Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus
I believe (though I have not conducted any official research) that there are more Haggadot than there are Jews in the world. Haggadah means “the telling”, and it is the book used to dictate the order of our Seder. How redundant - Seder, in fact, means order.
The various Haggadot on the market today also offer a variety of orders. Some of them may skip a few steps. Some may shorten a few steps. And, some may take creative liberties for the purpose of engaging, inspiring, and arousing curiosity.
The purpose of the Seder is to pass along the story of our history to our children. The Haggadah provides a framework for this sharing. These are the steps commonly found in a Haggadah and, thus, at our Passover Seders.
Kadesh is the first step of the Seder is the first cup of wine. Kiddush, the blessing over the wine, is recited.
Urchatz is a ritual hand washing. Water is poured three times over our right hand and three times over our left hand. This washing does not have a blessing.
Karpas involves dipping a vegetable into salt water. Typically, we dip parsley or a potato. The salt water represents the bitter tears of the Jewish people when they were slaves in Egypt.
Yahatz is the breaking of the middle matzah. The larger piece becomes the afikomen, and the smaller piece is referred to as the bread of affliction.
Maggidis the center of the Seder. It is the actual telling of the story of Passover. This step includes the four questions, the second of the four cups of wine, the discussion of the four sons, and the recitation of the ten plagues.
Rachtzah is the second ritual washing. This time, we do say the bracha or blessing.
Motzi, the bracha over bread, is recited despite the fact that we do not eat bread during Passover.
Matza is often included with the above step and is known as motzi-matzah. We recite this blessing before eating our first taste of matzah.
Maror is the bitter herb that is dipped in charoset. A piece of romaine lettuce is typically used as the maror. Horseradish can also be used and, sometimes, both are used.
Korech gets everyone excited. This is the time when many of us make the Hillel sandwich that includes the bitter herb, some matzah, and charoset.
Shulchan Orech means set table. At this point, we eat the festive meal. The meal often begins with a hard-boiled egg.
Tzafun is the eating of the afikomen. Hopefully, someone has already found it!
Barech or bentching occurs after the meal. This segment includes the third cup of wine. The cup of Elijah the Prophet is filled at this time. The Rabbis had a disagreement about the number of cups of wine that should be consumed during the Seder. They decided we would drink four but place a fifth on the table.
Hallel includes songs of praise to G-d. We sing Hallel and open the door for Elijah.
Nirtzah is the conclusion of our Seder. “Next year in Jerusalem”, we say. It is a common tradition is to continue singing after the Seder is completed. Chad Gadya is one of the favorites.
The Seder is a program for learning. We hope that the quirky rituals will spark questions from our children and that they will become interested in their heritage.