The Meaning of the Seder (Part 3)

After the meal until the end

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In addition to the usual festival Hallel, on seder night we add the "Great Hallel" (Psalm 136). Both of them feature the famous refrain, "Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good! God's kindness is forever!"

Some rabbis require or at least permit that an extra cup be drunk with the Great Hallel. Some people dedicate this fifth cup to the establishment of the State of Israel and the ingathering of the exiles. They see Pesach not only as a liberation from servitude but also as the first step to independence.

Counting the Omer

On the second night of Pesach we begin counting the 50 days from the Exodus to Sinai, from Pesach, the harvest of barley, to Shavuot, the harvest of wheat. Traditionally, the rabbis interpret the counting as reflecting Israel's eager anticipation of the giving of the Torah at Sinai on Shavuot. The physical liberation is not an end in itself, but must be wedded to a life of values and responsibility.

Concluding the Seder

The Pesach seder ends with a prayer that all our efforts to perform the seder properly may be pleasing and acceptable to God. (The prayer was composed by Rabbi Yosef Tov-Elem, 11th century, France.)

Concluded is the Pesach Seder, finished down to the last detail with all its laws and customs. As we have been able to conduct this seder, so may we someday perform it in Jerusalem. Pure One who dwells in the palace, support your congregation countless in number. May you soon lead the offshoots of your stock, bringing the redeemed to Zion in joy.

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Noam Zion

Noam Zion is the Director of Shalom Hartman Institute's Resource Center for Jewish Continuity. He specializes in teaching Jewish Holidays, Bible and Art, and has edited several educational books for the Shalom Hartman Institute.

David Dishon

David Dishon has been with the Shalom Hartman Institute since 1978 and founded their Torani High School for Boys, where he currently teaches.