisha B'Av holiday.
The inner sanctum of the Tabernacle was the smaller of the two sanctums and measured 10 cubits x 10 cubits. The inner sanctum was called the "Holy of Holies" ("Qodesh ha-Qodashim" in Hebrew). What was in the inner sanctum? The inner sanctum contained only the "Ark of the Covenant" which in turn, contained the tablets of the 10 Commandments, including the broken set of tablets of the Commandments that was initially given to Moses. The Ark was called the "Ark of the Covenant" because it symbolized the Hebrews' covenant or agreement with G-d at Mount Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments from G-d at the summit. The Ark was essentially a chest made of expensive wood topped with a cover of gold and a figure of a cherub at each end, and was equipped with poles for carrying it from place to place. Moses communicated with G-d in the presence of the Ark. There was no light in the inner sanctum, and it was in the inner sanctum that the Hebrews believed G-d resided in isolation, enthroned on the two cherubim that surmounted the Ark of the Covenant. The inner sanctum was only entered into once a year by the High Priest on Yom Kippur in order to perform the purification ritual. The outer sanctum measured 10 cubits x 20 cubits and was called the "Holy Place" ("Qodesh" in Hebrew). The outer sanctum consisted of three golden furnishings: (1) the Menorah ("lamp stand" in Hebrew), a seven-branched golden candelabra or candlestick, (2) the table of the shewbread, which is bread made without yeast, and (3) the incense altar, on which incense was burned. The table had shewbread (bread made without yeast, also known as showbread) placed on it. All in all, the materials used to build, cover, and furnish the Tabernacle reflected the importance of the structure, and there was even a hierarchical arrangement of the materials in terms of expensiveness: as one got closer to the holiest part of the Tabernacle - the inner sanctum - the expensiveness of the materials used to build and furnish the Tabernacle rose, and the workmanship of the designs were more intricate. Outside the Tabernacle but still an inseparable part of the Tabernacle was a courtyard. This courtyard measured 100 cubits x 50 cubits, and the courtyard fence consisted of wooden pillars placed every five cubits, from which a cloth curtain was suspended that was 20 cubits long, and 10 cubits from the entrance to the Tabernacle. The courtyard was enclosed by hanging screens of rich curtains and brass pillars, which indicated the sacredness of the area. The sacrificial altar stood in the center of the eastern part of the courtyard, opposite the entrance to the Tabernacle, which faced eastward toward the altar. It was here that the main sacrificial rituals took place, such as the sacrifice of the lamb for Passover. The Hebrews believed that these sacrificial rituals took place "in the presence of the L-rd". A brass laver or basin also stood in the courtyard which was used by the priests to wash their hands and feet before performing their duties in the outer sanctum of the Tabernacle called the "Holy Place". After the Tabernacle was set up, each of the different chieftains of the Hebrew tribes brought identical sacrifices and gifts, each on a separate day, for twelve consecutive days. The Tabernacle stood at the center of the camp where the Hebrews settled. The Levites camped around the inner perimeter surrounding the Tabernacle and the other Hebrew tribes camped around the outer perimeter. After the lamb sacrifice was brought by each family chieftain for Passover and roasted on the altar, the lamb meat was taken back to the tent of each family chieftain where the Passover Seder was celebrated. Therefore, from the first day of the second year after the Hebrews left Egypt - meaning the second Passover - when the Tabernacle was dedicated as a place of worship to G-d by the Hebrews until the time of the first Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem in the 10th century B.C.E., Passover and the Passover Seder was celebrated by the Hebrews using the Mishkan or Tabernacle and offering lamb sacrifices to G-d on the outer altar in the courtyard, by eating the bitter herbs known as maror, and by baking and eating matzah. When King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, the Tabernacle was superceded as a place of worship and this was seen as a sign that G-d had given rest to the wanderings of the Hebrews by the establishment of King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem as a fixed location for the worship of G-d by the Hebrews.
During Temple times (the first and second Temple periods, from about the 10th century B.C.E. to the early part of the 6th century B.C.E., and from the latter part of the 6th century B.C.E. until the 1st century C.E., respectively), the location of the Passover celebration changed. As mentioned, prior to the Temple periods, Passover was celebrated by each Hebrew family in their tents, or as a combination of families, but with no uncircumcised persons in attendance. The Passover Seder consisted of the flesh of the broiled lamb being eaten with bitter herbs (maror) and unleavened bread (matzah) in a community meal. The lamb was to be eaten whole, and no flesh was allowed to remain on the following day. The Passover Seder practice of eating a broiled lamb with maror and matzah continued from the latter part of the first Temple period through the second Temple period. After the establishment of the Hebrews in Judea, Passover was celebrated by Hebrew families in their households. The head of each family household brought their paschal lamb back to their household to be sacrificed on the eve of Passover, meaning on the eve of the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan or Nissan. As was required by the Torah, the lamb was sacrificed by roasting it whole. In the first Temple period, during the rule of King Josiah in the Kingdom of Judah which was in the region of Judea in the 7th century B.C.E., Passover was kept with great solemnity as evidenced by the following quote from the second Book of Kings: "The king commanded all the people, saying: 'Keep the Passover unto the L-rd your G-d, as it is written in this book of the covenant. For there was not kept such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah was this Passover kept to the L-rd in Jerusalem.'" (II Kings 23:21-23). This quote indicates that Passover was not always celebrated prior to the time of King Josiah, and it was King Josiah who persuaded the Hebrews in his realm to revive and maintain the Passover celebration during the first Temple period. King Josiah also centralized the Passover sacrifice, transferring it to the first Temple in Jerusalem. This resulted in each Hebrew family bringing their paschal lamb to the Temple in Jerusalem to be slaughtered, prepared, and eaten in the forecourts of the Temple, as could reasonably be done due to distance from the Temple. The transfer of the Passover celebration from the household to the Temple also resulted in the transfer of the practice of spreading the doorposts and lintel of one's household with the blood of the paschal lamb to the pouring of the blood of the paschal lamb on the base of the altar in the Temple, as had been the case for other types of sacrifices. The centralization of the Passover sacrifice and Passover celebration in this manner was maintained even after the Exile of most of the Jews from the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Judea by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. However, later on, with the return of many Jews from exile in Babylonia and Persia and the building of the second Temple, the Jewish population in the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Judea grew again, and it became impractical for the Temple administrators to accommodate so many people for the Passover celebration because there was not enough space on the Temple grounds to accommodate so many people. As a result, the head of each family household continued to bring their paschal lamb to the Temple in Jerusalem to be sacrificed, but after the lamb was sacrificed on the altar at the Temple, the head of each household took the slaughtered lamb back to their household to be boiled and eaten with their family.
