How Passover Works

The Seder: Steps 6 – 15

After Maggid, the Seder proceeds to the sixth step.

6. Rachtzah – The second washing of hands, this time with a blessing.

7. Motzi – This is the traditional blessing over bread; even though there is no actual bread at the Seder, the Motzi is recited as a blessing over the meal in general.

8. Motzi Matzo – The Motzi is recited again, this time with additional words that specifically apply to matzo. Each person eats a bite of matzo.

9. Maror -- A blessing is said over the bitter vegetable, often horseradish (or sometimes Romaine lettuce). Each person eats a bit of maror, and then eats another bit dipped in haroset (the "mortar").

10. Korekh – Each person eats a small sandwich of chazeret and haroset between two pieces of matzo.

11. Shulchan Orekh -- The meal! There are no specific foods required for Passover. They need only be free of forbidden grains in addition to the usual kosher laws. In the U.S., Passover meals often include items like brisket and matzo ball soup, both traditional to Ashkenazi Jews (those originally from Europe).

12. Tzafun – The half-piece of matzo set aside during step 4 becomes dessert (afikoman). In many homes, the afikoman matzo is hidden at some point during the Seder, to be found by the children during step 12 with the promise of a prize for the finder, in the hopes of keeping them engaged during steps 1 through 11 [source: Jewish Virtual Library].

13. Barekh – The traditional after-meal blessing is recited after drinking a third glass of wine. An extra glass of wine is set aside for the prophet Elijah (traditionally the forerunner of the Messiah), and the door is opened so he can (imaginarily) come in and drink it.

14. Hallel The Seder ends with a recitation of psalms. The fourth glass of wine is drunk.

15. Nirtzah – The leader of the Seder makes a simple statement concluding the meal. In homes outside Israel, the Seder typically ends with everyone at the table saying "L'Shanah HaBa'ah B'Yerushalayim," or "Next Year, in Jerusalem," which can either refer to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem when the Messiah comes or, more broadly, a challenge to overcome personal struggles and enter the "Jerusalem" of freedom or to work for freedom for all peoples [source: Alperin].

During the remaining days of Passover, observers may attend services at synagogues; light more candles and participate in other holiday meals. On the last day of Passover, some people will also participate in a feast very similar to the Seder of the first day [source: Chabad].

Last editorial update on Apr 19, 2019 11:26:35 am.

Author's Note: How Passover Works

Writing about a religious observance is never easy. Writing about a religious observance as loaded with ritual as Passover is even harder. It's impossible to write comprehensively about the various ways in which members of a religion with global presence choose to carry out the directives of Passover. My goal then, here, was to cover some of the most traditional approaches, along with some of the more common variations. Especially when it comes to the Seder, many groups choose to add their own unique touches to make it more personal. The options are infinite.

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  • Amir, Nina. "If Israelis eat matzo for the eight days of Passover, what's that say about Jews around the world?" The Examiner. April 1, 2010. (April 20, 2013)
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