Pesach Passover

General Information

(This presentation primarily discusses Jewish perspectives on the Eucharist. At the end of this presentation are links to Catholic and Protestant persectives, and a more general presentation on the Eucharist that includes presentation of the Orthodox perspective.)

General Information


The seder (from the Hebrew word for "order") is the festal meal eaten on the first two nights of Passover, the Jewish celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. The main seder meal does not begin until the story of the Exodus has been retold through the reading of the Haggadah and, more important, reexperienced by the celebrants. This recreation of the circumstances of bondage, together with the minutiae of the deliverance, form the heart and spirit of the seder and of the Passover festival itself.

Certain foods are eaten in set order during the ceremony, including matzoth, the unleavened bread of bondage; maror, bitter herbs (grated horseradish), commemorating the bitterness of slavery; baitzah, a hard-cooked egg, symbolic of life's cycle of birth and death; zaroah, a roasted lamb bone representing the paschal lamb; haroseth, chopped nuts, apples, and wine, symbolic of the clay used by Pharaoh's Hebrew slaves to make bricks; and karpas, parsley, lettuce or other greens, as a reminder that the new growth during this spring festival brings renewed hope of universal peace. Four cups of wine are drunk at various moments in the ceremony. A goblet of wine for Elijah is placed on the seder table in the symbolic hope that the prophet, whose appearance will presage the coming of the Messiah, may enter and partake of the wine that awaits him.

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General Information

Passover (in Hebrew, Pesach) is one of the most important Jewish festivals. Celebrated in late March or early April (by the Jewish calendar, Nisan 15-22), it commemorates the Exodus--the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The name Passover is interpreted in the Mishnah to refer to the statement (Exod. 12:23) that God would pass over the houses of the Israelites in killing the firstborn of Egypt. In the Bible, however, the name is applied to a festival involving the sacrifice of a lamb or kid and the eating of unleavened bread; this was probably an ancient spring festival.

The Passover is celebrated for 7 days (outside Israel, traditionally observant Jews add an extra day), the first and last days being full holidays when work is not to be done. Throughout the week only unleavened bread (matzo) is eaten; the scrupulously observant abstain from all leavened food and even from nonleavened food not prepared for the festival with special care. Samaritans still perform the ancient Passover sacrifice; all other Jews gave up this rite when the Temple was destroyed. Instead, the first two evenings of Passover are marked by a festal meal, called the seder, at which the story of the Exodus is retold through the reading of the Haggadah (story) and the symbols of the occasion--unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and others--are explained.

The Christian feast called Easter in English is called Passover in many other languages (Pascha, Pascuas, Paques).

The Passover lamb is interpreted as foreshadowing the sacrifice on the cross of Jesus, the lamb of God.

Bernard J. Bamberger

Bokser, B.M., The Origins of the Seder (1984); Gaster, T. H., Passover: Its History and Traditions (1949; repr. 1962); Goodman, Philip, ed., The Passover Anthology (1961); Wolfson, Ron, and Grishaver, J.L., The Art of Jewish Living: The Passover Seder (1988)

Pesach Passover Seder

General Information (Basic)

Of all the Jewish holidays, Pesach is the one most commonly observed, even by otherwise non-observant Jews. According to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), more than 80% of Jews have attended a Pesach seder.

Pesach begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. It is the first of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Shavu'ot and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it represents the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, but little attention is paid to this aspect of the holiday. The primary observances of Pesach are related to the Exodus from Egypt after generations of slavery. This story is told in Exodus, Ch. 1-15. Many of the Pesach observances are instituted in Chs. 12-15.

The name "Pesach" (PAY-sahch, with a "ch" as in the Scottich "loch") comes from the Hebrew root Peh-Samech-Chet , meaning to pass through, to pass over, to exempt or to spare. It refers to the fact that G-d "passed over" the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In English, the holiday is known as Passover. "Pesach" is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the Temple on this holiday. The holiday is also referred to as Chag he-Aviv , (the Spring Festival), Chag ha-Matzoth , (the Festival of Matzahs), and Z'man Cherutenu , (the Time of Our Freedom) (again, all with those Scottish "ch"s).

Probably the most significant observance related to Pesach involves the removal of chametz (leaven; sounds like "hum it's" with that Scottish ch) from our homes. This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise. It is also a symbolic way of removing the "puffiness" (arrogance, pride) from our souls.

Chametz includes anything made from the five major grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt) that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after coming into contact with water. Orthodox Jews of Ashkenazic background also avoid rice, corn, peanuts, and legumes (beans) as if they were chametz. All of these items are commonly used to make bread, thus use of them was prohibited to avoid any confusion. Such additional items are referred to as "kitniyot."

