How to Conduct a Passover Seder

The 14 steps of a traditional seder.

This article provides a breakdown of the seder: each major component and the order in which it traditionally occurs. For more details, including readings, words to the blessings and other materials, you will want to consult a Haggadah.

Note: Before the seder begins, the host traditionally lights the holiday candles and say the blessing.

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheynu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu lehadlik ner shel yom tov.

1. Kadesh — Kiddush

On Friday evening add the first portion (biblical selection on the Sabbath). On Saturday evening, add the Havdalah section separating sanctity of Sabbath from sanctity of holy day.

2. Urhatz –Wash

Washing preparation for eating vegetable entree (Karpas). Since the need for such washing was questioned, no blessing is required. It is good to go around to each of the participants, pouring water over the hands from a pitcher into a bowl.

3. Karpas — Spring vegetable

Any vegetable that is not bitter may be eaten. Among vegetables used are celery, parsley, onion, and potato. Dipped in salt water for purification and seasoning they remind us of the vegetation of spring, or the baby boys cast in the Nile, or the tears shed by the slaves. The blessing said is the usual benediction of thanks before eating any vegetable.

4. Yahatz — Divide

Break the middle matzah into two parts. Take larger part, wrap it in napkin and save for the conclusion of the meal. Try–but don’t try too hard–to keep it from being stolen by the children because it must be available for the end of the meal.

5. Magid — Narrate

  • Lift up the plate with the symbols of affliction. The traditional invitation to the stranger to join the seder is offered.
  • The wine cups are refilled.
  • The youngest person at the seder asks the Four Questions.
  • The Response to the Questions. Read portions in unison. Have other portions recited by different individuals at the table.
  • The Four Sons
  • The Ten Plagues. Since our “cup of salvation” cannot be regarded as full when we recall the suffering of the Egyptians, a drop of wine is removed from the cup with the mention of each plague.
  • Dayenu (It Would Have Been Enough). Let all present join in the refrain thanking God for all the miracles he bestowed upon the Israelites.
  • The cup is again lifted in joy, thankful for God’s deliverance, ready to praise Him with the first word of the Psalm of praise (Hallel).
  • Two Psalms of the Hallel.
  • Drink the wine, with the blessing of salvation.

6. Rohtza — Wash

Ready to eat, the hands are washed before the meal, as is required at any meal similar to the previous hand-washing. Now, though, all wash with the usual benediction as the hands are dried.

7. Motzi-Matzah

The first food at the meal is, as usual, bread (naturally, however, this bread–the matzah–is unleavened bread). The usual berakhah [blessing]–the motzi–is recited. However, before eating the matzah, a second berakhah, thanking God for the requirement to eat matzah, is recited.

8. Maror — Bitter Herbs

Small pieces of horseradish are dipped into the haroset (symbolic of mortar) to indicate that overemphasis on material things results in bitterness. Before eating it, a berakhah thanking God for this requirement is recited. Some people mix the ground horseradish with charoset, combining this with “IX.”

9. Korekh — Hillel Sandwich

In ancient times, the Talmudic scholar Hillel ate the three symbolic foods (lamb, matzah, and bitter herbs) together so that each mouthful contained all three. Thus the symbols of slavery and of liberation were intermingled. Now that we do not have the Paschal lamb, we eat just the matzah and horse-radish in a “Hillel sandwich”. No special blessing is said, but we do read the words recalling Hillel’s practice.

10. Shulhan Orekh — Meal

The joyous feasting gives us the feeling of human fellowship in harmony with God.

11. Tzafun — Dessert

Now the afikomen. Either someone has “stolen” it, or parents can hide the afikoman when it is first put aside (Step 4) and let the children look for it during the meal to win a prize.

12. Barekh — Grace After Meals (Birkat Hamazon)

This is the usual “bentschen,” grace after meals, including, of course, thankfulness for the Passover holiday. Fill the cup before this grace and drink the third cup at its conclusion, with the usual “bore p’ri hagafen” blessing.

At this point in the seder, we Open the Door For Elijah, who by tradition is the forerunner of the Messiah, the harbinger of hope. Sing “Eliyahu Ha-navi.”

13. Hallel — Psalms of Praise

The rest of the evening is given over to hymns and songs. The Hallel is completed, and all join in singing songs: Adir Hu, Had Gadya, etc.

14. Nirtzah — Conclusion 

With the traditional formula, the seder is concluded, and the we sing L’Shana HaBa’ah B’Y’rushalayim [Next Year in Jerusalem].

 

Provided by Hillel’s Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, which creates innovative educational resources based on Jewish texts and trains Hillel students, professionals, and lay leaders to infuse Jewish content throughout their activities. © 2002 Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

Discover More

The Seder Plate

The placement and symbolism of the items on the seder plate.

Where To Find Songs for Your Passover Seder

Online resources for Passover recordings, lyrics, sheet music and more.

The Four Questions

How to say the 'Mah Nishtanah.'