The Museum of

       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays




The Hamburg Hagaddah

Seder Hagadah shel Pesah: The Hamburg Hagaddah, 1731
Creator: Ya'akov ben Yehuda Leyb, Sofer, Scribe
1 leaf, ink on vellum
Courtesy of the New York Public Library
Humanities and Social Sciences Library / Dorot Jewish Division


The Seder

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Passover (Pesach) is a holy day for the Jewish people. It commemorates God sparing the Jews when He killed the first born of Egypt.

Passover begins on the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan, the full moon of that month, the first month of the Hebrew calendar's festival year according to the Hebrew Bible.

In the story of Exodus, the Bible tells that God inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves, with the tenth plague being the killing of firstborn sons.  However, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb, and upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term "passover." When Pharoah freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover, no leavened bread is eaten. Matzoh (unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover (first two nights in Orthodox and Conservative communities outside the land of Israel) for a special dinner called a seder (סדר—derived from the Hebrew word for "order", referring to the very specific order of the ritual). The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of this meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. next ►►

Four cups of wine are consumed at various stages in the narrative. The Haggadah divides the night's procedure into 14 parts:

1. Kadeish קדש - recital of Kiddush blessing and drinking of the first cup of wine

2. Urchatz ורחץ - the washing of the hands - without blessing

3. Karpas כרפס - dipping of the karpas in salt water

4. Yachatz יחץ - breaking the middle matzo; the larger piece becomes the afikoman which is eaten later during the ritual of Tzafun

5. Maggid מגיד - retelling the Passover story, including the recital of "the four questions' and drinking of the second cup of wine

6. Rachtzah רחצה - second washing of the hands - with blessing

7. Motzi-Matzo מוציא-מצה - traditional blessing before eating bread products followed by the blessing before eating matzoh

8. Maror מרור - eating of the maror

9. Koreich כורך - eating of a sandwich made of matzo and maror

10. Shulchan oreich שולחן עורך - lit. "set table"—the serving of the holiday meal

11. Tzafun צפון - eating of the afikoman

12. Bareich ברך - blessing after the meal and drinking of the third cup of wine

13. Hallel  הלל - recital of the Hallel, traditionally recited on festivals; drinking of the fourth cup of wine

14. Nirtzah נירצה - conclusion

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