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Seder Essentials

The Four Cups of Wine

"Wine," King David tells us, "gladdens the heart." One of the principal mitzvahs of the Pesach Seder is to  drink four full cups of wine (or grape juice). No, this is not simply an experiment in altered states of consciousness; the four cups actually have profound Biblical significance.

Our Sages explain that - among many other reasons - the four cups correspond to the four  expressions the Book of Exodus employs to describe our liberation and deliverance from Egyptian bondage.

A "cracker". A vegetable. A glass of wine. A roasted bone.

These are hardly the items one would expect to figure prominently in a re-enactment of  history’s grandest epic.  But so it is.

Because the spiritual adventure  we call the Pesach Seder is experienced in our dining rooms,  at the table, with friends  and family and fine china.

On the Seder night,  Passover matzah, Kosher wine,  and bitter herbs are  our keys to freedom, and the Haggadah - the telling and retelling of the story of the exodus - is our road map for a journey begun over thirty-three centuries ago.


The Meaning of Matzah

The mitzvah of eating matzah on the Seder night is of paramount importance. In fact, we are commanded to avoid even the minutest amount of leavened bread for the entire eight days of the Festival. Why?

What could be so significant about any food - especially one so plain? But the utter simplicity of matzah is precisely the point.

Matzah is the humblest of foods - flat and unpretentious, unadulterated and unadorned. Eating matzah on  Passover actually helps us to cultivate the trait of humility... and humility is the beginning of liberation.

The Bitter Herbs

Another basic mitzvah at the Seder is the eating of the bitter herbs, to remind us of the bitter taste of slavery.

Though today we may live in relative ease and comfort, we must never forget what it was like to live under the whips of Egyptian taskmasters. And we must remember that  many people still live in fear,  in captivity, or in need.

The Haggadah

The Haggadah is the story of the origins of the Jews as a People, told in the form of a dialogue between parent and child.

Questions are encouraged: "Why is this night different?" and "What does all this mean?" In Judaism, a searching, inquisitive mind is the key to understanding, growth, and fulfillment. To get the most out of  your Seder, read the Haggadah out loud. If you don’t undertand the Hebrew, say it in English.

And don’t settle for quick answers - there’s a wealth of deeper meaning within every word. 

The Seder Plate

Place three whole matzahs on the table, one atop the other. On a cloth spread over the matzahs, or on a plate, the special Seder foods are arranged as in The diagram...  




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