Yachatz (Break the middle matzah)
The matzah, a flat, crispy, unleavened bread, is silently introduced in
a stack of three, covered by a cloth. The middle matzah is broken in
two. Half will be hidden later, as the afikomen, the dessert of the
Ha Lachma Anya (Invitation)
The matzot (plural of matzah) are uncovered, and referred to as the
"bread of affliction". Jews assume the role of their enslaved ancestors,
and acknowledge their enslavement, but express hope to be free. They
also express an invitation to all who are hungry or needy to join in the
Maggid (The Telling)
story of Passover, and the change from slavery to freedom, are told in
four different ways.
The First Telling
The first telling begins with the
youngest child's recitation of the four questions, which are then
answered by the Haggadah.
The Four Questions
Ashkenazi version: Mah nishtanah ha-lahylah
ha-zeh mi-kol ha-layloht, mi-kol ha-layloht
How different is this night from all other nights!
She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin chameytz u-matzah, chameytz u-matzah.
Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, kooloh matzah?
Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread
or matzoh, but on this night we eat only matzoh?
She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin sh'ar y'rakot, sh'ar y'rakot. Ha-lahylah
ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, maror?
Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on
this night we eat bitter herbs?
She-b'khol ha-layloht ayn anu mat'bilin afilu pa'am echat, afilu pa'am
echat. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, sh'tay p'amim?
Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once,
but on this night we dip them twice?
She-b'khol ha-layloht anu okhlin bayn yosh'bin u'vayn m'soobin, bayn
yosh'bin u'vayn m'soobin. Ha-lahylah ha-zeh, ha-lahylah ha-zeh, koolanu
Why is it that on all other nights we sit straight or leaning, but on
this night we are all seated leaning?
The Second Telling
The second telling begins with the questions asked by the "four sons".
They each phrase the question "What is the meaning of this service?" in
different ways. The four sons are characterized as being wise, being
simple, being evil, or being too young to ask. The Haggadah says that
the wise son, who inquires at length of the service, should be answered
with the complete set of customs of the service. The wicked son, whose
asks his father "What is this cult of yours?", isolates himself from the
Jewish people. Therefore, he is rebuked by the explanation that "It is
because God acted for my sake when I left Egypt." The one who is too
young to ask is told "It is because of what the Almighty did for me when
I left Egypt." The simple son, who asks "What is this?" is answered with
"With a strong hand the Almighty led us out from Egypt, from the house
The Third Telling
The third telling consists of the story of Exodus, from four verses in
Deuteronomy. The Haggadah explores the meaning of those verses, and
embellishes the story. This telling refers to the life of Moses, and his
demand that Pharaoh free the Jewish slaves. According to the Bible, when
the Egyptian Pharaoh refused, God caused
ten plagues to occur in Egypt.
The ten plagues were:
All of the water was changed to blood
An infestation of frogs sprang up in Egypt
The Egyptians were afflicted by gnats
An infestation of wild animals (some say flies) sprang up in Egypt
Egyptian cattle died
An epidemic of boils affected the Egyptians
Hail rained from the sky
Locusts swarmed over Egypt
Egypt was covered in darkness
The first-born children of the Egyptians were slain by God
Throughout the plagues, Pharaoh promises to free the Jewish slaves, but
refuses when the plague subsides. The Jewish slaves were not affected by
any of the plagues. After the last plague, Pharaoh ordered the Jewish
slaves to leave Egypt, to end the plague. However, the Egyptians soon
chased after the Jewish slaves on horseback and nearly caught up with
them, when the Jews were stranded at the Red Sea. At that point, Moses
was commanded by God to lift up his staff, and the waters parted. The
slaves safely passed through the sea, and the pursuing Egyptian army was
At this part in the Seder, songs of praise are sung, including the song
Dayeinu, which proclaims that if God had performed any single deed of
many deeds performed for the Jewish people, it would have been enough.
The Fourth Telling
The fourth telling refers to questions
about the customs of the Seder, and their answers. The Seder suggests
that each Jew should feel as if he or she had just been themselves
liberated from slavery.
Kos Sheini (The second cup of wine)
At this point, after having told the
story of the Exodus four times, participants in the Seder celebrate
their redemption with the second cup of wine.
The ritual hand washing is repeated, this time with the traditional
blessing before breaking bread.
God is praised for bringing forth bread from the Earth, and then he is
praised for the mitzvah of matzah, which is now referred to as the bread
Bitter herbs, referred to as maror are eaten as a symbol of former
The matzah and maror are combined, similar to a sandwich, and eaten.
This follows the tradition of Rabbi Hillel, who did the same at his
Seder 2000 years ago.
Shulchan Orech (Set the table)
The meal is eaten.
The afikomen, which was hidden earlier in the Seder, is the last morsel
of food eaten by participants in the Seder. In some homes, after an
adult hides it, children search the house, trying to locate it. They are
rewarded by money or a small gift after they locate it, since the Seder
cannot be completed without the afikomen.
Bareich (Blessing after the food)
God is praised for providing the food, the Promised Land (Israel),
Passover, Jerusalem, and all that is good in ones life.
Kos Shli'shee (The Third Cup of Wine)
The meal concludes with a third cup of
Eliahu ha-Navi (Elijah the prophet)
In Ashkenazi tradition, the song Eliahu ha-Navi is sung to welcome the
prophet Elijah to the table, whose coming would signify the coming of
Eliahu ha-Navi, Eliahu ha-Tishbi Eliahu, Eliahu, Eliahu ha-Giladi
Bimhera biyamenu, Yavo aylenu Im Mashiach ben David, Im Mashiach ben
Hallel (songs of praise)
Various psalms of praise for God are sung for redeeming the Jewish
The mood turns more festive with songs to celebrate freedom.
Kos R'vi'i/Nirtzah (The fourth cup of wine/acceptance)
The Seder is concluded with the final
cup of wine, and a prayer that the Seder be accepted. The hope for the
Messiah is expressed:
"Next year in Jerusalem!"