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Passover Seder: Step-by-Step

Passover 2023

What Is a Seder?

The Passover Seder is a feast that includes reading, drinking wine, telling stories, eating special foods, singing, and other Passover traditions.

As per Biblical command, the Seder is held after nightfall on the first night of Passover (and the second night if you live outside of Israel), the anniversary of our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago.

What’s on the Menu?

During the course of the evening you will have:

• four cups of wine.

• veggies dipped in saltwater.

• flat, dry cracker-like bread called matzah

• bitter herbs, often horseradish (without additives) and romaine lettuce, dipped into charoset (a paste of nuts, apples, pears and wine).

• a festive meal that may contain time-honored favorites, like chicken soup and gefilte fish.

Each item has its place in a 15-step choreographed combination of tastes, sounds, sensations and smells that have been with the Jewish people for millennia. We call it the Seder or "Order."

The fifteen steps are:

The Seder Plate

1.       Kadesh - Sanctify. 

2.       Urchatz - Wash Your Hands

3.       Karpas – Appetizer

4.       Yachatz - Break the Middle Matzah

5.       Maggid - Tell the Story of the Exodus

6.       Rachtzah - Wash Your Hands Again

7.       Motzie - Blessing Over Bread

8.       Matzah

9.       Maror - Bitter Herbs

10.   Korech - The Hillel Sandwich

11.   Shulchan Orech - The Festive Meal

12.   Tzafun - Eat the Afikoman

13.   Beirach - Grace After Meals

14.   Hallel - Psalms of Praise

15.   Nirtzah – Accepted



The Seder Plate

The Seder Plate (Ka'arah) includes most of the ingredients that go into the making of the Seder. Its three matzahs and the six other items are arranged in a formation dictated by their mystical significance and relationship vis-a-vis each other.

Here's how you set it up:

On top of a large plate, tray or cloth place three whole matzahs, one on top of the other. It's best to use round, hand-baked shmurah matzah. (We'll be using middle matzah in steps 4, 5, 7, 8, and 12 of our 15-step Seder, the top matzah in steps 7 and 8, and the bottom matzah in steps 7 and 10.)


Cover the matzahs with a cloth or tray. On top, position the following six items as pictured above right:

1) "Zeroa" - a roasted chicken bone with most of the meat removed. This will represent the Passover offering. It will not be eaten.

2) "Beitzah" - a hard-boiled egg, representing the festival offering.

3) "Maror" - grated horseradish (just the horseradish — not the red stuff that has vinegar and beets added) and/or romaine lettuce, for use as the "bitter herbs" (step 9).

4) "Charoset" - a paste made of apples, pears, nuts and wine. We'll be dipping the bitter herbs in this (steps 9 and 10).

5) "Karpas" - a bit of vegetable, such an onion or potato (used in step 3).

6) "Chazeret" — more bitter herbs, for use in the matzah-maror sandwich (step 10).

We'll also need a wine cup or goblet for each participant, and plenty of wine (four cups each).

And a dish of salt water (in which to dip the Karpas).

Ok, we're ready to start our 15-step Seder. We'll talk more about the function and significance of these items as we proceed.

1. Kadesh - Sanctify

Fill cup with wine. That’s cup #1.

Have someone else fill your cup. Return them the favor. This way, we are all like nobility, whose cups are filled by someone else. Make sure your cup holds at least 86 mil. (a little more than three ounces).

Everyone stands and says the kiddush together.

The rest of the year, when the sanctity of Shabbat or a festival is pronounced upon a cup of wine in the kiddish, one person says kiddush for everyone else. Tonight, each man, woman and child recites every word together.

Drink. And get ready for some serious relaxing: Recline on a cushion to your left side.

Remember the ancient times, when we used to recline on couches while stuffing down grapes? That’s what we are dramatizing by reclining now. We are not just free, we are masters.


Seder for the soul

The beginning of all journeys is separation. You’ve got to leave somewhere to go somewhere else. It is also the first step towards freedom: You ignore the voice of Pharaoh inside that mocks you, saying, “Who are you to begin such a journey?” You just get up and walk out.