We may not eat chametz during Pesach; we may not even own it or derive benefit from it. We may not even feed it to our pets or cattle. All chametz, including utensils used to cook chametz, must either be disposed of or sold to a non-Jew (they can be repurchased after the holiday). Pets' diets must be changed for the holiday, or the pets must be sold to a non-Jew (like the food and utensils, the pets can be repurchased after the holiday ends). I have noticed that many non-Jews and non-observant Jews mock this practice of selling chametz as an artificial technicality. I assure you that this sale is very real and legally binding, and would not be valid under Jewish law if it were not. From the gentile's perspective, the purchase functions much like the buying and selling of futures on the stock market: even though he does not take physical posession of the goods, his temporary legal ownership of those goods is very real and potentially profitable.

The process of cleaning the home of all chametz in preparation for Pesach is an enormous task. To do it right, you must prepare for several weeks and spend several days scrubbing everything down, going over the edges of your stove and fridge with a toothpick and a Q-Tip, covering all surfaces that come in contact with foil or shelf-liner, etc., etc., etc. After the cleaning is completed, the morning before the seder, a formal search of the house for chametz is undertaken, and any remaining chametz is burned.

The grain product we eat during Pesach is called matzah. Matzah is unleavened bread, made simply from flour and water and cooked very quickly. This is the bread that the Jews made for their flight from Egypt. We have come up with many inventive ways to use matzah; it is available in a variety of textures for cooking: matzah flour (finely ground for cakes and cookies), matzah meal (coarsely ground, used as a bread crumb substitute), matzah farfel (little chunks, a noodle or bread cube substitute), and full-sized matzahs (about 10 inches square, a bread substitute).

The day before Pesach is the Fast of the Firstborn, a minor fast for all firstborn males, commemorating the fact that the firstborn Jewish males in Egypt were not killed during the final plague.

On the first night of Pesach (first two nights for traditional Jews outside Israel), we have a special family meal filled with ritual to remind us of the significance of the holiday. This meal is called a seder , from a Hebrew root word meaning "order," because there is a specific set of information that must be discussed in a specific order. It is the same root from which we derive the word "siddur" , (prayer book). An overview of a traditional seder is included below.

Pesach lasts for seven days (eight days outside of Israel). The first and last days of the holiday (first two and last two outside of Israel) are days on which no work is permitted. See Extra Day of Holidays for more information. Work is permitted on the intermediate days. These intermediate days on which work is permitted are referred to as Chol Ha-Mo'ed, as are the intermediate days of Sukkot.

When Pesach Begins on a Saturday Night

Occasionally, Pesach begins on a motzaei Shabbat, that is, on Saturday night after the sabbath has concluded. This occured in the year 5761 (2001). This complicates the process of preparing for Pesach, because many of the preparations normally undertaken on the day before Pesach cannot be performed on Shabbat.

The Fast of the Firstborn, normally observed on the day before Pesach, is observed on Thursday instead. The search for chametz, normally performed on the night before Pesach, is performed on Thursday night. The seder should be prepared for as much as possible before Shabbat begins, because time should not be taken away from Shabbat to prepare for Pesach. In addition, there are severe complications dealing with the conflict between the requirement of removing chametz no later than mid-morning on Saturday, the prohibition against eating matzah on the day before the seder, and the requirement of eating three meals with bread during Shabbat! For further details, see an excellent summary from the Orthodox Union, the world's largest, oldest and perhaps most respected kosher certification agency.

The Pesach Seder

The text of the Pesach seder is written in a book called the haggadah. Suggestions for buying a haggadah are included below. The content of the seder can be summed up by the following Hebrew rhyme:
Kaddesh, Urechatz,
Karpas, Yachatz,
Maggid, Rachtzah,
Motzi, Matzah,
Maror, Korech,
Shulchan Orech,
Tzafun, Barech,
Hallel, Nirtzah

Now, what does that mean?

1. Kaddesh: Sanctification
A blessing over wine in honor of the holiday. The wine is drunk, and a second cup is poured.

2. Urechatz: Washing
A washing of the hands without a blessing, in preparation for eating the Karpas.

3. Karpas: Vegetable
A vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped in salt water and eaten. The vegetable symbolizes the lowly origins of the Jewish people; the salt water symbolizes the tears shed as a result of our slavery. Parsley is a good vegetable to use for this purpose, because when you shake off the salt water, it looks like tears.

4. Yachatz: Breaking
One of the three matzahs on the table is broken. Part is returned to the pile, the other part is set aside for the afikomen (see below).

5. Maggid: The Story
A retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the first Pesach. This begins with the youngest person asking The Four Questions, a set of questions about the proceedings designed to encourage participation in the seder. The Four Questions are also known as Mah Nishtanah (Why is it different?), which are the first words of the Four Questions. This is often sung. See below.

The maggid is designed to satisfy the needs of four different types of people: the wise one, who wants to know the technical details; the wicked one, who excludes himself (and learns the penalty for doing so); the simple one, who needs to know the basics; and the one who is unable to ask, who doesn't even know enough to know what he needs to know.

