The following contains halachic guidance concerning some of the common issues that arise when conducting a Pesach Seder. In particular, it discusses preparation for the Seder, the four cups of wine, and the obligation to eat matzah, Maror, Koreich and Afikomen. This is by no means comprehensive. For a more comprehensive guide, see HaSeder HaAruch by Rabbi Moshe Yaakov Weingarten (three volumes, 1431 pages).
Preparations for the Seder
A person should complete all of the necessary preparations for the Seder on Erev Pesach to enable him to start the Seder without delay.(If Erev Pesach falls on Shabbos, he cannot prepare for the Seder on Erev Pesach since he may not prepare for Yom Tov on Shabbos.)
The following preparations should be made prior to Yom Tov:
- If meat or chicken will be eaten at the Seder, it may not be roasted. Meat or chicken cooked with a quarter inch or more of water at the bottom of a pot is not considered to be roasted and may be eaten at the Seder.
- If horseradish is being used for Maror, it should be grated. If one forgot to do this, then he may grate it on Yom Tov if he employs a shinuyand grates in an unusual manner, such as grating it onto the table rather than onto a plate.
- If lettuce leaves are being used for Maror, they should be checked to ensure that they are not harboring insects.here for detailed checking instructions. Alternatively, he may use romaine stalks for Maror instead of the leaves. To do this, he should remove the leaves from the stalks and rinse them under a strong stream of water, while rubbing the stalks during the rinsing. No further checking is required. To check romaine lettuce leaves, one method is to separate the leaves, soak them in water, and then make a thorough leaf-by-leaf inspection. Any insects which are found must be removed. See
- Prepare the Karpas vegetable and the salt water into which it will be dipped. Any vegetable may be used for Karpas, except those which may be used for Maror. However, the custom is to use celery, radishes, or cooked potatoes.
- Prepare the charoses. The ingredients for charoses typically include grated apples, almonds and other nuts, cinnamon, ginger, and red wine. The charoses should have the texture of apple sauce.
- The bone which will be used for the z’roa on the Seder plate should be roasted over a fire, as was done to the Korban Pesach. Some people first boil the z’roa and then singe it over a flame. It is preferable to use the forearm of an animal or bird, which is the z’roa bone. The equivalent limb of a chicken is the part of the wing that is directly attached to the body. The z’roa must have some meat on the bone. It may not be eaten on Seder night because we do not eat roasted meat at the Seder. The meat of the z’roa (which has been cooked before Yom Tov) should ideally be eaten on the second day of Yom Tov, as it is not proper to dispose of thez’roa in an unfitting manner.
- Boil and then roast the egg to be used on the Seder plate. A person whose custom is to eat eggs at the Seder meal should also prepare these eggs.
- Open the wine bottles to be used at theSeder. In particular, wine bottles that have a screw cap should be opened before Yom Tov. One should also open the boxes of matzah that will be needed for the first days of Yom Tov.
- Children should rest so that they will be awake during the Seder. If possible, adults should also rest.
- Set the Seder table with elegant dishes and arrange the chairs which will be used for leaning. Even though throughout the year one should minimize luxury as a zecher l’churban, on Seder night it is appropriate to use the finest dishes available. Some people have a custom that the husband arranges theKe’ara. There were gedolim who insisted on personally setting the table for the Seder.
- Prepare the Ke’ara. There are differing customs as to the layout of the various components of the Ke’ara. One prevalent custom is that of the Arizal. According to this minhag, beginning at the top of the Ke’ara is the z’roa, which is placed on the upper right side of the Ke’ara, and thebeitza which is placed on the upper left side. The Maror is placed in the middle of theKe’ara, with the charoses underneath and to the right, and the karpas underneath and to the left. The chazeres is placed closest to the leader of the Seder, at the bottom of theKe’ara. Three matzos are placed either underneath or outside the Ke’ara, next to the z’roa andbeitza.
- Another custom is that of the Rama. According to this minhag, the karpas and salt water are placed nearest the leader of the Seder with the matzah above them, the maror and charosesabove the matzah, and the beitza and z’roa above them furthest from the leader of the Seder. There are other customs regarding the arrangement of the items on the Ke’ara. The Gra and Maharal each have differing customs. A person should follow his own particular minhag.Some have the custom to place a covering between each of the three matzos, while others do not. The matzos should be covered before Kiddush. Often, families that join together for the Seder have the custom of providing a separate Ke’ara for the head of each individual household.