This is the first meaning of the word, “Kadesh” — to transcend the mundane world. Then comes the second meaning: Once you’ve set yourself free from your material worries, you can return and sanctify them. That is when true spiritual freedom begins, when you introduce a higher purpose into all those things you do.


2. Urchatz - Wash Your Hands

Before we get to work, especially on such a sensitive and cosmic task as the ritualistic handling of food to manipulate spiritual truths, our hands should be clean. Wash them clean of the impurities of a life in a materialistic world.

Fill a cup with water.

Many Jewish homes have a large two-handled cup especially designed for this. You could leave the table to go to the kitchen.

What? We just sat down and now we have to get up and leave already? Well, that’s a fairly normal migration pattern for Jews.

On the other hand, you could bring a basin and towel to the table.

Pour the water to cover your right hand. Repeat. Repeat again. Ditto for your left hand.

That’s how the kohanim ("priests") did it when they entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Dry hands.

Usually, we would recite a blessing at this point. When we wash the second time before eating the matzah, we’ll say it then. But not now.

Seder for the soul

Our hands are the primary tools to interact with our environment. They generally obey our emotions: Love, fear, compassion, the urge to win, to be appreciated, to express ourselves, to dominate. Our emotions, in turn, reflect our mental state.

But, too often, each faculty of our psyche sits in its cell, exiled from one another. The mind sees one way, the heart feels another and our interface with the world ends up one messy tzimmes.

Water represents the healing power of wisdom. Water flows downward, carrying its essential simplicity to each thing. It brings them together as a single living, growing whole. We pour water over our hands as an expression of wisdom pouring downward passing through our heart and from there to our interaction with the world around us


3. Karpas – Appetizer

We're doing everything we can to spark questions from the children. If they say, “Hey mom and dad! The table is all set for a grand dinner. Aren’t we supposed to eat real food now? Why just this little itty-bitty piece of vegetable?” — then you know you’re doing things right.

What do you answer them? You say, “We're doing this so you will ask questions.” And if they say, “So what’s the answer?” — just repeat, as above. That’s the best answer. Because you can’t learn if you don’t ask questions. And the first thing to learn is that not all questions have answers.

That’s a distinctive mark of Jewish education: More than we teach our children how to answer, we teach them how to ask — and how to be patient in their search for answers.

Dip it into saltwater.

Like our earlier reclining with our cup of wine, we're engaging in a display of expansiveness and sovereignty, mimicking the custom of nobility and hoity-toity folk to precede their meals with an bite of appetizer dipped in a dip.

Also: karpas (the Hebrew word for "greens" and "vegetable") read backwards forms an acronym of a phrase meaning "600,000 [were enslaved with] spirit-breaking labor," and the saltwater in which it is dipped are the tears they shed.

This duality will repeat itself throughout to Seder. Telling the story of the Exodus means reliving how things were before (slavery and suffering) and what was achieved (freedom). We'll drink wine (joy, liberty) and we'll eat the maror (bitterness, slavery). At times, the same food or ritual will embody both aspects.

Say the blessing for vegetables ("Borei Pri Haadamah"), and have in mind also the "bitter herbs" we'll be eating later. Munch it down.

Munch good. You’re not going to get much more for a while.


Seder for the soul

We need to re-taste the breaking labor of Egypt to liberate ourselves from it once again. It was this labor that prepared us for freedom. It was this labor that gave us a humble spirit to accept wisdom.

Today, as well, you can choose to achieve this humble spirit by enduring the battle to survive the rat race. There will be plenty of futile, hamster-wheel tasks to bring you to your knees.

Or you could choose another path: achieving true humility with the realization of just how small we earthly creatures are. That will free you from the need to experience materialistic futility.

Choose your battle. It’s up to you.


4. Yachatz - Break the Middle Matzah

Take hold of the middle of the three matzahs on your Seder Plate.

We need the top matzah to remain whole. We’ll be making a blessing on it later on. Blessings are said on whole things.