At the end of the maggid, a blessing is recited over the second cup of wine and it is drunk.

6. Rachtzah: Washing
A second washing of the hands, this time with a blessing, in preparation for eating the matzah

7. Motzi: Blessing over Grain Products
The ha-motzi blessing, a generic blessing for bread or grain products used as a meal, is recited over the matzah.

8. Matzah: Blessing over Matzah
A blessing specific to matzah is recited, and a bit of matzah is eaten.

9. Maror: Bitter Herbs
A blessing is recited over a bitter vegetable (usually raw horseradish; sometimes romaine lettuce), and it is eaten. This symbolizes the bitterness of slavery. The maror is dipped charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine, which symbolizes the mortar used by the Jews in building during their slavery.

Note that there are two bitter herbs on the seder plate: one labeled Maror and one labeled Chazeret. The one labeled Maror should be used for Maror and the one labeled Chazeret should be used in the Korech, below.

10. Korech: The Sandwich
Rabbi Hillel was of the opinion that the maror should be eaten together with matzah and the paschal offering in a sandwich. In his honor, we eat some maror on a piece of matzah, with some charoset (we don't do animal sacrifice anymore, so there is no paschal offering to eat).

11. Shulchan Orech: Dinner
A festive meal is eaten. There is no particular requirement regarding what to eat at this meal (except, of course, that chametz cannot be eaten). Among Ashkenazic Jews, gefilte fish and matzah ball soup are traditionally eaten at the beginning of the meal. Roast chicken or turkey are common as a main course, as is beef brisket.

12. Tzafun: The Afikomen
The piece of matzah set aside earlier is eaten as "desert," the last food of the meal. Different families have different traditions relating to the afikomen. Some have the children hide it, while the parents have to either find it or ransom it back. Others have the parents hide it. The idea is to keep the children awake and attentive throughout the pre-meal proceedings, waiting for this part.

13. Barech: Grace after Meals
The third cup of wine is poured, and birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited. This is similar to the grace that would be said on any Shabbat. At the end, a blessing is said over the third cup and it is drunk. The fourth cup is poured, including a cup set aside for the prophet Elijah, who is supposed to herald the Messiah, and is supposed to come on Pesach to do this. The door is opened for a while at this point (supposedly for Elijah, but historically because Jews were accused of nonsense like putting the blood of Christian babies in matzah, and we wanted to show our Christian neighbors that we weren't doing anything unseemly).

14. Hallel: Praises
Several psalms are recited. A blessing is recited over the last cup of wine and it is drunk.

15. Nirtzah: Closing
A simple statement that the seder has been completed, with a wish that next year, we may celebrate Pesach in Jerusalem (i.e., that the Messiah will come within the next year). This is followed by various hymns and stories.

The Music of Pesach

Many people think of Pesach as a time of deprivation: a time when we cannot eat bread or other leavened foods. This is not the traditional way of viewing the holiday. Pesach is Zeman Herutenu, the Time of Our Freedom, and the joy of that time is evident in the music of the season. There are many joyous songs sung during the seder. Mah Nishtanah (Why is it Different?)

This is the tune sung during the youngest participant's recitation of the Four Questions.

Why is this night different from all other nights, from all other nights? Mah nishtanah ha-lahylah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-layloht, mi-kol ha-layloht?

On all other nights, we may eat chametz and matzah, chametz and matzah. On this night, on this night, only matzah.She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin chameytz u-matzah, chameytz u-matzah. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, kooloh matzah. On all other nights, we eat many vegetables, many vegetables. On this night, on this night, maror.She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin sh'ar y'rakot, sh'ar y'rakot. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, maror.

On all other nights, we do not dip even once. On this night, on this night, twice.She-b'khol ha-layloht ayn anu mat'bilin afilu pa'am echat, afilu pa'am echat. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, sh'tay p'amim.

On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, either sitting or reclining. On this night, on this night, we all recline.She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin bayn yosh'bin u'vayn m'soobin, bayn yosh'bin u'vayn m'soobin. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, koolanu m'soobin.

Dahyenu (It Would Have Been Enough For Us)

This is one of the most popular tunes of the seder, a very up-beat song about the many favors that G-d bestowed upon us when He brought us out of Egypt. The song appears in the haggadah after the telling of the story of the exodus, just before the explanation of Pesach, Matzah and Maror. I provide just two sample verses from a rather long song. The English does not include all of the repetition that is in the Hebrew.

Had He brought us out of Egypt and not judged them, it would have been enough for us.Ilu hotzi-hotzianu hotzianu mi-Mitzrayim, v'lo asah bahem s'fateem dahyenu.

