Forgotten Judaica

Passover Plate

Passover is an important Jewish festival, taking place in the first month (Nisan) of the Jewish New Year.  It commemorates the Exodus of enslaved Jews from Egypt, and marks the beginning of the Jewish nation.  The name “Passover” refers to night of the Tenth Plague, in which the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Jews while killing all the first borns of the Egyptians.

The entire Seder meal is a very traditional process.  Typically, the Seder table is laid with the family’s finest place settings and cutlery, which includes a treasured Passover plate, and the family and guests dress in their best clothing.  The meal recalls and commemorates the Exodus with the following traditions:

Kiddush:  The recital of the blessings and the drinking of the first of four cups of wine.

Ur’Chatz:  The ritual washing of hands

Karpas: This is when the parsley from the Passover plate is dipped in the salted water and eaten.

Yachatz: The middle matzot in the stack of three is broken in two.  One half is hidden away, to be used for the afikoman, and the other half is returned between the other two matzot. 

Magid:  The story of the Exodus and Passover are recounted:

Ha Lachma Anya:  An invitation is issued to the needy and hungry to join the family for the Seder dinner, and the matzot are uncovered. 
Mah Nishtanah:  This is the asking and answering of the Four Questions.  Traditionally, the question is asked by the youngest child.  If the youngest child is unable to ask the questions, or there is no child present, the questions may be asked by the wife.  Custom dictates that even if a man is eating his Seder dinner alone, he must ask and answer the questions himself.
The Four Sons (or Children):  In the Haggadah, four sons are described, who asks the question “What is the meaning of this service?”  Each son asks the question in a different way, according to their nature, as described by the Haggadah. 
Go and Learn: This narrative portion of the celebration explores four verses of Deuteronomy and details the events of the Ten Plagues.  As the plagues are recited, each person removes a drop of wine with their fingertip. 
Kos Sheini:  The drinking of the second cup of wine marks the end of the Magid ceremony.

Rachtzah: Another ritual washing of hands, this time accompanied by a recited blessing.