Break it in two. Leave the smaller half between the two complete matzos.

The piece that remains on the Seder Plate is the “poor man’s bread” over which the tale of our slavery is said. Poor people only eat a small part of their bread — they need to save the rest in case tomorrow there is none.

Break the remaining (larger) piece into five pieces and wrap them in a cloth.

According to Kabbalah, the world is created through five contractions of light.

Hide the package until the end of the Seder when it will be eaten as the Afikoman, or dessert ( step 12 ).

In many houses, the children hide the afikoman and the adults have to find it at the end of the meal. In others, the adults hide it and the children find it. Either way, it keeps the kids up and in suspense until the end of the meal.

Many Sephardic Jews have the tradition of tying the afikoman under the arms of the children, who carry it like that all night, just like when we left Egypt.


Seder for the soul

Why is there so much broken in this world? Why did the Cosmic Designer make a world where hearts break, lives shatter, beauty crumbles?

A whole vessel can contain its measure, but a broken one can hold the Infinite.

Matzah is called the poor man’s bread. He is low and broken. And it is this brokenness that allows him to open his soul and escape his Egypt.

As long as we feel whole, there is no room left for us to grow. It is when we realize we are but a fragment, that we need the others around us, that so much of us is missing — that is when miracles begin.



5. Maggid - Tell the Story of the Exodus

This is it, folks. This is why it’s called a "Haggadah" ("telling"). Now we get to the meat and potatoes of the Seder your soul is longing for. (As for the meat and the potatoes your stomach is longing for, you can probably smell them simmering in the kitchen. Hold on, we’ll get there.)

Fill the second cup of wine, following which the children ask the four questions.

Of course, they can always ask more.

No children? Let an adult ask. There’s just you? You be the child, and G‑d will be the father. While you’re at it, ask Him a few other difficult questions for us all.

Continue with the telling of the story, as written in your Haggadah.

Hey, you’re not limited to the Haggadah’s version! That was written so that everybody would have something to say. But now is your chance to get creative. Tell every story you know about the exodus. Examine every word of the Haggadah and get into the deeper meaning. Keep it real, make it profound.

Here's a basic summary of what we'll be talking about:

The Haggadah is two narratives bundled together, each of which (like any good story) has a distressing beginning and a happy ending. The central narrative is the story of the Exodus: how at first "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt" and then "G‑d took us out with a Mighty Hand." The larger story is how "In the beginning, our ancestors were idol-worshippers" and then "G‑d brought us to Him, to His service."

We'll trace the origins of the Jewish people starting with Abraham's rejection of his family's idolatry. We'll recount how the enslavement in Egypt — but also the redemption and the "great wealth" that will be taken from there — was foretold to Abraham at the "Covenant Between the Pieces." We'll confirm that G‑d's promise to Abraham has stood us by, not only in delivering us from Egypt but throughout Jewish history as "in every generation, they pounce upon us to destroy us, but G‑d saves us from their hands." We'll describe the terrible suffering of the Children of Israel in Egypt and the plagues brought upon the Egyptians. We'll sing of the fifteen great gifts G‑d bestowed upon us, from the Exodus to the Splitting of the Sea to the Manna to the Giving of Torah to granting us the Holy Land and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

We'll explain the significance of the Passover offering (in gratitude to G‑d for passing over our homes when He smote the Egyptian firstborn), the matzah ("because our fathers' dough did not have time to become leavened before G‑d revealed Himself to them and redeemed them") and the maror (the bitter herbs, which recall the bitterness of our exile and enslavement). We'll conclude with the first part of the Hallel (Psalms of praise) recited over the second cup of wine.

Basic Rules of telling the story:

· Get the children involved.

· Tell it in first person, in the now. Don’t say, “Long ago, the ancient Hebrews…” Say, “When we were slaves in Egypt, the perverse socio-bureaucratic system thoroughly crushed every individual’s sense of self-worth!” Everything that happened there parallels something in each of our lives. We are truly living it now. We are simply examining our own lives in the dress of ancient Egypt.