(Chorus) It would have been enough for us. Dahy-dahyenu, dahy-dahyenu, dahy-dahyenu, dahyenu, dahyenu, dahyenu. Dahy-dahyenu, dahy-dahyenu, dahy-dahyenu, dahyenu, dahyenu! Had He judged them and not done so to their idols, it would have been enough for us.Ilu asah bahem s'fateem, v'lo asah beyloheyhem, v'lo asah beyloheyhem dahyenu.

Chorus, etc.

Eliyahu Ha-Navi (Elijah, the Prophet)

Many people sing this song when the Cup of Elijah is poured and the door is opened in anticipation of his return.

Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, Elijah, Elijah, Elijah the GileaditeEliyahu ha-Navi, Eliyahu ha-Tishbi, Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu ha-Giladi.

Speedily and in our days, come to us, with the messiah, son of David, with the messiah, son of David.Bimhayrah v'yamenu, yavo aleynu, im Moshiach ben David, im Moshiach ben David. Adir Hu (He is Mighty)

Adir Hu is a great sing-along song, because it has a lot of repetition. You don't need to know much Hebrew to get by with this one! It's also got a catchy tune. It's sung as the seder comes to a close. It expresses our hope that the messianic age will begin soon, and the Temple will be rebuilt. Each line of praise begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in alphabetical order, a common gimmick in Jewish hymns.

He is mighty, He is mightyAdir hu, adir hu

May He soon rebuild his house
Speedily, speedily and in our days, soon.
G-d, rebuild! G-d, rebuild!
Rebuild your house soon! Chorus:
Yivneh vayto b'karov
Bim'hayrah, bim'hayrah, b'yamenu b'karov
E-yl b'nay! E-yl b'nay!
B'nay vayt'kha b'karov
He is distinguished, He is great, He is exhalted
(Chorus)Bachur hu, gadol hu, dagul hu,
He is glorious, He is faithful, He is faultless, He is righteous
(Chorus)Hadur hu, vatik hu, zakay hu, chasid hu,
He is pure, He is unique, He is powerful,
He is wise, He is King, He is awesome,
He is sublime, He is all-powerful, He is the redeemer, He is
(Chorus)Tahor hu, yachid hu, kabir hu,
Lamud hu, melekh hu, nora hu,
Sagiv hu, izuz hu, podeh hu, tzadik hu
He is holy, He is compassionate, He is almighty, He is omnipotent
(Chorus)Kadosh hu, rachum hu, shaddai hu,
takif hu

Recipe for Charoset

This fruit, nut and wine mix is eaten during the seder. It is meant to remind us of the mortar used by the Jews to build during the period of slavery. It should have a coarse texture. The ingredient quantities listed here are at best a rough estimate; I usually just eye-ball it. The recipe below makes a very large quantity, but we usually wind up making more before the holiday is over. Other fruits or nuts can be used.

4 medium apples, 2 tart and 2 sweet
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup sweet wine
1/4 cup dry wine
1 Tbs. cinnamon

Shred the apples. Add all other ingredients. Allow to sit for 3-6 hours, until the wine is absorbed by the other ingredients. Serve on matzah. Goes very well with horseradish.

Buying a Haggadah

If you want to know more about Pesach, the best place to start is with the haggadah. The haggadah was written as a teaching tool, to allow people at all levels to learn the significance of Pesach and its symbols. There are a wide variety of Haggadahs available for every political and religious point of view: traditional haggadahs, liberal haggadahs, mystical haggadahs, feminist haggadahs, and others. I have even seen what might be described as an atheist haggadah: one that does not mention the role of G-d in the Exodus.

If you're buying a haggadah for study or collection, there are many haggadahs with extensive commentary or with pictures from illuminated medieval haggadahs. However, if you're buying haggadahs for actual use at a seder, you're best off with an inexpensive paperback. Keep in mind that you'll need one for everybody, you're likely to get food and wine on these things, and you'll be using them year after year.

I'm particularly partial to the Artscroll/Mesorah series' The Family Haggadah. It has the full, Orthodox text of the haggadah in English side-by-side with Hebrew and Aramaic, with complete instructions for preparing for and performing the seder. The translations are very readable and the book includes marginal notes explaining the significance of each paragraph of the text. This book is usually only available at Jewish gift or book stores, and usually sells for about $2.50.

Another good traditional one is Nathan Goldberg's Passover Haggadah. This is the familiar "yellow and red cover" haggadah that so many of us grew up with. Believe it or not, it is frequently available in grocery stores in the Passover aisle. It usually sells for less than $5, and is often given away free with certain grocery purchases.

Watch out for Christianized versions of the haggadah. The Christian "last supper" is generally believed to have been a Pesach seder, so many Christians recreate the ritual of the seder, and the haggadahs that they use for this purpose tend to reinterpret the significance of the holiday and its symbols to fit into their Christian theology. For example, they say that the three matzahs represent the Trinity, with the broken one representing Jesus on the cross (in Judaism, the three matzahs represent the three Temples, two of which have been destroyed, and the third of which will be built when the moshiach comes). They speak of the paschal lamb as a prophecy of Jesus, rather than a remembrance of the lamb's blood on the doorposts in Egypt. If you want to learn what Pesach means to Jews, then these "messianic" haggadahs aren't for you.

