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Seder Essentials in the Time of COVID-19

Dear Friends,

People who have never conducted a seder or are alone this Pesach and unsure of the essential elements of the Haggada have asked me to enumerate what is essential to fulfill the ritual we know as the Pesach Seder. Although I am not a rabbi, I have a good deal of familiarity with the Haggada and the rituals surrounding the Seder. 

I recommend that you find a Haggada and conduct the Seder in the language you understand the best. That may be in Hebrew or English (or another language) or a combination. 

Follow the instructions printed in your Haggada. They are informative and will help guide you through the rituals. With that said, not everything printed in the Haggada is essential. If you choose not to say the entire narrative, that is fine- but there are a number of essential elements that you should be aware of.  

The Seder is a perfect time for introspection, a time for us to stop and think about our lives, our priorities, our commitments to the Almighty and the Jewish people, and our commitments to family, friends, and community. This year, especially when we are besieged by a devastating plague, is a time to reflect repeatedly on our connections and commitments and pray fervently that we return renewed to a better place and time, when we will all be safe and healthy.

FOOD

- Matza
- Wine or grape juice 
- Maror - bitter herbs (romaine lettuce or horseradish)

Should you not have Seder plate (kaara), don't fret. It is only symbolic.

TORAH AND RABBINIC REQUIREMENTS

1. You must obtain kosher for Passover matza. Shmura matza is preferable, but machine-made matza is acceptable and perhaps more easily obtainable. The mitzvah of eating matza is only required at the Seder. Matza does not have to be eaten during the week, and of course, chometz (grain products) is totally forbidden. 

2. Kosher wine (perhaps ordered through Larissa and Ami Nahari) and/or grape juice. It is a rabbinic requirement to drink four cups of wine representing the four verses in the Torah that deal with the redemption of Bnai Israel from Mitzrayim.

3. The Torah also requires that we eat maror (bitter herbs). This can be easily fulfilled by purchasing romaine lettuce or using horseradish. Romaine lettuce is preferable.

HAGGADA ESSENTIALS

1. 4 cups of wine (and/or grape juice), saying the prayer Boreh Pri HaGafen for each cup. 

  • Recite Kiddush at the beginning of the Seder and drink the 1st cup
  • Recite the prayer Redeemer of Israel (Gaal Israel) and drink the 2nd cup - this is before handwashing and the eating of the matza.
  • After saying Grace After Meal, drink the 3rd cup.
  • And, if you have completed your recitation at this point, then have the 4th cup.

2. After reciting the Kiddush, we have to ask the 4 Questions. The Torah states that on that night, when your child asks... We are all children this evening and must ask the 4 Questions of ourselves.

3. The whole point of asking the 4 Questions is to receive an answer. Therefore, you must say Avadim Hayinu, We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt, which follows immediately after the 4 Questions. Of course you can continue on and complete the entire first section, up to the eating of the matza. That is up to you.

4. There is one other essential item that should be said and that is Rabban Gamliel would say: Anyone who does not say these three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his/her obligation and these are: Pesach, Matza, and Bitter Herbs.

5. Once you have said what Rabban Gamliel said, you should say the prayer Gaal Israel and have the 2nd cup of wine or grape juice. Now comes washing your hands, a good thing to do at all times, eating matza and then eating maror with brachot before each action.

6. Enjoy your yom tov meal. Bentch, say the Grace After Meal, and end with the 3rd cup of wine or grape juice.

7. Continue with the Haggada and say what is printed and then have the 4th cup or just have your 4th cup before you end your recitation.

I hope this guide is helpful. I wish you a chag kasher v'sameach, a kosher and joyous Pesach, in this very unusual time. Be happy and safe.

With Love,

Jeff Katz

 

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782