· It’s all about miracles. Moses and his signs and wonders. The Ten Plagues. The splitting of the sea. All those miracles happened so that we would look at the events of our daily life and recognize that these too are miracles. Tell it like it is: We are a people born of miracles. We endured by miracles. The very fact that we are here now telling this same story to our children in an unbroken chain of 3,316 years is an abrogation of natural law.

We drink the second cup at the end of this step.


Seder for the soul

The exodus was not simply an event that happened to us. It is an event that we became. It is who we are. It is the life of each one of us, occurring again and again, in our wrestling match with the world, in our struggle with our own selves. We embody freedom in a constant mode of escape. Perhaps that is why Jews have always been the rebels of society, the ones who think out of the box. The experience of leaving Egypt left such an indelible mark on our souls, we never stopped doing it. A Jew who has stopped exiting Egypt has ceased to allow his soul to breathe.

To tell the story is to bring that essential self into the open, to come face to face with who we really are and resuscitate it back to life.


6. Rachtzah - Wash Your Hands Again

Fill a cup with water

Again? Yes, again. It’s been a long time since the last washing. And the last time you didn’t have the matzah in mind. Anyways, it's good to get up and stretch a little, right?

Pour the water to cover your right hand. Repeat. Repeat again. Ditto for your left hand.

Say the blessing. "Blessed be You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the World, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the washing of the hands."

Dry your hands.

Seder for the soul

As long as we live in this world, freedom remains elusive: While moving forward, we are free. Stop, and we are bound and fettered again.

That is why freedom is something you cannot buy nor steal. Never can you put freedom in your purse and say, “Freedom is mine forever!”

For freedom is a marriage: Freedom is the bond our finite selves with the Infinite, the power to transcend the world while working inside it. It is a marriage of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, soul and body. And like any marriage, it is kept alive only by constant renewal. Like the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, suspended in its state of paradox by a continuous, other-worldy force.

Yet, in our exodus, we were granted eternal freedom. Not because we were released from slavery. But because we were given the power to perpetually transcend.

That’s the order of the Seder tonight: Kadesh/Urchatz, Transcend and Purify. Over and over. Rise higher, then draw that into deeds. Rise higher again, then draw that down even more. Never stop rising higher. Never stop applying.


7. Motzie - Blessing Over Bread

Matzah is the most important item in the Seder, and eating it fulfills the central mitzvah of Passover. But matzah is also bread — albeit of the decidedly unleavened sort. Tonight it fulfills the role of the two whole loaves that are the mainstay of every Shabbat and festival meal. That's why we have three matzahs on our Seder plate — so that in addition to the "piece" of matzah over which we tell the story of the Exodus, we'll have two whole matzahs over which to pronounce the "Hamotzi" blessing, praising and thanking G‑d "Who brings bread from the earth."

Grab all three matzahs—the top one, the broken middle one and the bottom one—and pick them up a little.

Say the blessing: "Blessed be You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the World, Who brings bread out of the earth"

Hold on… more techie instructions to follow in the next step.


Seder for the soul

We feel an affinity with the food we eat: We too are a miracle out of the earth.

We and the bread share a common journey. The bread begins as a seed buried beneath the ground. And then, a miracle occurs: As it decomposes and loses its original form, it comes alive, begins to grow sprout and grow. As spring arrives, it pushes its way above the earth to find the sun, and then bears its fruits for the world.

We too began buried in Egypt, all but losing our identity. But that furnace of oppression became for us a firing kiln, a baker’s oven, the womb from whence we were born in the month of spring. In our liberation from there, we brought our fruits of freedom to the world.


8. Matzah

Carefully release the bottom matzah. Recite the blessing on the remaining whole matzah and the broken matzah: "Blessed be You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the World, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning eating matzah."

Break off a piece from each of the two matzos for yourself and for each of those sitting at your table. Pass them around.

What we're doing is covering both our bases, ensuring that we experience both the poverty and humility that matzah represents (the broken matzah) and the freedom and healing it brings (the whole matzah).

