2. Preparing for the Seder

https://ph.yhb.org.il/en/04-16-02/

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 in liquid twice, wash our hands twice, and give the appearance of beginning the meal before suddenly starting to recite the Hagada. In addition, the mitzvot of eating matza, drinking four cups of wine, and reclining also prompt the children to ask: “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

The Sages also instruct one to give nuts and candy to small children at the beginning of the Seder, so they see yet another change and ask: “Why is this night different?” (SA 472:16). It is good to give them small candies throughout the Seder, keeping them alert and happy.

An effort is made to buy new clothes for the children and the entire household before Pesaĥ, in order to make everybody happy. Indeed, the mitzva to be joyful applies to each of the three pilgrimage festivals (Pesaĥ, Shavu’ot, and Sukkot), and it is therefore a mitzva to buy clothes and jewelry for the women and girls, give young children candy and nuts, and serve meat and wine to men at each festival (SA 528:2-3). However, we are even more careful about buying new clothes for Pesaĥ, because wearing them for the Seder evokes a special sense of excitement for this exalted night.

It is proper to set the table and arrange the Seder plate before evening, so that kiddush can be recited as soon as possible after the Ma’ariv prayer. In this way, there is no wasting of the precious time when the children are still alert and can still participate in reciting the Hagada, eating the matza, and drinking the wine. However, kiddush should not be recited before tzeit ha-kokhavim (the appearance of three distinct stars), because kiddush must be recited at a time when matza can be eaten, i.e., the night of the fifteenth of Nisan. Moreover, the kiddush wine is the first of the four cups, and one must drink all four cups at night (ibid. 472:1; MB ad loc. 4).

When setting the table, one should put out comfortable chairs so that participants will be able to recline. Ideally, the table should be set with the finest silverware and dishes. During the course of the year, we refrain from setting the table with overly attractive utensils, in remembrance of the Temple’s destruction, but on Shabbat and holidays we do everything we can to enhance the table’s beauty (SA 560:2; MB ad loc. 5). On the Seder night, it is a mitzva to beautify the table with the absolute best utensils, as it expresses freedom and joy (SA 472:2; MB ad loc. 6).

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