The practice of performing paschal lamb sacrifices and the pouring of the paschal lamb's blood on the base of the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem ended with the establishment of the Mishnah of the Talmud after the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. According to the Mishnah of the Talmud, the first Passover is known as "Pesach Mitzrayim" or "Pesach Mizrayim", meaning the "Passover of Egypt" in Hebrew. The Mishnah of the Talmud states that the first Passover is distinguished from other Passovers as the "Passover of Egypt" because it was meant to be the only time when: (1) the paschal lamb was to be set aside four days before the start of Passover (2) the blood of the paschal lamb would be sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of each Hebrew household and finally, (3) that the lamb should be eaten in "haste" (Pesachim 9:5).
Despite Passover not being celebrated for the first part of the first Temple period, Passover was celebrated throughout the second Temple period, as far as it is known. There is a quote from the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 C.E. - circa 100 C.E.), who estimated the number of participants who gathered for the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem in 65 C.E. were "not less than three millions" (Josephus, Wars, 2:280). After the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. by the Romans, the practice of sacrificing a lamb was ended, however, the rituals of Passover and the Passover Seder continued on as before. A new "sacrifice" was added to the Passover Seder meal to replace the sacrifice of the lamb in the former Temple in Jerusalem: the hard-boiled or roasted egg. The hard-boiled or roasted egg had many symbolisms. In addition to replacing and reminding the Jews of the Passover lamb sacrifice, the hard-boiled or roasted egg also reminded the Jews of the destruction of the Second Temple. On a more positive note, the hard-boiled or roasted egg also symbolized the renewal of Springtime, rebirth, and the start of the grain harvest season. This symbolically connected the hard-boiled or roasted egg with the two pre-Passover of Egypt customs that were adapted, historicized, and traditionalized to the Passover of Egypt by the Hebrews. Since the hard-boiled or roasted egg represents Springtime and renewal, it connected with both the agricultural festival in pre-Passover of Egypt times and the Passover of Egypt itself (start of the grain harvest season and hence, close in time to the Exodus from Egypt). This agricultural festival was celebrated by eating matzah. The hard-boiled or roasted egg also symbolized the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, and as a result, it also connected with the pastoral festival of pre-Passover of Egypt times, meaning the sacrifice and eating of the paschal lamb or the "Passover" to ensure a safe migration from the G-ds, which in turn connected with the migration of the Hebrews out of Egypt. To summarize, Passover before the time of the Exodus from Egypt was originally celebrated as two distinct festivals: (1) a pastoral festival, known as the "Passover", which involved the sacrifice and eating of a paschal lamb to ensure a safe journey to cultivated lands from winter pastures and (2) an agricultural festival, where unleavened bread was baked and eaten to celebrate the start of the grain harvest season. It was only after the events of the first Passover in Egypt that these two distinct festivals became associated with the "Passover of Egypt" in the case of the "Passover" festival, with the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt (a migration event, similar to the earlier migration of the nomadic sheep and goats breeders) and the slaying of the first-born son in each Egyptian family (the spreading of the doorposts and lintel with the blood of the paschal lamb in both the pastoral festival of pre-Passover of Egypt times, and in the Passover of Egypt story), respectively and in the case of the unleavened bread festival, with the Exodus from Egypt (with the time of the pre-Passover unleavened bread festival coinciding with the time of the Exodus from Egypt in the Passover of Egypt story), although they remained separate festivals until 587 B.C.E. or 586 B.C.E. when most of the Hebrews were forced into Exile when the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Judea. From this point onward, the two festivals were combined into one festival known simply as Passover. As mentioned, before the Exodus from Egypt, Passover was not known as a pilgrimage feast, but was a domestic ceremony that involved the slaughtering and eating of a paschal lamb, where the lamb itself was known as the "Passover". Migration to the cultivated lands came after the ceremony and was not part of the ceremony. It is according to many references in the Book of Exodus of the Hebrew Bible where G-d states that the paschal lamb to be slaughtered must be a one year-old lamb or kid. Other references in the Hebrew Bible mention that the animal should be a sheep or goat, and still other references in the Hebrew Bible state that the animal should be a sheep or a bovine animal.
According to the biblical Book of Numbers, a person who could not attend the Passover celebration to sacrifice the paschal lamb because they lived too far away from the Temple in Jerusalem or because they were ritually impure or ill, could celebrate a "Second Passover" or "Minor Passover" called "Pesach Sheini" or "Pesach Sheni" in Hebrew, which was to take place exactly one month after the start of the first Passover, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar or Iyar (Numbers 9:1-14, Numbers 9:9-25). Only one instance of observing Pesach Sheini is recorded in the Hebrew Bible, that by King Hezekiah, after consulting with the "princes of the congregation in Israel" (2 Chronicles 30:2). Pesach Sheini is observed today by the omission of supplicatory prayers, called "Tahanun" ("Tahanun" means "supplication" in Hebrew, and refers to penitential prayers.). However, in some communities, Pesach Sheini is marked by the eating of a piece of matzah. In addition, some Orthodox Jews will put aside three pieces of matzah on Pesach or Passover and save them for Pesach Sheini, when they eat the three pieces of matzah.
The number of rituals performed in the Passover celebration and the Passover Seder up until the Roman period in Israel were not nearly as detailed as the Passover celebration and Passover Seder as we know it today. It was in Talmudic times, about from 10 C.E. to 500 C.E., that the modern Passover celebration and Passover Seder as we know it today began to take shape with the development of a structured framework for conducting the Passover Seder based on the Passover Seder conducted in Bnei Brak, Israel during the Roman occupation of Israel by a number of Rabbis. This structured framework became known as. (Drum roll, please!). the Passover Haggadah. Click the following link to read about the Origin of the Passover Haggadah. Later on, folk-songs, hymns, benedictions, and educational stories that taught lessons about the messages of Passover were added over time up to and including the Middle Ages, and organized into the "instruction manual" for conducting the Passover Seder celebration we know today as the Passover Haggadah.
* King Josiah ruled the Kingdom of Judah in the region of Judea from either 641 B.C.E. to 609 B.C.E. or from 640 B.C.E. to 609 B.C.E., depending on which historical analysis one follows.
The above discussion described the Passover celebration and the Passover Seder meal from its pre-Passover of Egypt origins to Roman times in Israel, when the modern version of the Passover celebration and the Passover Seder began to develop. So how is the contemporary version of the Passover Seder celebration celebrated? I think that was the next logical question, so to find out, just mosey on down to our Passover Seder web page and add to your knowledge of Passover! To continue reading about the development of the modern version of the Passover seder meal from Roman times in Israel through the Middle Ages, when Rabbinic authorities established the modern version of the Passover Haggadah, which is the "instruction manual" to conduct the Passover Seder meal, just go over to the section in our Passover Haggadah web page that discusses the Origin of the Passover Haggadah.