Supplement the two pieces of matzah from the Seder Plate with more matzah, so that everybody gets at least 2 oz. of matzah altogether (about two thirds of a large shemura matzah.)

Hey, it’s a mitzvah after all!

Don’t forget to recline to the left while you munch—just like with the wine.

Seder for the soul

Since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, matzah is the only opportunity we have to actually eat a mitzvah. That’s right, the matzah you are eating is pure G‑dliness. In fact, it has enough G‑dly energy to blast your soul out of the deepest ditch into the highest heights.

The Zohar calls matzah “Bread of Faith” and “Bread of Healing”. Did I say “faith?” Well, actually, that’s a rather feeble translation. “Emunah” is the word in Hebrew, and it means a lot more than “I believe, brother!” Faith can often be something people rely upon when they don’t care to think too much. Emunah is when you go beyond thinking and you get somewhere your mind could have never brought you to.

Emunah is when you touch that place where your soul and the essence of the Infinite Light are one. It’s a point that nothing can describe. Where there are no words, no doubts, no uncertainty, no confusion—nothing else but a magnificent oneness before which all the challenges of life vanish like a puff of vapor.

Eating matzah is a means of plugging your entire self into that reservoir. Your physical body digests the Emunah of your soul, everything is integrated back into one, your body and spirit are whole and harmonious.

How on earth, you may ask, can a mixture of water and wheat from the ground baked in an oven contain a spiritual cure? Well, welcome to the Jewish People, where there is no dichotomy of spirit and matter, soul and body. Where the spiritual transforms into physicality and material objects rise to become spiritual in a perpetual chemistry of exchange. Where bodies are healed by empowering the soul and souls are nourished by the rituals of the body.

After all, we live in the world of a single G‑d.


9. Maror - Bitter Herbs

Grab some of that bitter herb, enough to make the size of a small egg if you would crunch it into a ball. Some have the custom of using both horseradish and romaine lettuce (though either/or is also okay).

Dip the bitter herb in the charoset. Shake off any excess.

It’s a careful balance: You want bitter herbs, but you want to sweeten the bitterness a little. But it’s still got to be bitter herbs—not a sumptuous charoset hors d'oeuvre. Look, you can try that later at the meal. We’ll get there—don’t worry.

Say the blessing: "Blessed be You… and commanded us concerning eating bitter herbs."

Eat it. All of it. No funny faces now.


Seder for the soul

What's so great about the bitterness? Why do we want to remermber that?

Actually, our bitterness in Egypt was/is the key to our redemption. We never got used to Egypt. We never felt we belonged there. We never said, “They are the masters and we are the slaves and that’s the way it is.” It always remained something we felt bitter about, something that was unjust and needed to change.

If it hadn’t been that way, we probably would never have left. In fact, tradition tells us that 80% of the Jews said, “This is our land. How can we leave it?” And they stayed and died there.

But as for the rest of us, when Moses came and told us we were going to leave, we believed him. It was our bitterness that had preserved our faith.
Everyone has his Egypt. You’ve got to know who you are and what are your limitations. But heaven forbid to make peace with them. The soul within you knows no limits.

This is the sweetness we apply to the bitter herb: Bitterness alone, without any direction, is self-destructive. Inject some life and optimism into it, and it becomes the springboard to freedom.


10. Korech - The Hillel Sandwich

Break off two pieces from the bottom matzah. (You'll need one oz. of matzah altogether. Supplement with matzah from the box if needed.)

Now you know what the third matzah is for! If you’ve followed instructions until now, it should still be whole.

Take an olive-size volume of the bitter herb and place it in between those two pieces. Again, some mix together the horseradish and lettuce. Ask your bubbe (grandma) for your family custom.

Now you know what that second pile of bitter herb at the bottom of the seder plate is for.

Dip the bitter herb in the charoset. Shake off any excess.

Say the words: “This is what Hillel did, at the time that the Temple stood. He wrapped up some Pesach lamb, some matzah and some bitter herbs and ate them together.”

