Chapter: 16 – Seder Night

1. Introduction

Before detailing the laws of the Seder, let us briefly survey the mitzvot we fulfill on the Seder night. Two elements constitute the foci of the Seder: The first is commemoration of our Exodus from Egypt and emancipation from slavery … Continue reading

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2. Preparing for the Seder

As noted, one of the two key objectives of the Seder is to transmit the tradition of the Exodus to our children. In order to keep younger children alert, we do many unusual things at the Seder: we dip vegetables … Continue reading

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3. The Seder Plate

Before the Seder, one must prepare the Seder plate, on which all of the special Seder foods are arranged. Setting the Seder plate is not merely to keep the foods close by and at the ready, but also because each … Continue reading

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4. Arranging the Seder Plate

The Talmud does not mention the Seder plate, but it does say that “matza, lettuce, ĥaroset, and two cooked foods” are served to the person leading the Seder (Pesaĥim 114a). The Rishonim and SA (473:4) state that all of these … Continue reading

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5. Kadesh – Kiddush

The Seder begins with kiddush, which expresses the sanctity of the Jewish people and of the Pesaĥ holiday. The kiddush of Shabbat and other holidays contains the phrase “in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt,” for the source of Israel’s … Continue reading

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6. The Four Cups

The Sages instituted drinking four cups of wine on the Seder night in order to increase the joy of redemption and give expression to our freedom. On every Yom Tov there is a mitzva to rejoice by drinking wine, but … Continue reading

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7. The Wine

The Sages stated (Pesaĥim 108b) that in order to fulfill the mitzva of the four cups properly, one must dilute the wine with water, because otherwise it will be too strong and cause intoxication. Though the alcohol in such wine … Continue reading

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8. The Amount of Wine and Cup Size

In order to fulfill the mitzva of the four cups, or any other mitzva that involves drinking wine (such as kiddush, havdala, Birkat Ha-mazon, and wedding ceremonies), there must be a significant amount of wine in the cup. The Sages … Continue reading

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9. How Much Wine?

Optimally, one should drink all of the wine in the cup, which means at least a revi’it. If one uses a large cup that contains more than a revi’it, he should, le-khatĥila, drink all of the wine in the cup. … Continue reading

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10. The Mitzva of Reclining

The Sages ordained that one recline while eating matza and drinking wine at the Seder, because in every generation one must give the appearance of having just been freed from Egyptian bondage, as it is stated: “He rescued us from … Continue reading

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11. How to Recline

Nowadays, people are not used to reclining on couches while eating, and it is therefore necessary to explain how to perform hasava in a chair on the Seder night. Instead of sitting erect with one’s back against the seat back, … Continue reading

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12. If One Forgets To Recline

If one eats a kezayit of matza without reclining, he does not fulfill his obligation, as he has not performed the mitzva as the Sages ordained it, and he must eat another kezayit while reclining. Even if one has already … Continue reading

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13. May One Drink after the First Cup?

Technically, one who wishes to drink after the first of the four cups may do so, but one should preferably not drink between the first and second cups so that he does not become intoxicated to the point of being … Continue reading

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14. Raĥatz – Washing Hands before Eating Karpas

After kiddush we eat the karpas, a vegetable. The Sages ordained eating karpas to create a change that will cause the children to ask why it is that tonight, unlike all other nights, we are eating a vegetable before the … Continue reading

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15. Karpas

As noted, the Sages ordained eating a vegetable dipped in liquid between kiddush and the recitation of the Hagada in order to change routine; all year long, we eat vegetables during the meal, after washing hands over bread, but at … Continue reading

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16. Yaĥatz – Breaking the Middle Matza

Three matzot are arranged on the Seder plate. After eating karpas, before reciting the Hagada, the Seder leader (and whoever else has three matzot in front of him), breaks the middle matza in half. One piece is saved for the … Continue reading

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17. Magid – Beginning the Hagada

After breaking the middle matza, we uncover the matzot, and the Seder leader lifts the entire Seder plate, or at least the matzot, for all of the participants to see. While doing so, he recites the paragraph “Ha Laĥma Anya” … Continue reading

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18. Laws of Reciting the Hagada

One who merely contemplates the Hagada does not fulfill the obligation to tell the Exodus story, as it is stated, “Tell your child” (Shemot 13:8), i.e., express the story verbally. However, it is not necessary for all participants to recite … Continue reading

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19. Customs Regarding the Recitation of the Hagada

As stated, the custom is to refrain from reclining while reciting the Hagada, because it must be recited with seriousness and reverence (MB 473:71, based on Shlah). However, this seriousness incorporates joy and elation at the fact that God chose … Continue reading

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20. The Mitzva to Recite Hallel on the Seder Night

When the Temple stood, people would recite Hallel while offering the korban Pesaĥ, and again while eating it (Pesaĥim 95a). The main reason for reciting Hallel on the first night of Pesaĥ is to sing God’s praises; every Jew must … Continue reading