Footnote regarding the dates on this Passover Seder Meal web page: all dates discussed on this website are based on the modern Gregorian calendar, however, these dates are but one secular scholarly deduction there are many other secular scholarly deductions as well as traditional Jewish chronological dates in addition to modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar dates regarding the timeline of events in Jewish history. To see a table of some important events in Jewish history discussed on this website and their various dates deduced from traditional Jewish sources, the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar, and secular historical timelines, check out our Jewish History Timeline web page.
Thinking of those who are still persecuted
The Jewish people have a history of being persecuted, and Passover is a holiday that exemplifies that. That's why an important aspect of Passover is to take stock of the history of persecution and recognize the persecution of people of all faiths and backgrounds around the world today. It is a reminder that as Martin Luther King Jr. put it: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." And it is a call to action to hold fast to the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
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- Kadeish קדש – recital of Kiddush blessing and drinking of the first cup of wine
- Urchatz ורחץ – the washing of the hands
- Karpas כרפס – dipping of the karpas in salt water
- Yachatz יחץ – breaking the middle matzo the larger piece becomes the afikoman
- Maggid מגיד – retelling the Passover story, including the recital of "the four questions" and drinking of the second cup of wine
- Rachtzah רחצה – second washing of the hands
- Motzi מוציא, Matzo מצה – blessing before eating matzo
- Maror מרור – eating of the maror
- Koreich כורך – eating of a sandwich made of matzo and maror
- Shulchan oreich שלחן עורך – lit. "set table" – the serving of the holiday meal
- Tzafun צפון – eating of the afikoman
- Bareich ברך – blessing after the meal and drinking of the third cup of wine
- Hallel הלל – recital of the Hallel, traditionally recited on festivals drinking of the fourth cup of wine
- Nirtzah נירצה – say "Next Year in Jerusalem!"
While many Jewish holidays revolve around the synagogue, the Seder is conducted in the family home, although communal Seders are also organized by synagogues, schools and community centers, some open to the general public. It is customary to invite guests, especially strangers and the needy. The Seder is integral to Jewish faith and identity: as explained in the Haggadah, if not for divine intervention and the Exodus, the Jewish people would still be slaves in Egypt. Therefore, the Seder is an occasion for praise and thanksgiving and for re-dedication to the idea of liberation. Furthermore, the words and rituals of the Seder are a primary vehicle for the transmission of the Jewish faith from grandparent to child, and from one generation to the next. Attending a Seder and eating matza on Passover is a widespread custom in the Jewish community, even among those who are not religiously observant.
The Seder table is traditionally set with the finest place settings and silverware, and family members come to the table dressed in their holiday clothes. There is a tradition for the person leading the Seder to wear a white robe called a kittel.   For the first half of the Seder, each participant will only need a plate and a wine glass. At the head of the table is a Seder plate containing various symbolic foods that will be eaten or pointed out during the course of the Seder. Placed nearby is a plate with three matzot and dishes of salt water for dipping.
Each participant receives a copy of the Haggadah, which is often a traditional version: an ancient text that contains the complete Seder service. Men and women are equally obliged and eligible to participate in the Seder.  In many homes, each participant at the Seder table will recite at least critical parts of the Haggadah in the original Hebrew and Aramaic. Halakha (the collective body of Jewish religious laws) requires that certain parts be said in language the participants can understand, and critical parts are often said in both Hebrew and the native language. The leader will often interrupt the reading to discuss different points with his or her children, or to offer a Torah insight into the meaning or interpretation of the words.
In some homes, participants take turns reciting the text of the Haggadah, in the original Hebrew or in translation. It is traditional for the head of the household and other participants to have pillows placed behind them for added comfort. At several points during the Seder, participants lean to the left – when drinking the four cups of wine, eating the Afikoman, and eating the korech sandwich. 
Jews generally observe one or two seders: in Israel, one seder is observed on the first night of Passover many Diaspora communities, sometimes excluding Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, hold a seder also on the second night. Seders have been observed around the world, including in remote places such as high in the Himalaya mountains in Kathmandu, Nepal.  
Slavery and freedom Edit
The rituals and symbolic foods evoke the twin themes of the evening: slavery and freedom. It is stated in the Hagaddah that "In every generation everyone is obligated to see themselves as if they themselves came out of Egypt" – i.e., out of slavery.
The rendering of time for the Hebrews was that a day began at sunset and ended at sunset. Historically, at the beginning of the 15th of Nisan in Ancient Egypt, the Jewish people were enslaved to Pharaoh. After the tenth plague struck Egypt at midnight, killing all the first-born sons from the first-born of Pharaoh to the first-born of the lowest Egyptian to all the first-born of the livestock in the land (Exodus 12:29), Pharaoh let the Hebrew nation go, effectively making them free people for the second half of the night.
Thus, Seder participants recall the slavery that reigned during the first half of the night by eating matzo (the "poor person's bread"), maror (bitter herbs which symbolize the bitterness of slavery), and charoset (a sweet paste representing the mortar which the Jewish slaves used to cement bricks). Recalling the freedom of the second half of the night, they eat the matzo (the "bread of freedom" as well as the "bread of affliction") and 'afikoman', and drink the four cups of wine, in a reclining position, and dip vegetables into salt water (the dipping being a sign of royalty and freedom).
The Four Cups Edit
There is an obligation to drink four cups of wine during the Seder. The Mishnah says (Pes. 10:1) that even the poor are obliged to drink the four cups. Each cup is imbibed at a specific point in the Seder. The first is for Kiddush (קידוש), the second is for 'Maggid' (מגיד), the third is for Birkat Hamazon (ברכת המזון) and the fourth is for Hallel (הלל).  
The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God Exodus 6:6–7: "I will bring out," "I will deliver," "I will redeem," and "I will take." 
The Vilna Gaon relates the Four Cups to four worlds: this world, the Messianic age, the world at the revival of the dead, and the world to come. The MaHaRaL connects them to the four Matriarchs: Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel, and Leah. (The three matzot, in turn, are connected to the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.) Abarbanel relates the cups to the four historical redemptions of the Jewish people: the choosing of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the survival of the Jewish people throughout the exile, and the fourth which will happen at the end of days.
The four cups might also reflect the Roman custom of drinking as many cups as there are letters in the name of the chief guest at a meal, which in the case of the Seder is God Himself whose Hebrew name has four letters. 