And you thought it was because they packed sandwiches to leave Egypt. Well, it is fast food.

Hillel read the words of the Torah about the Pesach lamb, “on matzah and bitter herbs you shall eat it,” and he took it literally. And so the sandwich was invented. Or maybe we should be calling it a hillel?

Lean to the left while you eat.


Seder for the soul

In the view from within Egypt, this world is a mess of fragments. It’s called “The Passoverly Challenged Perspective.” Plain materialism. Where mitzvahs are a mishmash of dos and don’ts, Jews are a collection of irreconcilable riffraff, daily life is a cacophony of hassles and, well, just stuff.

Once we blast off far enough to escape materialism’s gravitational pull, we look back down and see a whole new perspective: It’s all a single landscape.

From up there looking down, mitzvahs are multiple expressions of a single spiritual path, Jews are multiple faces to a single soul, all the artifacts of today’s journey harmonize together as a symphony with a single conductor playing a single melody.

When we make ourselves into a temple for the Divine, the bitter, the sweet and the tasteless responsibilities of life wrap together in a single sandwich.


11. Shulchan Orech - The Festive Meal

The festive holiday meal is now eaten (You know how to do this, right?)

It's been a long haul; on a regular Shabbat and Yom Tov, we'd have eaten hours ago. But well worth the wait. So far everything we've eaten had a ritual significance; now we eat to fulfill the mitzvah of enjoying the festival.

It's customary to begin the meal with the hard-boiled egg that was on your Seder Plate (commemorating the festival offering), dipped in salt water.

A boiled egg is a sign of mourning. On every festive occasion, we remember to mourn for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.


Seder for the soul

This step, along with Korech before it, marks the re-entry we mentioned at the beginning. We’ve escaped Egypt and reached a higher vision. And then we start the process again — on a higher level.

Because freedom consists of more than escape. Complete freedom is when you can turn around and liberate all the elements of your world from their pure material state, and make them transcendent as well.

That’s what we do when we eat every day—we take foods which grow from the earth, say a blessing over them and bring them into our journey as human beings. And when it’s Shabbos or another Jewish holiday, we elevate them further, into the realm of pure spirituality. As for tonight, this meal is going to be truly Divine.

So don’t imagine we’re just fressing now. We’re reaching a higher state. And what a great way to do it!


12.Tzafun - Eat the Afikoman

Are you sure you’ve eaten enough? Filled up on that exotic fruit salad? Had enough to drink? Better be sure, because this is your last chance. The only thing to pass your lips tonight after this afikoman is another two cups of wine.

Retrieve that hidden matzah. Eat, reclining on your left side.

With the first matzah, we fulfilled our obligation to eat matzah. This one is in place of the Pesach lamb (which can only be brought in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem) that is meant to be eaten on a full stomach.


Seder for the soul

In the Kabbalah, it is explained that there is something deeper than the soul. There is the body, the spirit, and then there is the essence. If the soul is light, then that essence is the source of light. If it is energy, then the essence is the dynamo. It is called "tzafun," meaning hidden, buried, locked away and out of reach.

Whatever we do, we dance around that essence-core, like a spacecraft in orbit, unable to land. We can meditate, we can be inspired, but to touch the inner core, the place where all this comes from, that takes a power from beyond.

On Passover night, we have that power. But only after all the steps before: Destroying our personal chametz, preparing our homes for liberation, the eleven steps of the Seder until now. Then, when we are satiated with all we can handle, connecting every facet of ourselves to the Divine, that’s when that power comes to us. Whether we sense it or not, tasteless as it may seem, the matzah we eat now reaches deep into our core and transforms our very being.

In general, it is this way: Those things you find inspiring and nice may take you a step forward. But if you want to effect real change, you need to do something totally beyond your personal bounds.


13. Beirach - Grace After Meals

It’s late now. Adults are falling asleep. Kids are having a great time taking advantage of that. But it’s not over. There’s songs and wine and Elijah the Prophet is on his way…

Pour the third cup of wine. All the way to the tip, just like the other ones.