Key Terms

Note: Pronunciations are intended to reflect the way these terms are most commonly pronounced by Jews in the United States, and may not be strictly technically correct.

PesachPassoverPAY-sahkh or PEH-sahkh
MatzahUnleavened breadMAHTZ-uh
ChametzLeavened thingsKHUH-mitz
SederHome ritual performed on the
first two nights of Pesach
HaggadahThe book read during the sederhuh-GAH-duh

List of Dates

Pesach will occur on the following days of the Gregorian calendar:

Jewish Year 5764: sunset April 5, 2004 - nightfall April 13, 2004
Jewish Year 5765: sunset April 23, 2005 - nightfall May 1, 2005
Jewish Year 5766: sunset April 12, 2006 - nightfall April 20, 2006
Jewish Year 5767: sunset April 2, 2007 - nightfall April 10, 2007
Jewish Year 5768: sunset April 19, 2008 - nightfall April 27, 2008

Tracey R Rich

A Seder Outline

General Information

The Seder can perhaps best be described as a "talk-feast." Conducted around a table laden with the bounty of the earth, it is people spending a leisurely evening engaged in good talk and good food. For the rabbis who formalized its procedures, Seder was the pre-eminent vehicle of cultural transmission from one generation to the next. Long before printed books and formal schools, the yearly Seder night transformed every Jewish home into a classroom, with the Haggadah (from the Hebrew root "to tell") as the text.

The word "Seder" means order. The tradition understands the Passover table ritual as a fixed progression, 15 steps, a logical unfolding of the single most important Jewish lesson from the retelling of the single most significant Jewish experience. In actuality, the Pesach Seder is one of the most carefully constructed learning experiences ever created. In an amazing combination of aural and tactile learning tasks, the Seder has something for everybody--drink, food, symbols, prayers, songs, stories, philosophy, text study, simulations, ritual actions--all designed with one overall goal: to take each person at the Seder back to Egypt, to re-enact the dramatic Exodus story, to make each one of us feel as she or he had actually been redeemed from Mitzrayim (Egypt). The Pesach Seder is a talk-feast in four acts. Four is an all-important number in understanding the Haggadah. And so, here is the "script," the Seder outline.

Act I: The Beginning

The Prologue

Even before the Seder begins, there are a number of activities which create the setting. A production of this magnitude cannot be staged without adequate preparation. Formal preparations can include ridding the house of chametz, "kashering" the kitchen for Passover, setting the Passover table, and preparing the meal.

Hadlakat ha-Nerot (Lighting the Festival Candles)

Before the seder begins, the Yom Tov (festival) candles are lit, signifying the begining of the holiday.

Scene 1: Kadeish (The First Cup of Wine)

The festival Kiddush is chanted, praising God who sanctifies the people Israel and the Festival seasons, and thanking God for enabling us to reach this time of celebration.

Scene 2: Ur'chatz (Wash Hands)

In traditional homes it is the custom to wash hands before eating. Here, we wash hands as if preparing to eat, but without reciting a blessing.

Scene 3: Karpas (Appetizer)

A green vegetable is dipped in salt water, a reminder of the tears of our ancestors in Egypt. It is a kind of historic appetizer.

Scene 4: Yachatz (Break the middle Matzah)

The matzah is introduced silently. We break the middle matzah in order to hide one portion as the afikomen, the "dessert" of our meal, a symbol of the redemption yet to come. Curtain: Ha Lachma Anya (Invitation): We uncover the matzot, calling them the "bread of affliction," for as we are about to begin our story, our ancestors are enslaved in Egypt. We invite all who are hungry or needy to join in our Pesach service. As Act I closes, we acknowledge our slavery, but hope for our freedom.

Act II: Maggid (The Telling)

Act II is the heart of the seder experience. We tell the story of our Exodus from slavery to freedom in four ways, in four different tellings. Each telling begins with a question, to which an answer is given, and for which we praise God, the Hero of our story.

Scene 1: The First Telling

The first telling begins with the famous Four Questions (really one question with four statements), traditionally asked by the youngest member of the seder party. The answer, which is to begin with the degradation of our people and end with the story of redemption, tells the story in one brilliant, concise sentence: "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but Adonai our God brought us forth with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm." But this story deserves more than a one-sentence summary, so, we have three more versions to come. God is deserving of praise which we pronounce four times.

Scene 2: The Second Telling

The second telling begins with the question of the Four Children. Here, the Haggadah teaches us that to tell the story well, we must tell it differently to different types of learners. Although the questions are different, they all relate to the same central question: "What is this Passover service all about?" The answer in this telling goes back even earlier in Jewish history, back to our idol-worshipping roots. Yet, we recall the promise God made to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation. We praise God who kept a promise then and keeps the Covenant with us alive to this day.