Seder plate Edit
The special Passover Seder plate (ke'are) is a special plate containing symbolic foods used during the Passover Seder. Each of the six items arranged on the plate has special significance to the retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The seventh symbolic item used during the meal – a stack of three matzot – is placed on its own plate on the Seder table.
The six items on the Seder plate are:
- Maror: Bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Ancient Egypt. For maror, many people use freshly grated horseradish or whole horseradish root.
- Chazeret is typically romaine lettuce, whose roots are bitter-tasting. In addition to horseradish and romaine lettuce, other forms of bitter lettuce, such as endive, may be eaten in fulfillment of the mitzvah, as well as green onions, dandelion greens, celery leaves, or curly parsley (but parsley and celery are more commonly used as the karpas or vegetable element). Much depends upon whether one's tradition is Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi, Persian, or one of the many other Jewish ethno-cultural traditions.
- Charoset: A sweet, brown, pebbly paste of fruits and nuts, representing the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt. The actual recipe depends partly on ethno-cultural tradition and partly on locally available ingredients. Ashkenazi Jews, for example, traditionally make apple-raisin based charoset while Sephardic Jews often make date-based recipes that might feature orange or/and lemon, or even banana.
- Karpas: A vegetable other than bitter herbs, usually parsley but sometimes something such as celery or cooked potato, which is dipped into salt water (Ashkenazi custom), vinegar (Sephardi custom), or charoset (older custom, still common amongst Yemenite Jews) at the beginning of the Seder.
- Zeroa: A roasted lamb or goat bone, symbolizing the korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice), which was a lamb offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.
- Beitzah: A roast egg – usually a hard-boiled egg that has been roasted in a baking pan with a little oil, or with a lamb shank – symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.
Focus on the children Edit
Since the retelling of the Exodus to one's child is the object of the Seder experience, much effort is made to arouse the interest and curiosity of the children and keep them awake during the meal. To that end, questions and answers are a central device in the Seder ritual. By encouraging children to ask questions, they will be more open to hearing the answers.
The most famous question which the youngest child asks at the Seder is the "Ma Nishtana" – 'Why is this night different from all other nights?' After the asking of this questions, the main portion of the Seder, Magid, discusses the answers in the form of a historical review. Also, at different points in the Seder, the leader of the Seder will cover the matzot and lift their cup of wine then put down the cup of wine and uncover the matzot – all to elicit questions from the children. 
In Sephardic tradition, the questions are asked by the assembled company in chorus rather than by a child, and are put to the leader of the seder, who either answers the question or may direct the attention of the assembled company to someone who is acting out that particular part of the Exodus. Physical re-enactment of the Exodus during the Passover seder is common in many families and communities, especially amongst Sephardim. 
Families will follow the Haggadah's lead by asking their own questions at various points in the Haggadah and offering prizes such as nuts and candies for correct answers. The afikoman, which is hidden away for the "dessert" after the meal, is another device used to encourage children's participation. In some families, the leader of the Seder hides the afikoman and the children must find it, whereupon they receive a prize or reward. In other homes, the children hide the afikoman and a parent must look for it when the parents give up, the children demand a prize (often money) for revealing its location.
The order and procedures of the Seder are stated and printed in the text of the Passover Haggadah, a copy of which is in front of all participants. Jewish children learn the following words, denoting the order of the Seder, with a rhyme and tune at their Jewish schools:
Kadeish (blessings and the first cup of wine) Edit
Kadeish קדש is Hebrew Imperative for Kiddush. It should be recited as soon as the synagogue services are over but not before nightfall.  This Kiddush is similar to that which is recited on all of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, but also refers to matzot and the exodus from Egypt. Acting in a way that shows freedom and majesty, many Jews have the custom of filling each other's cups at the Seder table. The Kiddush is traditionally said by the father of the house, but all Seder participants may participate by reciting the Kiddush and drinking at least a majority of the first cup of wine.
Urchatz (wash hands) Edit
Technically, according to Jewish law, whenever one partakes of fruits or vegetables dipped in liquid while remaining wet, one must wash one's hands if the fruit or vegetable remains wet. However, at other times of the year, one has either already washed their hands before eating bread, or dry the fruit or vegetable, in which case one need not wash their hands before eating the fruit or vegetable.
According to most traditions, no blessing is recited at this point in the Seder, unlike the blessing recited over the washing of the hands before eating bread. However, followers of Rambam or the Gaon of Vilna do recite a blessing.
Karpas (appetizer) Edit
Each participant dips a vegetable into either salt water (Ashkenazi custom said to serve as a reminder of the tears shed by their enslaved ancestors), vinegar (Sephardi custom) or charoset (older Sephardi custom still common among Yemenite Jews). Another custom mentioned in some Ashkenazi sources and probably originating with Meir of Rothenburg, [ citation needed ] was to dip the karpas in wine.
Yachatz (breaking of the middle matzah) Edit
Three matzot are stacked on the seder table at this stage, the middle matzah of the three is broken in half. The larger piece is hidden, to be used later as the afikoman, the "dessert" after the meal. The smaller piece is returned to its place between the other two matzot.
Before Magid, some Sephardi families have a custom to sing "Bivhilu yatzanu mi-mitzrayim"- (translated:"In haste we left Egypt"). While this is being sung, the head of the household walks around the table with the Seder plate and waves it over each individual's head.
Magid (relating the Exodus) Edit
The story of Passover, and the change from slavery to freedom is told. At this point in the Seder, Moroccan Jews have a custom of raising the Seder plate over the heads of all those present while chanting "Bivhilu yatzanu mimitzrayim, halahma anya b'nei horin" (In haste we went out of Egypt [with our] bread of affliction, [now we are] free people).
Ha Lachma Anya (invitation to the Seder) Edit
The matzot are uncovered, and referred to as the "bread of affliction". Participants declare (in Aramaic) an invitation to all who are hungry or needy to join in the Seder. Halakha requires that this invitation be repeated in the native language of the country.
Mah Nishtanah (The Four Questions) Edit
The Mishna details questions one is obligated to ask on the night of the seder. It is customary for the youngest child present to recite the four questions.  Some customs hold that the other participants recite them quietly to themselves as well. In some families, this means that the requirement remains on an adult "child" until a grandchild of the family receives sufficient Jewish education to take on the responsibility. If a person has no children capable of asking, the responsibility falls to their spouse, or another participant.  The need to ask is so great that even if a person is alone at the seder they are obligated to ask themselves and to answer their own questions. 
Ma nishtana ha lyla ha zeh mikkol hallaylot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?
- Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh'lin ḥamets umatsa, vehallayla hazze kullo matsa.
Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either leavened bread or matza, but on this night we eat only matza?
- Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh'lin sh'ar y'rakot, vehallayla hazze maror.
Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
- Shebb'khol hallelot en anu matbillin afillu pa'am eḥat, vehallayla hazze sh'tei fe'amim.
Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip [our food] even once, but on this night we dip them twice?
- Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh'lin ben yosh'vin uven m'subbin, vehallayla hazze kullanu m'subbin.
Why is it that on all other nights we dine either sitting upright or reclining, but on this night we all recline?
The question about reclining substitutes for a question about eating roasted meat, that was present in the mishnah but removed by later authorities due to its inapplicability after the destruction of the temple:
- Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh'lin basar tsali shaluk umvushal, vehallayla hazze kullo tsali.
Why is it that on all other nights we eat meat either roasted, marinated, or cooked, but on this night it is entirely roasted?
Roasted sacrifices were no longer possible after the destruction, and roasted meat was therefore disallowed on seder night, to avoid ambiguity.
The questions are answered with the following:
- We eat only matzah because our ancestors could not wait for their breads to rise when they were fleeing slavery in Egypt, and so they were flat when they came out of the oven.
- We eat only Maror, a bitter herb, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery that our ancestors endured while in Egypt.
- The first dip, green vegetables in salt water, symbolizes the replacing of our tears with gratitude, and the second dip, Maror in Charoses, symbolizes the sweetening of our burden of bitterness and suffering.
- We recline at the Seder table because in ancient times, a person who reclined at a meal was a free person, while slaves and servants stood.
- We eat only roasted meat because that is how the Pesach/Passover lamb is prepared during sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem.
The four questions have been translated into over 300 languages. 
The Four Sons Edit
The traditional Haggadah speaks of "four sons" – one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not know to ask. This is based upon the rabbis of the Jerusalem Talmud finding four references in the Torah to responding to your son who asks a question.  Each of these sons phrases his question about the seder in a different way. The Haggadah recommends answering each son according to his question, using one of the three verses in the Torah that refer to this exchange.
The wise son asks "What are the statutes, the testimonies, and the laws that God has commanded us to do?" One explanation for why this very detailed-oriented question is categorized as wise, is that the wise son is trying to learn how to carry out the seder, rather than asking for someone else's understanding of its meaning. He is answered fully: "You should reply to him with [all] the laws of pesach: one may not eat any dessert after the paschal sacrifice."
The wicked son, who asks, "What is this service to you?", is characterized by the Haggadah as isolating himself from the Jewish people, standing by objectively and watching their behavior rather than participating. Therefore, he is rebuked by the explanation that "It is because God acted for my sake when I left Egypt." (This implies that the Seder is not for the wicked son because the wicked son would not have deserved to be freed from Egyptian slavery.) Where the four sons are illustrated in the Haggadah, this son has frequently been depicted as carrying weapons or wearing stylish contemporary fashions.
The simple son, who asks, "What is this?" is answered with "With a strong hand the Almighty led us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage."
And the one who does not know to ask is told, "It is because of what the Almighty did for me when I left Egypt."
Some modern Haggadahs mention "children" instead of "sons", and some have added a fifth child. The fifth child can represent the children of the Shoah who did not survive to ask a question  or represent Jews who have drifted so far from Jewish life that they do not participate in a Seder. 
For the former, tradition is to say that for that child we ask "Why?" and, like the simple child, we have no answer.
"Go and learn" Edit
Four verses in Deuteronomy (26:5–8) are then expounded, with an elaborate, traditional commentary. ("5. And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God: 'A wandering Aramean was my parent, and they went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. 7. And we cried unto the Lord, the God of our parents, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders.")
The Haggadah explores the meaning of those verses, and embellishes the story. This telling describes the slavery of the Jewish people and their miraculous salvation by God. This culminates in an enumeration of the Ten Plagues:
- Dam (blood) – All the water was changed to blood
- Tzefardeyah (frogs) – An infestation of frogs sprang up in Egypt
- Kinim (lice) – The Egyptians were afflicted by lice
- Arov (wild animals) – An infestation of wild animals (some say flies) sprang up in Egypt
- Dever (pestilence) – A plague killed off the Egyptian livestock
- Sh'chin (boils) – An epidemic of boils afflicted the Egyptians
- Barad (hail) – Hail rained from the sky
- Arbeh (locusts) – Locusts swarmed over Egypt
- Choshech (darkness) – Egypt was covered in darkness
- Makkat Bechorot (killing of the first-born) – All the first-born sons of the Egyptians were slain by God
With the recital of the Ten Plagues, each participant removes a drop of wine from his or her cup using a fingertip. Although this night is one of salvation, Don Isaac Abravanel explains that one cannot be completely joyous when some of God's creatures had to suffer.  A mnemonic acronym for the plagues is also introduced: "D'tzach Adash B'achav", while similarly spilling a drop of wine for each word.
At this part in the Seder, songs of praise are sung, including the song Dayenu, which proclaims that had God performed any single one of the many deeds performed for the Jewish people, it would have been enough to obligate us to give thanks. Some sing instead The Women's Dayenu, a feminist variant of Dayenu, by Michele Landsberg.  
After Dayenu is a declaration (mandated by Rabban Gamliel) of the reasons of the commandments of the Paschal lamb, Matzah, and Maror, with scriptural sources. Then follows a short prayer, and the recital of the first two psalms of Hallel (which will be concluded after the meal). A long blessing is recited, and the second cup of wine is drunk.
Rohtzah (ritual washing of hands) Edit
The ritual hand-washing is repeated, this time with all customs including a blessing.
Motzi (blessings over the Matzah) Edit
Two blessings are recited.
First one recites the standard blessing before eating bread, which includes the words "who brings forth" (motzi in Hebrew). 
Then one recites the blessing regarding the commandment to eat Matzah.
An olive-size piece (some say two) is then eaten while reclining to the left.
Maror (bitter herbs) Edit
The blessing for the eating of the maror (bitter herbs) is recited and then it is to be eaten. 
Korech (sandwich) Edit
The maror (bitter herb) is placed between two small pieces of matzo, similarly to how the contents of a sandwich are placed between two slices of bread, and eaten. This follows the tradition of Hillel, who did the same at his Seder table 2000 years ago (except that in Hillel's day the Paschal sacrifice, matzo, and maror were eaten together.)
Shulchan Orech (the meal) Edit
The festive meal is eaten. Traditionally it begins with a hard boiled egg dipped in salt water, referencing the charred egg on the Seder plate.  In Yiddish, there is a saying: מיר צוגרייטן די טיש און עסן די פיש , which means "We set the table and eat the fish".