- Make an Eruv Tavshilin, if necessary. One should take a baked item such as matzah and a cooked item such as fish, meat or an egg. He should hold the items and recite the text found in the Siddur. The Eruv Tavshilin should not be eaten until all of the preparations for Shabbos are completed. It is customary to eat the Eruv Tavshilin at Shalosh Seudos.
The Four Cups
One is required to drink four cups of wine at the Seder;women have the same obligation as men. If a person drinks four cups of wine in a row, he is not yotzei this mitzvah. Rather, he must recite the Haggadah and drink each of the Arba Kosos at the appropriate point. For this reason, he may not drink the fourth cup immediately after the third cup. A woman should make sure that she either recites the Haggadah herself or hears the leader of theSeder recite the Haggadah, so that she will be able to drink the Arba Kososat the appropriate times.
The cup should hold the measurement of a revi’is of wine.According to Rav Chaim Noeh, a revi’is is calculated at 86 cubic centimeters of wine (אירטמיגב סוכ), which is equivalent to slightly less than 3 fl. oz. According to the Chazon Ish, it equals 150 cubic centimeters of wine (ןוגה סוכ אירטמיג) which is equivalent to slightly more than 5 fl. oz. Based on the ruling of the Mishnah Berurah, Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, states that it is necessary to use a cup which holds 3.8 fluid ounces.
Ideally, a person should drink arevi’isof wine.Some opinions state that if the cup holds more than arevi’ishe should drink the entire cup; others dispute this. If it is difficult to drink an entirerevi’is of wine, one should drink slightly more than half the cup. If a person has difficulty drinking four cups of wine, he should make sure that he has a cup that holds exactly a revi’is so that he will need to drink only slightly more than half arevi’is. For the fourth cup, he should either drink enough wine to be able to recite a brachaacharona himself or have someone be motzi him.
It is preferable to drink the majority of the revi’isat one time.If a person cannot do so, he should at least drink the majority of the revi’is within kedei shti’asrevi’is, which is approximately half a minute.
An alcoholic wine should be used for the Arba Kosos.
Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, is of the opinion that the resulting mixture should contain at least 4% alcohol. Therefore, wine which has 12% alcohol content can be diluted into ⅓ wine and ⅔ grape juice or water. Alternatively, it can be diluted into ⅓ wine, ⅓ grape juice, and ⅓ water. If a person cannot drink wine, then he can use grape juice for the four cups. If unable to drink pure grape juice, he may dilute it with water. The resulting mixture should contain at least 51% grape juice (i.e., up to 49% water.) ‘Light’ grape juice should not be further diluted. A person who will become incapacitated is not obligated to drink the Arba Kosos.
Red wine should be used for the Seder.Throughout the year, it is preferable not to use cooked wine for Kiddush; the same is true for the Seder. This is because uncooked wine tastes better than cooked wine. It is debatable as to whether pasteurized wine has the same status as cooked wine in this regard.
A child who has reached the age of chinuch, about five or six years old,should also be given Arba Kosos to drink; however, it is not essential to do so. A child does not need to drink a full revi’is of wine or grape juice and should instead drink meloh lugmav, the amount of wine he can hold in his cheeks. It is customary to give Arba Kosos even to younger children, although they can be given a minimal amount of grape juice.
When drinking the first cup, a person should have in mind that he is fulfilling the obligations of both Kiddush and the first of the Arba Kosos.
A man should drink the Arba Kosos while leaning to his left side.If he did not lean while drinking the first, third or fourth kos he should not drink that kos a second time. If he did not lean while drinking the second kos, he should drink another kos during the meal while leaning to his left side.
Both men and women are commanded by the Torah to eat matzah at the Seder.A child who has reached the age of chinuch should also be given matzah to eat at the Seder.
The matzos being used for the mitzvah should be shmura matzos. This is matzah that has been watched since the harvesting of the wheat to ensure that nothing has occurred which might cause it to become chometz.Many people have the custom to use only hand-baked matzos for this mitzvah; others use machine matzos.
A person must eat one kezayis of matzah at theSeder.The Steipler Gaon and Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt”l, write that ideally one should eat ⅔ of a machine matzah or the equivalent volume of hand-baked matzah. Upon experimentation, Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, found that half of a machine matzah contains the volume of matzah necessary for a kezayis.
In 5780/2020, Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, conducted extensive testing to calculate the volume of Pupa Tzelem hand matzah equivalent to a kezayis. He waterproofed matzos and performed water displacement testing to determine their volume.Furthermore, Rav Heinemann reviewed results of 3-D scan measurements carried out on behalf of STAR-K for this project. The matzos tested were packaged ten to a pound.
This measurement found that the segment of hand matzah containing the volume of a kezayis was larger than the fraction given in previous years. Possibly, this is due to hand matzos being thinner than in the past. It was determined that half of a Pupa Tzelem hand matzah contains the volume of matzah necessary for a kezayis. Other brands of matzah may produce different results.
A person who has difficulty chewing may crush the kezayis of matzah before eating it.here.If necessary, he may also soak the matzah in water to facilitate eating the kezayis. When appropriate, a person with a medical condition which could be negatively impacted by consumption of this amount of matzah may eat a smaller portion of matzah. One should consult his rav as to whether he falls in this category. Measurements suitable for such individuals are listed on
The kezayis of matzah should be eaten within the time span of kedei achilas pras.The kezayis should preferably be eaten within two minutes. If this cannot be done, it should at least be eaten within three or four minutes. A man should eat the matzah while leaning to his left side. If he did not do so, he should eat another kezayis without another bracha while leaning to his left side.
After everyone at the Seder has finished washingNetilas Yadayim and returned to the table, the leader of the Seder should take the three matzos in front of him and recite the bracha of Hamotzi. The top and bottom matzos, which are both whole, will serve as the lechem mishneh.If feasible, he should then set down the bottom matzah and recite the bracha of Al Achilas Matzah while holding the top and broken middle matzos. He should then give each person at the Seder a kezayis, including within thekezayis some of the top and middle matzos over which the bracha has been made.
A person should preferably chew thematzah without swallowing, until he has akezayis of matzah in his mouth, and then swallow the kezayis at one time.Regarding this, one may rely upon the more lenient measurements of a kezayis, which calculate it as being less than ¼ of a machine matzah.
People who find it impractical to swallow an entire kezayis at one time should instead eat the kezayis in the normal manner, which includes some of the top and broken middle matzos over which the bracha has been made.
The Shulchan Aruch brings an opinion that one should eat a kezayis from the top matzah followed by a secondkezayis from the broken middle matzah.However, a person who fulfills the requirement of eating akezayis by eating the size of half of a machinematzah is actually eating two kezaysim, when calculated according to the more lenient measurements of a kezayis. It is, therefore, sufficient to eat the size of half of a machine matzah in order to comply with the opinion that suggests eating twokezaysim.
Before eating, a person should have in mind that he is about to perform the mitzvah of eating matzah.When reciting or hearing the bracha of Al Achilas Matzah, he should also have in mind the eating of the Afikomen.
Nowadays, in the absence of the Korban Pesach, it is no longer a Torah requirement to eat maror at theSeder; however, there is a rabbinic obligation to do so.This obligation applies equally to men and women.
Children who have reached the age of chinuch should also be givenmarorto eat, just like an adult.
A person may use romaine lettuce for Maror,although it must be checked before Pesach to ensure that it does not harbor insects. He may use either the leaves or the lettuce stalks for Maror. The lettuce does not need to be bitter, although there is an opinion that the lettuce must have some element of bitter taste. Some people have the custom not to use lettuce for Maror.
Raw horseradish may also be used for Maror.It is customary that people who use lettuce for Maror put some horseradish on the lettuce, although it is not necessary to do so. There is no need to use a lot of horseradish for this.
Themarorshould be dipped into charoses, and the excess charoses shaken off.
The kezayis of maror should be eaten within the time span of kedei achilas pras. The kezayis should preferably be eaten within two minutes. If this cannot be done, it should at least be eaten within three or four minutes. One does not lean when eating the maror.
The leader of the Seder should take the remaining bottom matzah and use it to give each person at the Seder a portion of Koreich.It is customary to prepare Koreich with two pieces of matzah sandwiching some Maror. The maror could be dipped into charoses, and the excess charoses shaken off. Some have the custom not to dip themarorinto charoses for Koreich.
A person should eat one kezayis of matzah and one kezayis of marorfor Koreich,and measure the kezayis of maror as described above. For the kezayis of matzah, it is sufficient to take half of the volume of matzah. Therefore, following the larger measurement as described above, one should eat ¼ of a Pupa Tzelem hand matzah .
Before eating Koreich, one should recite the paragraph, ‘וכוללהכ שדקמל רכז.Some suggest saying this paragraph after one has started to eat Koreich. A man should consume Koreich while leaning to his left side; if he did not do so, he does not need to eat another portion. From the time a person recites the bracha over the matzah until he eats the Koreich portion, it is preferable not to discuss matters unrelated to the eating of the matzah, Maror, Koreich and the Sedermeal.
The leader of the Seder should give each person at the Seder a kezayisof matzah,including within the kezayis some of the remaining half of the middle matzah. Ideally, he should take the same volume of matzah as was used for the initial eating of matzah at the Seder.
A man should eat the Afikomen while leaning to his left side.If he did not lean and has not started Birchas Hamazon, he should eat the Afikomena second time, providing that it is not too difficult for him to do so. If he has started Birchas Hamazon, he should not wash and eat the Afikomen again.
Chazaldebate as to whether the Afikomen may be eaten all night long or by chatzos, halachic midnight. In order to fulfill both opinions, one must be careful to eat the Afikomen before chatzos.After eating the Afikomen, one may not consume other food.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, states that according to both opinions of Chazal, a person may not eat other food for the duration of the night.He also may not drink wine or fruit juice, with the exception of the remaining two cups of theArba Kosos; he may drink water or tea.
It has been argued that, according to the opinion that the Afikomen must be eaten by chatzos, the prohibition against consuming additional food also ends at chatzos.If so, when chatzosis approaching and a person has not yet finished his meal, he may eat a kezayis of matzah and verbally state the following: “If the correct opinion is that one may eat theAfikomen until chatzos, then this matzahshould be regarded as the Afikomen; however, if one has all night to eat the Afikomen, then it should not be regarded as such.” He may eat the matzah, wait until chatzos, and then continue his meal. After the meal, he should eat another kezayis of matzah and state the following: “If the correct opinion is that one has all night to eat the Afikomen, then thismatzahshould be regarded as the Afikomen; but, if the Afikomenmust be eaten before chatzos, then it should not be regarded as such.” However, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, rejects this position and states that the Afikomen must simply be eaten before chatzos.
Conclusion of The Seder
After eating the Afikomen, the third cup of wine is poured and Birchas Hamozon is recited. If there is a zimun present, it is customary for the baal habayis to lead the bentching.After drinking the third cup, the Kos Shel Eliyahu is filled; others fill it at the start of the Seder. The fourth cup of wine is poured and held during the recital of Sh’foch Chamoscha; others pour the fourth cup after Sh’foch Chamoscha. It is customary to stand and open the door of the house for the recital of Sh’foch Chamoscha.
The second portion of Hallel is then recited. If three adult males are present, the pesukim following, “Hodu l’Hashem ki tov ki l’olam chasdo” should be recited responsively as is done when Hallel is said in shul, with the leader of the Seder calling and the others responding. If no guests are present, the person leading the Seder should initiate and his wife and children should respond.Nusach Sephard concludes Hallel at the beginning of the final paragraph “Ye’halelucha”. Nusach Ashkenaz recites the paragraph and conclude Hallel at “Me’olam ve’ad olam ata Keil”.
Hallel is followed by Perek 136 of Tehillim, known as Hallel Hagodol, which in turn is followed by the tefilla of “Nishmas Kol Chai”. Nishmas is recited until the start of the final sentence at the end of “Yishtabach”. Nusach Sephard follows this with the “Yehalelucha” final paragraph of Hallel;Ashkenazim conclude with the final bracha of Hallel, “Melech Me’hulal Be’tishbachos”. Some Ashkenazim conclude Yishtabach with the usual bracha of “Melech Keil Chei Ha’olamim”.
The fourth cup of wine is drunk, and a bracha acharona is recited. If one drinks less than a revi’is, he cannot recite a bracha acharona and should listen to someone else’s recital. The tefilla of Chasal Siddur Pesach and the subsequent piyutim are sung, ending with Chad Gadya. L’Shana Habaa B’Yerushalayim is recited at the end of the seder.
One should discuss the events of Yetziyas Mitzrayim and Hilchos HaPesach until he falls asleep.However, if doing so will hamper his ability to daven the next day, he should go to bed. Some have the custom to recite Shir Hashirim after the Seder. Krias Shema Al Ha’mitah after the Seder consists of the first parsha of Shema and the bracha of Hamapil. If one davened Maariv before tzeis hakochavim and did not repeat Krias Shema after tzeis, all three parshiyos of Shema should be recited.
1. S.A. 472:1