Scene 3: The Third Telling

The third telling offers the learner the core story of the Exodus as related in four verses in Deuteronomy. By exploring the meaning of these words, we embellish the answer, we flesh out the story of our liberation. The climax of this story is the awe-full series of Ten Plagues which God brought upon Egypt, convincing Pharaoh to let the people go. We then praise God who, if God had performed only this one act of kindness, Dayeinu--it would have been enough!

Scene 4: The Fourth Telling

The fourth telling returns to concrete symbols with questions about the Pesach (paschal lamb), matzah, and maror, the central symbols on the seder table. The specific questions are answered, but once again, the key question is "Why do we do this ritual? Why do we tell this story?" The answer is directed to each person, individually: "Because in each generation, every individual should feel as if he or she had actually been redeemed from Egypt." We are redeemed and therefore, we acclaim God with a new song, Halleluyah, and we praise Adonai, Redeemer of Israel.

Curtain: Kos Sheini. (the second cup of wine)

Act II comes to a close with the sanctification of the second cup of wine, a reminder of God's promise to deliver us. We have told the Exodus story four times, we have relived the slavery and the liberation from bondage. We celebrate our redemption with a cup of wine.

Act III: The Feast

The third act of the talk-feast is the feast itself. As with all Jewish holiday meals, there are ritual actions before and after the meal. On Passover, some of these rituals are common to any Jewish meal (washing hands, motzi, birkat ha-mazon), while others are specific to the Passover celebration (maror, korech, tzafun). The importance of these rituals is to underscore the fact that this is no ordinary meal. In fact, it is no ordinary Festival meal. It is the Pesach feast which we reenact today as our ancestors did on that fateful night in Egypt. To some observers, this is the climax of the seder itself; we eat the matzah, the maror, and the korech--substitute for the paschal sacrifice, just as the Israelites did on the eve of Passover.

Scene 1: Prepare to eat

We actually began the preparation for the meal at the very beginning of the seder with the kiddush. Then, we washed without a blessing and ate an appetizer, the karpas. Now, we continue the preliminaries to the feast by performing the four ritual acts:

(rochtza) (Washing) --we wash our hands and recite the blessing for this act which precedes the breaking of bread at every traditional Jewish meal.

Motzi/Matza (Motzi/Blessing of the Matzah)--we praise God, first for the general blessing of bringing forth the bread from the earth, and then for the specific blessing of matzah, the bread of freedom.

Maror--we eat the bitter herbs, symbol of our former slavery.

Koreich--we bind the matzah and maror together, just as Rabbi Hillel did at his seder nearly 2000 years ago as a reminder of the paschal offering on Passover night.

Scene 2: Schulchan Orech (Set the Table)

The festive meal is eaten.

Scene 3: Tzafun (Dessert)

We find or redeem that which is tzafun--hidden, the afikomen. It is our dessert, the last morsel of food eaten at the seder, a symbol of redemption.

Scene 4: Bareich (Blessing after the food)

We praise God for providing us food, the Promised Land, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jerusalem, and all the goodness we have in our lives.

Curtain:Kos Shli'shee (The third cup of wine)

The meal concludes with the third cup of wine, another reminder of God's promise of redemption.

Act IV: Redemption

We have told the story of the Exodus. We have eaten the symbolic foods and the festive meal. Now, we celebrate our redemption, with praise for God the Redeemer and prayers for our ultimate redemption in Messianic times. We sing songs of praise, songs of joy, we recognize the harvest season, and we conclude with the final cup of wine and the prayer for our return to Jerusalem.

Scene 1: Eliahu ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet)

The redemption theme is sounded by the lilting, hopeful strains of "Elliahu ha-Navi," welcoming to the table Elijah the Prophet, harbinger of the Messiah.

Scene 2: Hallel (Songs of Praise)

The recitation of Hallel which began before the meal with Halleluyah, now continues with the remaining psalms of praise for God who redeems the people Israel.

Scene 3:Songs

With the formal requirement of the seder completed, the mood turns more festive with the singing of songs which celebrate our rejoicing.

Curtain: Kos R'vi'i/Nirtzah (The fourth cup of wine/acceptance)

The seder now draws to a conclusion, marked by the fourth cup of wine and a prayer that our seder be accepted and the promise of our redemption be fulfilled. We end with the messianic hope spoken by generations of Jews: "Next year in Jerusalem!"

This seder outline was adapted from The Art of Jewish Living: The Passover Seder by Dr. Ron Wolfson, published by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs and the University of Judaism, 1988.