Tzafun (eating of the afikoman) Edit
The afikoman, which was hidden earlier in the Seder, is traditionally the last morsel of food eaten by participants in the Seder.
Each participant receives an olive-sized portion of matzo to be eaten as afikoman. After the consumption of the afikoman, traditionally, no other food may be eaten for the rest of the night. Additionally, no intoxicating beverages may be consumed, with the exception of the remaining two cups of wine.
Bareich (Grace after Meals) Edit
Kos Shlishi (the Third Cup of Wine) Edit
The drinking of the Third Cup of Wine.
Note: The Third Cup is customarily poured before the Grace after Meals is recited because the Third Cup also serves as a Cup of Blessing associated with the Grace after Meals on special occasions.
Kos shel Eliyahu ha-Navi (cup of Elijah the Prophet) Miriam's cup Edit
In many traditions, the front door of the house is opened at this point. Psalms 79:6–7 is recited in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions, plus Lamentations 3:66 among Ashkenazim.
Most Ashkenazim have the custom to fill a fifth cup at this point. This relates to a Talmudic discussion that concerns the number of cups that are supposed to be drunk. Given that the four cups are in reference to the four expressions of redemption in Exodus 6:6–7, some rabbis felt that it was important to include a fifth cup for the fifth expression of redemption in Exodus 6:8. All agreed that five cups should be poured but the question as to whether or not the fifth should be drunk, given that the fifth expression of redemption concerned being brought into the Land of Israel, which – by this stage – was no longer possessed of an autonomous Jewish community, remained insoluble. The rabbis determined that the matter should be left until Elijah (in reference to the notion that Elijah's arrival would precipitate the coming of the Messiah, at which time all halakhic questions will be resolved) and the fifth cup came to be known as the Kos shel Eliyahu ("Cup of Elijah"). Over time, people came to relate this cup to the notion that Elijah will visit each home on Seder night as a foreshadowing of his future arrival at the end of the days, when he will come to announce the coming of the Jewish Messiah.
Some seders (including the original Women's Seder, but not limited to women-only seders) now set out a cup for the prophet Miriam as well as the traditional cup for the prophet Elijah, sometimes accompanied by a ritual to honor Miriam.  Miriam's cup originated in the 1980s in a Boston Rosh Chodesh group it was invented by Stephanie Loo, who filled it with mayim hayim (living waters) and used it in a feminist ceremony of guided meditation.  Miriam's cup is linked to the midrash of Miriam's well, which "is a rabbinic legend that tells of a miraculous well that accompanied the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert at the Exodus from Egypt".  
Hallel (songs of praise) Edit
The entire order of Hallel which is usually recited in the synagogue on Jewish holidays is also recited at the Seder table, albeit sitting down. The first two psalms, 113 and 114, were recited before the meal. The remaining psalms 115–118, are recited at this point. Psalm 136 (the Great Hallel) is then recited, followed by Nishmat, a portion of the morning service for Shabbat and festivals.
There are a number of opinions concerning the paragraph Yehalelukha which normally follows Hallel, and Yishtabakh, which normally follows Nishmat. Most Ashkenazim recite Yehalelukha immediately following the Hallel proper, i.e. at the end of Psalm 118, except for the concluding words. After Nishmat, they recite Yishtabakh in its entirety. Sephardim recite '"Yehalelukha alone after Nishmat.
Afterwards the Fourth Cup of Wine is drunk and a brief Grace for the "fruit of the vine" is said.
The Seder concludes with a prayer that the night's service be accepted. A hope for the Messiah is expressed: "L'shanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim! – Next year in Jerusalem!" Jews in Israel, and especially those in Jerusalem, recite instead "L'shanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim hab'nuyah! – Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem!" Jerusalem is the holiest city in the Bible it has become symbolic of the idea of spiritual perfection. The tradition of saying "Next year in Jerusalem" is similar to the tradition of opening the door for Elijah: it recognizes that “this year” we live in an imperfect world outside of “Jerusalem,” but we patiently await a time, hopefully “next year,” in which we live in spiritual perfection. 
Although the 15 orders of the Seder have been complete, the Haggadah concludes with additional songs which further recount the miracles that occurred on this night in Ancient Egypt as well as throughout history. Some songs express a prayer that the Beit Hamikdash will soon be rebuilt. The last song to be sung is Chad Gadya ("One Kid Goat"). This seemingly childish song about different animals and people who attempted to punish others for their crimes and were in turn punished themselves, was interpreted by the Vilna Gaon as an allegory to the retribution God will levy over the enemies of the Jewish people at the end of days.
Following the Seder, those who are still awake may recite the Song of Songs, engage in Torah learning, or continue talking about the events of the Exodus until sleep overtakes them.
Feminist Seders Edit
In 1976, the first women-only Passover seder was held in Esther M. Broner's New York City apartment and led by her, with 13 women attending, including Gloria Steinem, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and Phyllis Chesler.  Esther Broner and Naomi Nimrod created a women's haggadah for use at this seder.  In the spring of 1976 Esther Broner published this "Women's Haggadah" in Ms. Magazine, later publishing it as a book in 1994 this haggadah is meant to include women where only men had been mentioned in traditional haggadahs, and it features the Wise Women, the Four Daughters, the Women's Questions, the Women's Plagues, and a women-centric "Dayenu".   The original Women's Seder has been held with the Women's Haggadah every year since 1976, and women-only seders are now held by some congregations as well.    Some seders (including the original Women's Seder, but not limited to women-only seders) now set out a cup for the prophet Miriam as well as the traditional cup for the prophet Elijah, accompanied by a ritual to honor Miriam.  Miriam's cup originated in the 1980s in a Boston Rosh Chodesh group it was invented by Stephanie Loo, who filled it with mayim hayim (living waters) and used it in a feminist ceremony of guided meditation.  Miriam's cup is linked to the midrash of Miriam's well, which "is a rabbinic legend that tells of a miraculous well that accompanied the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert at the Exodus from Egypt".   Furthermore, some Jews include an orange on the seder plate. The orange represents the fruitfulness for all Jews when all marginalized peoples are included, particularly women and gay people.  An incorrect but common rumor says that this tradition began when a man told Susannah Heschel that a woman belongs on the bimah as an orange on the seder plate however, it actually began when in the early 1980s, while when speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (as some would say there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate).  Heschel felt that to put bread on the seder plate would be to accept that Jewish lesbians and gay men violate Judaism like chametz violates Passover.  So, at her next seder, she chose an orange as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community.  In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out – a gesture of spitting out and repudiating what they see as the homophobia of traditional Judaism. 
Furthermore, many Haggadah now use gender-neutral English translations. 