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21. The Laws of the Second and Fourth Cups

The only significant practical difference between communal customs regarding the laws of the Seder pertains to the berakha over the second and fourth cups. Many Rishonim maintain that “borei pri ha-gefen” must be recited over each of the four cups, … Continue reading

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22. The Mitzva to Eat Matza

There is a Torah commandment to eat matza on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan, as it states: “In the evening, you shall eat matzot” (Shemot 12:18). This matza must have been guarded (shmura), as it states: “And you … Continue reading

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23. Calculating the Size of a Kezayit for Torah Commandments

The long exile gave rise to uncertainty regarding the size of a kezayit. According to Rambam, a kezayit is slightly less than a third of the volume of an egg; according to Tosafot, it is about the volume of half … Continue reading

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24. The Sephardic Custom Regarding a Kezayit

Sephardic Jews customarily do not give any consideration to the Noda Bi-Yehuda/Ĥazon Ish position, because their own tradition about these measurements was handed down in an orderly manner from generation to generation, without change. Even with regard to Torah commandments, … Continue reading

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25. How Much Is a Shi’ur Akhilat Pras?

We have now seen that in order to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza, as well as any other Torah commandment governing eating, one must eat at least a kezayit. One condition must now be added: it is only considered … Continue reading

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26. How the Matza Is Eaten

Hands are now washed with a berakha, and the Seder leader holds up the three matzot and recites the berakha of “Who brings forth bread from the earth” (“ha-motzi leĥem min ha-aretz”). The top and bottom matzot, which are whole, … Continue reading

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27. The Mitzva to Eat Maror

The Torah commandment to eat maror on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan is contingent upon the eating of the Paschal sacrifice, as it states: “They shall eat it with matzot and merorim [plural of maror]” (Bamidbar 9:11). Since … Continue reading

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28. Korekh

After eating the maror, we make a sandwich from a kezayit of maror in a kezayit of matza and dip it in ĥaroset. Some people also shake off any ĥaroset that sticks to the maror, as with the eating of … Continue reading

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29. Those Who Have Difficulty Eating Matza

As we have learned, a kezayit of matza is about a third of a machine matza, and on the Seder night we must eat four or five pieces of this size. After the berakhot of “ha-motzi” and “al akhilat matza,” … Continue reading

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30. Those Exempt from Matza and Maror

One who is incapable of eating a kezayit of matza (one third of a matza) should at least try to eat a portion of matza equivalent to a modern-day olive, because some poskim maintain that this is the true size … Continue reading

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31. The Time for Eating the Matza, Maror, and Afikoman

The matza and maror must be eaten by midnight (the midpoint of the night, regardless of the time on the clock), but if one was unable to eat them before midnight, he should eat them after midnight without a berakha. … Continue reading

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32. Meal Customs: Roasted Foods, Eggs

During the time of the Mishna, some communities had a custom to refrain from eating roast meat on Pesaĥ night, since it would look like they were eating the meat of the Paschal sacrifice – which must be roasted – … Continue reading

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33. Tzafun – the Afikoman

After the Seder meal, we eat a kezayit (about a third of a machine matza) of the broken matza that was set aside at the beginning of the Seder. This matza is called the afikoman. After eating the afikoman, we … Continue reading

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34. The Afikoman: Two Reasons, Two Kezeytim

As we have seen, according to most authorities the afikoman commemorates the Paschal sacrifice, which was eaten at the end of the meal (Ha-ma’or, Ramban, Or Zaru’a, Rosh, etc.). However, according to several major Rishonim (Rashi, Rashbam), the afikoman is … Continue reading

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35. Hallel, the Great Hallel, and the Concluding Berakha

After Birkat Ha-mazon, we drink the third cup of wine and then pour the fourth cup, over which we recite Hallel and “the Great” Hallel (“Hallel Ha-gadol”). Before Hallel we recite the paragraph “Shefokh Ĥamatkha” (“Pour Your Wrath”). Some customarily … Continue reading

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36. The Fifth Cup – Eliyahu’s Cup

A significant halakhic uncertainty arose concerning the fifth cup. Some say that there is an extra special mitzva to drink a fifth cup; the fourth cup should be drunk at the end of the Hallel and the fifth cup after … Continue reading

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37. Drinking Coffee or Juice after the Seder

We have learned that the Sages ordained the afikoman at the end of the Seder to commemorate the korban Pesaĥ, which was eaten “while satisfied.” Just as it was forbidden to eat any other food after the Paschal sacrifice, so … Continue reading

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38. Recounting the Exodus and Studying the Laws of Pesaĥ All Night

Some have a custom to read Shir Ha-shirim (the Song of Songs) upon completing the Hagada, as it alludes to the love between God and Israel. Though we have fulfilled our obligation to tell the story of the Exodus by … Continue reading

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