Celebrate The Passover
Light the Candles
The woman of the house lights the candles, reciting the Passover blessing:
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commands us to kindle the Festival candles.”
The Four Cups
Each of the Four Cups of Passover stands for one of the four "I wills" of Exodus 6:6-7:
The red color of the fruit of the vine reminds us of the blood of the lamb, which was applied to the doorposts and lintels of Jewish homes to avert the terrible judgment of the Lord upon the wickedness of Egypt. While drinking, we recline to the left, to symbolize the freedom of our liberation from slavery.
The First Cup—The Cup of Sanctification
The leader of the Seder offers the blessing: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine." All partake of the cup together.
The Karpas (Parsley)
All dip greens in the salt water—the greens symbolize hyssop, the plant used to brush the blood of the lamb upon the Jewish homes at the first Passover, and the salt water represents the tears shed by the Jewish people while in bondage.
The Breaking of the Matzah
The middle matzah is removed from the napkins or Matzah Tash and is broken in half. One half is wrapped up in a cloth napkin and hidden for the children to search for during the dinner. The remaining half is replaced in the Matzah Tash.
The Four Questions of Passover
An introductory question is asked: "Why is this night different from all other nights?" This is an invitation to tell why the Passover is so meaningful. The following questions are one of the most well-established centerpieces of the Passover celebration. They are usually asked by the youngest child at the table.
The Maggid (Telling of the Story)
In reply to the Four Questions, the Passover narrative is read from Exodus 12:1-13, placing special emphasis upon the essentials of the Passover—the lamb, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs and the manner in which the children of Israel were instructed to eat the Passover meal.
The Ten Plagues
The Second Cup is filled and the ten plagues that the Lord visited upon Egypt are now recited in unison. The participants in the Seder spill a drop from the Second Cup for each plague. This represents the belief that we must have compassion for our enemies, and our joy is diminished by remembering the Egyptians' suffering.
The Second Cup—The Cup of Judgment
We partake together of the Second Cup, with the traditional blessing (see First Cup above).
The leader of the Seder elevates the unity of the three pieces of matzah. Then he breaks olive-sized pieces from the top and middle matzahs and distributes them to the others. After the following prayer, they are eaten:
"Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commands us concerning the eating of the unleavened bread."
The Maror (Bitter Herbs)
Everyone dips a small piece of matzah into the maror, and eats after the following blessing:
"Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commands us concerning the eating of bitter herbs."
The Charoset (Mortar)
A small piece of matzah is dipped into the charoset, a mixture of finely chopped apples, nuts, honey, and cinnamon, which symbolizes the mortar with which the children of Israel fashioned the bricks for Pharoah's building projects. The matzah is eaten.
Shulchan Orech (The Passover Dinner)
Dinner is served. It may be as simple as chicken, potatoes and cooked carrots. Matzah ball soup is a common dish. Adventurous cooks may want to find a Jewish cookbook and try Jewish recipes from around the world. Throughout the dinner, the children search for the piece of matzah that was previously hidden.
The Afikomen (The Hidden Matzah)
After the meal, the hidden matzah is presented by the fortunate boy or girl who has found it. The leader of the Seder "redeems" it with a gift of money. It is then broken, distributed and eaten. This, together with the Third Cup, forms the basis of the Lord's Supper.
The Third Cup—The Cup of Redemption
The Third Cup is consumed with the appropriate blessing (see above). This cup is a reminder of the shed blood of the Passover Lamb that purchased our redemption from slavery.
Throughout the evening, one place at the table has been left unoccupied. This is Elijah's place, and the door is now opened to see if he will enter, and bring with him the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.
The Zeroah and the Betzah (Shankbone and Egg)
The shankbone and egg, symbols of sacrifices that are no longer offered because of the destruction of the Temple, are referenced for the sake of their presence on the Passover Plate.
The Fourth Cup—The Cup of Praise
As the Passover is brought to conclusion, the blessing is said and the Fourth Cup is taken, while the following phrase is said in unison:
“Next Year in Jerusalem!”