Say the Grace After Meals as printed in your Haggadah.

Say a blessing on the wine and drink it down, reclining on your left side.


Seder for the soul

The theme of grace after meals is confidence. Confidence in a Higher Force that is with us in our daily lives. With that confidence you don’t just see food before you. You see a river of life travelling from Above onto your plate.

When we say this out loud, with joy and sincerity, we initiate a reciprocal current. The energy we receive is bounced back with even greater force, replenishing all the higher worlds and ethereal beings through which it passed on its way here. The channels of life are widened and their currents grow strong.

Miracles happen when Divine energy from beyond the cosmos enters within. Why did miracles happen in Egypt? Because we believed they would. Those who didn’t believe in miracles saw only plagues. To see a miracle, you need an open heart and mind, open enough to receive the Infinite. That is the opening we make when we thank G‑d for the miracle of our food.


14. Hallel - Psalms of Praise

Pour another cup of wine (#4). Yes, you can handle it.

Now pour another cup and set it in the middle of the table. You won’t drink this wine—it’s for Elijah the Prophet.

Send some kids to open the door. Recite the lines, “Pour out your wrath…” from the Haggadah. Watch Elijah the Prophet enter. Can’t see him? That’s precisely why you need another cup of wine.

Elijah the prophet comes to announce the imminent arrival of the final Exodus.

Tonight is a night of protection—"Leyl Shimurim" we call it. Tonight, we are not afraid of anything, for we are carried securely in His holy, gentle hand. We open the door in the middle of the night and we show that confidence, that deep trust that no harm will befall us.

On that very first night of Passover in Egypt, we were redeemed on the merit of our trust that He would redeem us. Tonight, we will be liberated from this Egypt of the soul. Again, we must show our trust.

Now we finish the Hallel, the "Psalms of Praise" (the first half was said at the end of step #5). It’s all there, in your Haggadah. Sing whatever you have a song to.

At the end, say a blessing and drink the wine. You guessed it: reclining. But try not to fall over.


Seder for the soul

The ancient rabbis clued us in on a key principle in cosmic functions: Whatever He tells us to do, He does Himself. Of course, there’s a difference: We do it in our little human world. He does it on a cosmic plane.

He told us to open our door on the night of Passover. So, tonight, He opens every door and every gateway of the spiritual cosmos to every member of the Jewish People. To each one of us, regardless of what we have been doing all the rest of the year. Tonight is the chance to reach to the highest of spiritual levels. Prophecy, divine spirit, wisdom and insight—take your choice and jump a quantum leap. There’s nothing stopping us.


15. Nirtzah – Accepted

Do nothing. This is His job now.

Look up from your wine. The table’s a delicious mess. Uncle Irving looks so serene, snoring into his Haggadah, serenaded by the first chirping of dawn. As you carry the little ones to their beds, the sound of matzah crunching beneath your feet, you wonder, “And who will carry me to bed? Who will wake me in the morning to go to shul?”

Was it the best Seder that could have been? Look, it had its highlights. A few times, the kids got a little over-excited. And the horseradish and chicken soup didn’t mix too well in little Miriam’s stomach. But Grandpa told some great stories. We all had fun with the songs. We told the tale again, with new enhancements and flourishes, just like we have for 3300 plus years. We did what we are supposed to, in our own human way.

And now, let Him do what He has promised to do: A re-run. A modern exodus of liberation. Starring us. With lots of miracles. But this time, forever.


Seder for the Soul

Some people think we are meant to make a perfect world. But if that is what our Creator wanted, why did He make us such imperfect beings?

Rather, what He wants of us is our very humanness. Sometimes we do good. Sometimes we fall. But we keep on struggling, and eventually, we make some real change.

And then, once we have done all we can, like a kind parent helping with the homework, He makes sure to touch up the job and make it shine.

For 3300 years we have been leaving Egypt. For 3300 years we have been doing our human job of transforming the darkness of His world into light. And now it is His turn to lift us up, to banish the darkness forever, to make our work shine.

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