Public Seders Edit
The group of people who hold a Passover Seder together is referred to in the Talmud (tractate Pesachim) as a chavurah (group). In the Far East, for example, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries regularly conduct Seders for hundreds of visiting students, businesspeople and Jewish travelers. The Chabad Seder in Kathmandu regularly attracts more than 1,200 participants.  In 2006, the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS and Baltic Countries organized over 500 public Seders throughout the Former Soviet Union, led by local rabbis and Chabad rabbinical students, drawing more than 150,000 attendees in total. 
In Israel, where permanent residents observe only one Seder, overseas students learning in yeshivas and women's seminaries are often invited in groups up to 100 for "second-day Seders" hosted by outreach organizations and private individuals.
Christian Seders Edit
Some Christians, especially but not only Evangelical Protestants, have recently taken great interest in performing seders according to the ancient rubric. Many churches host Seders, usually adding a Messianic Christian Passover message, and many times inviting Messianic Jews to lead and teach on it. Many Christians erroneously cite the meal as a way to connect with the heritage of their own religion despite the Seder being a fifth century creation and to see how the practices of the ancient world are still relevant to Christianity today.  However, the current form of the Passover seder dates from the Rabbinic period, after Christianity and Judaism had already gone their separate ways,  and some Jews and Christians consider this practice an inappropriate cultural appropriation of Jewish ritual for non-Jewish purposes.    
Interfaith Seders Edit
A number of churches hold interfaith Seders where Jews and non-Jews alike are invited to share in the story and discuss common themes of peace, freedom, and religious tolerance. During the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, interfaith Seders energized and inspired leaders from various communities who came together to march for equal protection for all. The first of these, the Freedom Seder, was written by Arthur Waskow, published in Ramparts magazine and in a small booklet by the Micah Press and in a later edition (1970) by Holt-Rinehart-Winston, and was actually performed on April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.and the third night of Passover, at Lincoln Memorial Temple in Washington, DC. It celebrated the liberation struggle of Black America alongside that of ancient Israel from Pharaoh, and was the first Haggadah to go beyond the original Biblical story. It sparked a large number of Haggadahs celebrating various other forms of liberation – feminism, vegetarianism, the liberation movements in Latin America in the 1970s, ecological healing, etc.. Today, many Unitarian Universalist congregations hold annual interfaith community Seders.  A number of Interfaith Passover Seder Haggadahs have been written especially for this purpose. [ citation needed ]
White House Passover Seder Edit
In 2009 President Barack Obama began conducting an annual Passover seder in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, marking the first time that a sitting US president hosted a Seder in the White House.   The private dinner for about 20 guests,  both Jewish and non-Jewish – including the President and his family, members of the President's and First Lady's staffs, and friends and their families  – features the reading of the Haggadah, traditional rituals such as the hiding of the afikoman and the cup of Elijah, and the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. 
Virtual Seders Edit
When people wish to participate in a shared Seder but are unable to be physically together, technology such as videoconferencing software can be used to facilitate a "virtual" Seder. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a surge of virtual Seders, as many Jews sought to practice social distancing during the holiday, or lived in jurisdictions where they were legally required to do so, and thus could not visit the homes of friends and family who were hosting Seders. The website OneTable saw a fourfold increase in the number of virtual seders it hosted from 2019 to 2020, and Zoom was widely used to host virtual Seders.   Virtual seders were endorsed by Progressive rabbis but eschewed by Orthodox rabbis.  The Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism issued guidance (though not an official Conservative responsum) specific to 2020 on using videoconferencing to facilitate Seders while avoiding or minimizing violations of Yom Tov restrictions that limit the use of electronic devices on holidays. 
An Introduction to Passover Traditions
Learn more about this essential Jewish holiday’s traditions, customs, and rituals.
In Ferris Bueller&aposs Day Off, a self-pitying Cameron sulks in bed and cries, "When Cameron was in Egypt&aposs land… Let my Cameron go"𠅊 riff on the African-American spiritual song "Go Down Moses." While it&aposs one of the movie&aposs more memorable comedic moments, the song actually references the Hebrew Bible story of Exodus—Moses&apos liberation of the Israelite slaves in Egypt𠅌ommemorated every year during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Jews all over the world celebrate Passover for seven days (or eight, if they&aposre traditional Jews living outside of Israel) and, while the date varies annually, it&aposs always the same on the Jewish lunar calendar: the 15th day of Nissan, the first month of the Hebrew monthly calendar year, typically falling in mid-spring.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Moses asked the Egyptian leader, Pharoah, to free the Israelite slaves and was rejected repeatedly. So Moses warned Pharoah that God would punish Egypt with 10 plagues: frogs, boils, and hail, among others. God told Moses to alert the Israelites to mark their homes so He would know to "pass over" their houses when casting down the last plague—hence the holiday&aposs name.
After sundown the night before the first official day of Passover, Jews conduct the Seder, a special ceremony during which they retell the story of their ancestors&apos liberation. During the Seder, family members read from the Haggadah, Passover&aposs own story book, and sing traditional holiday songs. A Seder plate containing five itemsh a fundamental part of the ceremony and symbolic of an element of Exodus—sits on the table. There&aposs a spring vegetable, such as parsley, which is dipped in salt water and eaten to resemble the taste of their ancestors&apos sweat and tears. "Maror," usually horseradish or romaine lettuce, serves as a reminder of the bitter oppression of slavery and Pharoah&aposs difficult-to-swallow decree to drown Israelites&apos male infants. "Charoset," a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine, and honey, recalls the mortar Israelites used to build cities for Pharoah. A roasted shank bone, which represents the Passover sacrificial offering, and a roasted egg, symbolizing rebirth and renewal, are always on the plate, though they aren&apost actually eaten.
In addition, four cups of wine are drunk throughout the Seder. The wine symbolizes the four stages of redemption that the Israelites experienced. A fifth cup is set aside for "Elijah" and not imbibed this cup represents the hope for future redemption.
Passover (Pesach) 101
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Observance of Passover has taken a number of forms through history. This evolution is partly seen in the Torah text itself. It is discussed as a springtime festival, a barley harvest festival, and a time to bring sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem. Different references to Passover in the Torah as well as knowledge of other ancient rituals that took place at the same time of year indicate that there may have been several origins of the Pesach festival. The ancient Israelites took what was originally one or more separate Canaanite spring holidays and imbued them with a heightened significance when they made Passover a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt.
