Saturday, April 7, 2012

Children Are Very Important in the Passover Seder

The Table is Set for a Passover Seder

When I was a child I was lucky to enjoy both a Passover Seder with family as well as Easter. Passover Seder was my favorite Jewish holiday as a child.

Children have a very important role in the Passover Seder. Traditionally the youngest child is prompted to ask questions about the Passover Seder, beginning with the words, Mah Nishtana HaLeila HaZeh (Why is this night different from all other nights?). The questions encourage the gathering to discuss the significance of the symbols in the meal. The questions asked by the child are:

1. Why is this night different from all other nights?
2. On all other nights, we eat either unleavened or leavened bread, but tonight why do we eat only unleavened bread?
3. On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight why do we eat only bitter herbs?
4. On all other nights, we do not dip [our food] even once, but tonight why do we dip twice?
Many readings, prayers, and stories are used to recount the story of the Exodus. Many households add their own commentary and interpretation and often the story of the Jews is related to the theme of liberation and its implications worldwide.

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a Seder. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. Four cups of wine are consumed at various stages in the narrative. The Haggadah divides the night's procedure into 15 parts:

קדש – recital of Kiddush blessing and drinking of the first cup of wine
ורחץ – the washing of the hands – without blessing
כרפס – dipping of the karpas in salt water
יחץ – breaking the middle matzo; the larger piece becomes the afikoman which is eaten later during the ritual of Tzafun
מגיד – retelling the Passover story, including the recital of "the four questions" and drinking of the second cup of wine
רחצה – second washing of the hands – with blessing
מוציא – traditional blessing before eating bread products
מצה – blessing before eating matzo
מרור – eating of the maror
כורך – eating of a sandwich made of matzo and maror
Shulchan oreich
שולחן עורך – lit. "set table"—the serving of the holiday meal
צפון – eating of the afikoman
ברך – blessing after the meal and drinking of the third cup of wine
Hallel הלל – recital of the Hallel, traditionally recited on festivals; drinking of the fourth cup of wine

No comments: