Seder night is possibly the most celebrated Jewish festival in the year. In some irreligious homes the Seder is conducted and then the family go off and watch the film ‘The Prince of Egypt.’ Now whilst it is true ‘there can be miracles if you believe,’ this is not a great Seder night simply because it was not conducted according to halacha. Thus, the following is a list of both well-known and not so well known halachos of the Seder. Of course, there is no substutue for learning the halachos properly oneself, but here is a quick, rough sum-mary.
– everyone should hold a cup during kadesh. Before kiddush one should have in mind to fulfil a) mitzvah of kiddush, b) mitzvah of 1st of 4 cups, c) that shehechianu applies to Yom Tov and the mitzvos of the Seder,and d) that if you forget to lean that you want to drink another cup. If it’s too hard to think of all that, then just think ‘I am fulfilling the mitzvah of my Creator.’ Remember to recline (comfortably to your left; even lefties). Ideally drink entire cup, but majority suffices. Ideal to drink entire cup without pausing, but one has four minutes to drink it. After kadesh one should not eat; water is ok though with no bracha. Generally best (re; men) to have wine for the four cups, but if this is hard/will ruin concentration for maggid, one can dilute it slightly with grape juice. If one can’t even use a cup which has majority wine (or at least enough wine to be able to taste the wine taste), use grape juice.
– under kezayis is eaten. Held with fingers and no after bracha. Before making the bracha of ha’adama one should have in mind that a) the bracha should include the maror eaten later and b) to fulfil mitzvah of karpas. One may recline if they want to.
(that’s the long one!) – before maggid have in mind to fulfil the mitzvah of telling over the story of Exodus. This includes relating: a) the wickedness of Egyptians, b) sufferings they inflicted on us, c) the miraculous plagues and d) our thanks and praise to HaShem. No reclining during maggid. During the spilling of the wine (at the ten plagues) one should think that HaShem should protect us from such terrible plagues and bring them upon our enemies. At paragraph ‘bechol dor vador’ one should visualise themselves in slavery in Egypt and then being redeemed by HaShem (some have the custom to act it out!). Cup of wine should be held from ‘leficach’ but, if this is difficult, from start of bracha of ‘asher ga’alanu.’
– One should have in mind a) to fulfil mitzvah of drinking 2nd cup, and b) if they will be drinking wine of grape juice during the meal to have this in mind too. Remember to recline! If you did not recline, drink another cup immediately with no bracha.
(oh when the Jews…) No speaking from after washing hands until the korech sandwich (the McHillel!) unless it involves the mitzvah.
5) Motzei matzah
Before the bracha one should have in mind to fulfil obligation by listening to the bracha and the leader of Seder should have in mind to include everyone in his brachos. Have in mind to fulfil the mitzvah to eat matzah on first day Pesach – if you did not have this in mind then eat another one. On first night one must eat at least 27.5g, but it’s a mitzvah to eat a full 2 kezeisim (30g). And it’s best to eat a bit more, since some matzah gets stuck between the teeth. For a young child/ill person, 17g are ok., and on second 15g for each kezayis. Have in mind that the bracha applies to korech and the afikoman too. RECLINE! If one did not recline, then eat another one!
One should eat it within two minutes, but four minutes suffices.
(I came all the way for a meal and they give me horseraddish!) One should eat 27g, not reclining, and eaten as quickly as possible, but in no more than 4mins. Before bracha have in mind a) to fulfil mitzvah to eat marror and b) that the bracha should apply to korech too.
(the McHillel). 15g of matzah (some say 9g). Lean! (if you didn’t lean, no need to re-eat). Should be eaten as quickly as possible but in no more than 4 mins.
8) Shulchan Orech
(finally the food, now we’re talking!) – It is praiseworthy to recline but one does not have to. Try to speak about things relevant to Pesach, if possible.
– Cannot eat or drink after afikoman, but water and tea are ok. Should eat 30g. Have in mind to fulfil mitzvah of eating the afikoman. Recline! If one did not recline, should eat another one (unless one has already done mayim achronim/ started bentching).
10) Barech –
have in mind a) to fulfil Torah obligation to bench and b) to fulfil the rabbinic obligation of third of four cups. The cup of wine should be held throughout bentching, but if this is too difficult, one can put it down at the start of the harachamans and pick it up again before the bracha on the wine. One should recline for drinking the wine, but no need to re-drink if one forgot.
– one should have in mind to fulfil the mitzvah of reciting hallel. Best to hold cup throughout hallel and raise it at the words ‘kos yeshuos essa’. No reclining.
Fourth cup – have in mind to fulfil mitzvah of drinking the last of the 4 cups. One should drink 86ml in order to make an after bracha. Recline but if forgot no need to re-drink.
ENJOY IT ALL – vesamachta bechagecha. The halachos are not the ‘annoying details’ but rather the means to tap in to the bigger picture.
Have a chag sameach vekasher.