Feast of Unleavened Bread
We now view commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage as identical to the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In Leviticus 23:5-6, however, there seems to be a distinction between the two festivals. The &ldquoLord&rsquos Passover&rdquo falls at dusk on the 14th day of the first month, Nisan (referred to in Torah as the month of &ldquoAviv&rdquo). The Festival of Unleavened Bread fell on the 15th day of the same month. In Exodus 13:4 and Deuteronomy 16:1, the New Moon is given as the memorial day for the Exodus.
The Paschal Lamb Is Introduced
Setting aside, slaughtering, and eating a paschal lamb was introduced as a celebration of the festival. The Hebrews were commanded to take a lamb for each household on the 10th of the first month (Nisan). The unblemished male lamb in its first year was kept until the 14th day and then killed at eve. This ritual was reminiscent of ancient pagan rituals that took place at this time of the year. Nisan was the month when sheep gave birth and sacrifices were made at the full moon on the 15th of the month.
Spring Harvest Festival
Passover also falls at the time of the beginning of the spring harvest. Leviticus 23:10-16 discusses the omer [a certain measure] of new barley that was brought to the Temple on the second day of the festival. At this time of year, the first sheaf of newly cut barley was offered up as a sacrifice. It has been suggested that the elimination of hametz (leaven), which Jews undertake before Passover, may have originated as a precaution against infecting the new crop. Thus, Hag ha-Matzot (the feast of unleavened bread), which is a name for Passover, may have originally carried this agricultural meaning. Hag ha-Aviv, or Spring Festival, is another name for the festival of Pesach. A number of remnants of the springtime origins of Pesach remain, as in the prayer for dew, and the counting of the Omer that bridges two different spring harvest periods.
Biblical Passover Celebrations
The first Pesach observance, mentioned in Numbers 9:5, took place at Sinai. The first observance in the &ldquoholy land&rdquo is mentioned in the book of Joshua (5:10-11). The children of Israel kept the Passover in Gilgal on the 14th of Nisan, and ate unleavened bread the next day. It is believed that the turmoil of the Judges period that followed Joshua was not conducive to observance of Pesach. Revival of the holiday probably occurred under Samuel in the 11th century BCE.
Passover as Temple Pilgrimage Festival
With the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, the observance of the festival changed. The Temple was the focal point for the &ldquoshalosh regalim,&rdquo the Pilgrim Festivals, and it provided a place for carrying out the Pesach sacrifice. Observance of the festival waxed and waned in subsequent periods. Historians believe that after the return from Babylonian exile and the beginning of the second Temple period, at the end of the sixth century BCE, the festival was restored to prominence. The nature of the Pesach observance necessarily had to radically change after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, when animal sacrifices ceased.
Development of the Seder
After the destruction of the Temple, Pesach was transformed from a mostly communal, public festival to one centered in the home. A Talmudic tractate devoted to the festival, Pesachim, suggests that home observance of Pesach began prior to the destruction of the Temple. Chanting of Hallel (psalms of praise), which accompanied the slaughtering of the paschal offering began to be practiced during family feasts when the paschal lamb was eaten in private homes throughout Jerusalem. The home seder as we know it today was meant to be a retelling of the Exodus story in response to questions posed by children. These exact wording of the questions changed over time, until they became the four questions beginning &ldquoMah nishtanah&rdquo (what is different?) that we know today.
A book called the Haggadah (from the Hebrew root &ldquoto tell&rdquo) that serves as the liturgy and guidebook for the seder is an amazing pedagogic instrument that developed over time. The first documented evidence of parts of the Haggadah is found in the Mishnah (edited ca. 200 CE). The arrangement of the table, the psalms, benedictions, and other recited matter of today coincide substantially with the program laid down in the Mishnah. Midrashim (commentaries) were added and most of the version we now have was completed by the end of the Talmudic period (500-600 CE). Evidence of the wide acceptance of the Haggadah was its inclusion in Rav Amram&rsquos siddur (prayerbook) in the eighth century CE.
Medieval Additions to the Haggadah
The Haggadah began to be copied as a separate book in the 12th century. Medieval additions to the Haggadah include piyyutim (liturgical poems) and readings in response to the persecution suffered at that time. (Blood libel accusations at Passover time even led to a rabbinic ruling that white wine be used at the seder lest red wine be mistaken for blood.) Pesach has been one of the favorite subjects of Jewish artists through the centuries, and they have created beautiful illuminated Haggadot. There are wonderful examples of these from Prague, Amsterdam, and Venice during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Modern-Day Passover Rituals
The tradition of adding to and adapting things in the Haggadah and the seder has continued. Among them are additions like the Matzah of Hope, which was a reminder of the plight of Soviet Jewry, and Miriam&rsquos Cup, which was added by women who sought to add a female perspective to the festival. By giving the festival contemporary significance, each generation of Jews has performed the mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus while reliving the event itself.
Pronounced: huh-GAH-duh or hah-gah-DAH, Origin: Hebrew, literally “telling” or “recounting.” A Haggadah is a book that is used to tell the story of the Exodus at the Passover seder. There are many versions available ranging from very traditional to nontraditional, and you can also make your own.
Pronounced: MISH-nuh, Origin: Hebrew, code of Jewish law compiled in the first centuries of the Common Era. Together with the Gemara, it makes up the Talmud.
Pronounced: nee-SAHN, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish month, usually coinciding with March-April.
Pronounced: PAY-sakh, also PEH-sakh. Origin: Hebrew, the holiday of Passover.
Pronounced: SAY-der, Origin: Hebrew, literally “order” usually used to describe the ceremonial meal and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover. (In Israel, Jews have a seder only on the first night of Passover.)
Moses’ wife, Zipporah, the daughter of a Midianite priest, was the mother of his two sons. In a truly bizarre incident in Chapter 4 of the Book of Exodus — the meaning of which has been the subject of much debate — while Zipporah and their sons were accompanying Moses on his way back to Egypt to free the Israelites, the family stayed at an inn. God seemingly came to kill Moses because he hadn’t circumcised his son, as was the responsibility of the father. So, Zipporah took it upon herself to do what Moses should have done: She circumcised her son with a flint knife. She then touched Moses with the foreskin and blood of the circumcision and said: “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” Thanks to her bravery, God left Moses alone after that and didn’t try to kill him.
How to honor her: You can place a ring on your seder plate, as Zipporah was Moses’ wife. If people ask about the ring, share her story! You can also talk about the fact that Zipporah was Midianite, not Israelite, and thus Moses’ marriage was what we’d call today an “interfaith marriage.” Discuss what partners of Jews who aren’t themselves Jewish that you know have contributed to the Jewish community.
Remarkably, all of the above women saved Moses’ life in some way, yet most people don’t even know who they are! It’s time to rectify that. We have the power to change things so that these women are no longer ignored — let’s start this Passover by honoring these exceptional leaders.