How to Conduct a Seder

The 14 steps of the seder, briefly explained.

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There are literally countless ways to conduct a seder. In addition, an effective seder leader or organizer will prepare in advance and make decisions concerning what type and style of seder he or she wishes to lead. The following article describes and offers advice on the nuts-and-bolts, or spine, of the traditional seder--the 14 steps of the Haggadah. Reprinted with permission from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

Light Yom Tov [Holiday] Candles

Before sunset, the mother is given the privilege of ushering in the festival by lighting the candles and reciting the following blessing: 

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

[Though the mother traditionally lights the candles many families today opt for the couple or family to light them together, while unmarried men and women, or those without children, also light candles.]

sederThe Seder

I. 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.

II. Urhatz--Lave. 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.

III. 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.

IV. 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.

V. Magid--Narrate.

1. Lift up the plate with the symbols of affliction. The traditional invitation to the stranger to join the seder is offered.

2. The wine cups are refilled.

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Rabbi Barry D Lerner

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner was ordained in 1970. Dr. Lerner had 10 years of experience as a student rabbi, and he has served as a congregational youth group leader and youth director prior to ordination. He has served for 34 years of experience in United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism congregational pulpits and 25 years on the staff of Camp Ramah.

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