A Christian Version of the Seder

General Information

A Messianic Passover Seder


The leader should read thru the Leader's Haggadah book in advance, before the eve of the Seder. He should prepare himself spiritually and his home for the Seder. This is to be a time of joy. The Seder may be celebrated by just the immediate family as in Jewish home or as a teaching ministry. Either way, it will glorify the Lord Jesus and draw everyone closer to Him. Don't worry about your Seder being "perfect." This is a celebration not a performance. The leader is the coordinator of the Seder not a performer.

While reading the Haggadah book in advance, select which optional text you want to include. Also select which Bible verses you want read and by whom. Feel free to add your own observations and comments. You may want to add comments and corrections in the margins.

The Seder is divided into three parts, I have noted the approximate time of each portion: the time before the meal (1 hour), the festival meal (1 hour) and the time after the meal (45 min.). So provide 2 to 3 hours for the Seder depending on the amount of optional text and Scripture read and the number of courses of the meal.

Jews for Jesus, holds an annual Seder banquet where you can learn and enjoy. You can write or call them if you are interested in their Seder.

References Material

Haggadah for the American Family: by Rabbi Martin Berkowitz, ©1975, Martin Berkowitz, Merio, PA. (simple short version in Modern English)

Passover Haggadah: A Messianic Celebration: by Eric Peter Lipson, ©1986, Jews for Jesus

Celebrate Passover Haggadah, by John Lipis, Jews for Jesus

The Messianic Passover Haggadah: by Barry and Steffi Rubin, The Lederer Foundation


A comment on removing all leaven. Since the following is said and we are not under the Ceremonial law, (but under grace) we do not have to remove all leaven from our houses.


David Sargent


Jewish Viewpoint Information

Passover at Jerusalem.

The term used by the Ashkenazic Jews to denote the home service on the first night of the Passover, which, by those who keep the second day of the festivals, is repeated on the second night. The Sephardic Jews call this service the "Haggadah" (story); and the little book which is read on the occasion is likewise known to all Jews as the "Haggadah," more fully as "Haggadah shel Pesaḥ" (Story for the Passover). The original Passover service, as enjoined in Ex. xii. 1 et seq., contemplates an ordinary meal of the household, in which man and wife, parents and children, participate. The historical books of Scripture do not record how and where the Passover lamb was eaten during the many centuries before the reform of King Josiah, referred to in II Kings xxiii.; it is related only that during all that long period the Passover was not celebrated according to the laws laid down in the Torah. In the days of the Second Temple, when these laws were observed literally, the supper of the Passover night must have lost much of its character as a family festival; for only the men were bidden to attend at the chosen place; and the Passover lamb might not be killed elsewhere (Deut. xvi. 5-6). Thus, only those dwelling at Jerusalem could enjoy the nation's birthday as a family festival. There is no information as to how the night was celebrated during Temple times by the Jews outside the Holy Land, who did not "go up to the feast." The destruction of the Temple, while reducing the Passover-night service into little more than a survival or memorial of its old self, again brought husbands, wives, and children together around the same table, and thus enabled the father to comply more closely with the Scriptural command: "Thou shalt tell thy son on that day."

Before the schools of Hillel and Shammai arose in the days of King Herod, a service of thanks, of which the six "psalms of praise" (Ps. cxiii.-cxviii.) formed the nucleus, had already clustered around the meal of the Passover night; of this meal the roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs were necessary elements (Ex. l.c.; Num. ix. 11). The service began with the sanctification of the day as at other festivals, hence with a cup of wine (See Ḳiddush); another cup followed the after-supper grace as on other festive occasions. But to mark the evening as the most joyous in the year, two other cups were added: one after the "story" and before the meal, and one at the conclusion of the whole service. The Mishnah says (Pes. x. 1) that even the poorest man in Israel should not drink less than four cups of wine on this occasion, this number being justified by the four words employed in Ex. vi. 6-7 for the delivery of Israel from Egypt.

The Seder Table.

Both in the arrangement of the table and in the psalms, benedictions, and other recited matter the Seder of the present day agrees substantially with the program laid down in the Mishnah. Three thick unleavened cakes, wrapped in napkins, are laid upon the Seder dish; parsley and a bowl of salt water are placed next, to represent the hyssop and blood of the Passover of Egypt; further, watercress or horse-radish-tops, to serve as bitter herbs, and a mixture of nuts and apples, to imitate the clay which the Israelites worked into bricks; also slices of horseradish. A roasted bone as a memorial of the paschal lamb, a roasted egg in memory of the free-will offering of the feast, and jugs or bottles of wine, with a glass or silver cup for each member of the family and each guest, likewise are placed on the table. It is customary to fill an extra cup for the prophet Elijah. Ḳiddush is recited first, as at other festivals; then the master of the house (as priest of the occasion), having washed his hands, dips the parsley in the water, and, with the short prayer of thanks usual before partaking of a vegetable, hands some of it to those around him. He then breaks off one-half of the middle cake, which is laid aside for Afiḳomen, to be distributed and eaten at the end of the supper. Then all stand and lift up the Seder dish, chanting slowly in Aramaic: "This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in Egypt: whoever is hungry come and eat: whoever is in need celebrate Passover with us," etc.

Thereupon the youngest child at the table asks: "Why is this night different from other nights?" etc., referring to the absence of leavened bread, to the bitter herbs, and to the preparations for dipping. In the days of the Temple, and for some time after its downfall, there was also a question, "Why is the meat all roasted, and none sodden or broiled?" For this no longer appropriate question another was substituted, now also obsolete: "Why do all of us 'lean around'?" in allusion to the Roman custom at banquets-which became current among the Jews-of reclining on couches around the festive board. The father or master of the house then answers: "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord delivered us thence," etc. This question and its answer are meant as a literal compliance with the Biblical command, found thrice in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy, that the father shall take occasion at the Passover ceremonies to tell his children of the wonderful delivery from Egypt.

A number of detached passages in the language of the Mishnah-all referring in some way to the Exodus-follow, introducing Bible verses or commenting upon them, and "beginning with reproach and ending with praise," e.g., the verses from Joshua xxiv. declaring that before Abraham men were all idolaters, but that he and Isaac and Jacob were chosen. The longest of these passages is a running comment on Deut. xxvi. 5: "A wandering Syrian [A. V. "a Syrian ready to perish"] was my father," etc., almost every word of which is illustrated by a verse from some book of Scripture; the comment closing with the suggestion that the last words (ib. verse 8), "with a mighty hand and with an out-stretched arm, and with great terribleness, with signs and with wonders," refer to the Ten Plagues. Further on it is stated that none has done his duty on that night until he has given voice to the three words "pesaḥ" (paschal lamb), "maẓẓah" (unleavened bread), and, "maror" (bitter herb). A more important remark follows, to the effect that it is the duty of every Israelite to feel as if he personally had been delivered from Egypt. Then two of the "psalms of praise" (Ps. cxiii.-cxiv.) are read, in accordance with the teaching of Hillel's school; while Shammai's school read only one of these before supper. A benediction follows, in which the restoration of the Passover sacrifice is prayed for. A second cup of wine is drunk; and with this the first part of the Seder ends, all present washing their hands for supper.

This meal is begun by handing around morsels of the first and third cakes, giving thanks first to Him "who brought forth bread from the earth," and then to Him "who sanctified us by the command to eat maẓẓah." The bitter herb, dipped in the imitation clay, is eaten next, with thanks for the duty of eating bitter herbs; and then horseradish-slices are made into sandwiches with parts of the middle cake, in memory of Hillel's action in Temple times, when he ate pieces of paschal lamb literally "upon" unleavened cake and bitter herbs.

The real meal then begins, its last morsels being broken from the afiḳomen. Then follows the grace after meals with the insertion for the festival; and afterward the third cup is drunk. This grace, the remaining four psalms of praise (Ps. cxv.-cxviii.), the so-called "Great Hallel." (Ps. cxxxvii.) with its recurring burden "Ki le'olam ḥasdo" (His mercy endureth forever), Nishmat, and the words of thanks after wine make up the second part of the Seder.

Such was the order of exercises as far back as the middle of the third century. But as he "who talked the most of the departure from Egypt" was always deemed most worthy of praise, a few additions were made in various countries at different times. Thus, the Jews of Yemen still insert in the ḳiddush on this night, after the words "who has chosen us above every people," a piece of rather grotesque self-praise, such as "He called us a community of saints, a precious vineyard, a pleasant plantation; compared to the host of heaven and set like stars in the firmament." Such passages were at one time recited in other countries also. Many of the Jews in Mohammedan countries have in their service-books legendary comments upon the Haggadah, mainly in Arabic, which the father reads by way of explanation and elaboration of the text. The Sephardic Jews in Turkey recite in Spanish some legends about the Exodus, not found in the Haggadah. The German and Polish Jews add five poetic pieces at the end of the exercises: one arranged according to the alphabet, with the burden, "It was in the midst of the night" (referring to events in the past, or foretold in prophecy, which happened at that hour); another, an indescribablejingle ("Ki lo Na'eh") before the last cup. In Germany two other pieces were added which from old German nursery songs had first become festal songs and then were invested with a higher significance as if they typified specific Jewish ideas. See Eḥad Mi Yodea' and Ḥad Gadya.

Cyrus Adler, Lewis N. Dembitz
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

Pes. x.; Maimonides, Yad, Ḥameẓ, vii.-viii.; Caro, Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 472-484; Lauterbach, Minḥah Ḥadashah, Drohobicz, 1893; Friedmann, Das Festbuch Haggadah, Vienna, 1895; L. N. Dembitz, Jewish Services in Synagogue and Home, pp. 356-367, Philadelphia, 1898.

Also, see:
Last Supper (Protestant-oriented)
Mass (Catholic oriented)
Eucharist (includes Orthodox perspective)

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in December 1997.

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