Holy Days

Written by: Alexander Bolotnikov

Pesach Seder Haggadah

”And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.’ It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth, for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exod. 13:8–9, 14 [1]).

“Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’ And He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The teacher says, ‘My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’ So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover” (Matt. 26:17–19).


Brief Historical Background of Passover

Passover is considered to be the “crown jewel” of Jewish religious festivals and marks the beginning of the year for God’s people.

“And the Lord spoke, saying, ‘This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you’” (Exod. 12:1-2).

Passover is one of the oldest, continuously observed festivals of any nation of people on earth. Today it is kept primarily by the Jews, Samaritans, and some Christians, including those who lean toward Messianic Judaism. While it is usually considered “Jewish,” like the Sabbath, it shares the distinction of belonging to God as one of the seven “feasts of the Lord” spoken of in Leviticus 23. (See Lev. 23:2, 4, 44).

Traditionally, the festival’s name refers to the tenth and final plague regarding which God said:

...take of the blood [of the lamb] and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post and when he seeth the blood, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exod. 12:7, 23, KJV).

Passover is also synonymous with the feast of unleavened bread (see Deut. 16), a significant event that began on the night of Passover. According to Numbers 28:17, the week of unleavened bread began on the fifteenth day of the month. The Passover is mentioned in Exodus 12, 13, and 34; Leviticus 23; Numbers 9, 28, and 33; Deuteronomy 16; Joshua 5; II Kings 23; II Chronicles 8, 30, and 35; Ezra 6; Ezekiel 45; Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 2 and 22; John 2, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, and 19; Acts 12 and 20; I Corinthians 5, 10, and 11; and Hebrews 11.

According to Acts 20:6, the Passover week was observed by Jews in the diaspora as well as by the early Christians, who themselves were Jewish. Historical records show that while Jews in the diaspora did not have direct access to the Temple in Jerusalem and definitely did not try to create a ritual sacrificial system, they developed traditions that helped them remember their history, especially the Exodus from Egypt. For the early Jewish Christians, the Exodus had an even deeper meaning. They accepted Yeshua, the true branch of the Lord, who led them from their spiritual bondage (Isa. 4).

Unfortunately, second-century Christianity began a centuries-long process of parting ways with Judaism, from which it originated. In its desire to appear different from the Jews, the church began to change “times and law,” fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 7:25. Finally, in AD 325, the Church Council, which met at Nicaea, finalized the official change of the biblical Sabbath to the first day of the week. At the same time, the Nicaean Council ordered Christian churches to stop celebrating Passover on the same day as Jews and decreed the definition of the new date tied to the spring solstice. The new Passover, known in Western Christian tradition as Easter (from the Germanic word meaning “morning star”), was to be celebrated only on the first day of the week, supposedly emphasizing the resurrection of Christ. Unfortunately, through this process of separating from Judaism, Christianity rid itself of its biblical Hebraic roots, which opened the door for the adoption of many pagan customs during the Early Middle Ages.

The Lord’s Passover

“On the tenth day of this month, they [the congregation] shall take to them every man a lamb. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the two evenings. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover” (Exod. 12:3, 6-7, 11, Hebrew rendering).

It is important to note that the word “Passover” in Exodus 12 refers not to a festival or a ritual but to the lamb whose blood was to be put on the doorposts of the houses. This blood served as a public display of the covenant that a family made with the Gods of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The death of the lamb on the Lord’s Passover spared the life of the firstborn.

The Lord’s Passover has found its ultimate fulfillment in the words of Paul: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).

Passover Sacrifices

Exodus 12 describes an event that happened only once in history. Only once did the destroyer pass through the land of Egypt, bringing death to the firstborn in houses without the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. According to the laws of the Torah (Lev. 23:5-8; Num. 28:16-25), Israelites were commanded to commemorate this event by offering sacrifices during the seven days of the week of unleavened bread.

These sacrifices were different from those of the lamb, which was slain by the assembly of Israel on the night of the Exodus. Deuteronomy 16:2 tells us that the Passover sacrifice could be offered from both the flock and the herd, whereas the Lord’s Passover was to be selected only from the sheep or from the goats. Also, Deuteronomy 16:5–6 strictly mandates that the Passover sacrifice must be done only at the Temple and not in the houses of the people.

Jewish tradition recorded in the Mishnah, a rabbinic document completed by the year 200 CE that presents a collection of early Jewish laws and customs, states that the ceremony of the offering of the Passover sacrifice was to take place between the sixth and ninth hours of the day on the fourteenth of Nisan. This corresponds to approximately between noon and three o'clock in modern time. During this time, following the sacrifice of the “official Temple lamb,” people could bring their own lambs and have them sacrificed on the Temple altar. Then they were to take their lambs to the roasting hearths specifically built for this occasion around the Temple Mount.

It is interesting to note that on the day of the Passover in AD 31, the execution of Jesus took place beyond the gates of the city, occurring during the same hours as when lambs were to be slain. “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two” (Luke 23:44–45).

Jesus was the ultimate Passover sacrifice.

Seder — the Passover Supper

Historic documents of the early centuries clearly point to the fact that, beginning with the second century BC, Jews both in Judea and in the diaspora developed the tradition of commemorating the deliverance from Egypt by having a formal supper, which would take place on the eve of the fourteenth of Nisan before the Passover sacrifice would take place at the Temple. This supper was called the Seder.

We should not confuse the Seder with the Passover sacrificial ritual held at the Temple in accordance with Leviticus 23. The main goal of the Seder was not to emulate any Temple ritual but to recall the events of the Exodus by retelling this special story—called in Hebrew “Haggadah” (“the telling”). This was done to fulfill these instructions: “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him..." (Exod. 13:14; Deut. 6:20). In other words, the tradition of the Seder was created as a tool to teach children the story of God’s deliverance of Israel.

The story of the Passover is told in four parts, which correspond to the consumption of four cups of wine. The Talmud teaches that the wine must be diluted with water to the point that it is safe for children. According to the Jewish tradition, the four cups of wine correspond to the four actions of deliverance, which God promised His people to perform: “I am the Lord; [1] I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians; [2] I will rescue you from their bondage; and [3] I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. [4] I will take you as My people, and I will be your God” (Exod. 6:6-7).

Traditionally, the cups were called (1) the cup of sanctification, (2) the cup of deliverance (also known as a cup of plagues), (3) the cup of redemption, and (4) the cup of praise.

The Seder is not based on either the ritual described in Exodus 12 and 23 or in the book of Leviticus. There is no indication that the Israelites were instructed to drink wine with the lamb during the night of their Exodus. The wine at the Seder was purely traditional, which shows that the Passover Seder as a tradition had no connection with any sacrificial services, which could only take place at the Temple. Therefore, the seder could be conducted freely in the diaspora, where the temple was inaccessible.

The “last supper” that Jesus shared with His disciples, as it is traditionally called in Christianity, was nothing but the Passover Seder. The fact that Jesus used the wine is clear proof of that. “Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’… So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover” (Matt. 26:17, 19). It is obvious that the last Passover supper described in all the Gospels takes place in the evening before the Passover sacrifice was offered at the Temple. “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover." (John 18:28).

The usage of bread and wine in Matthew 26:26–30 and Luke 22:17–20 clearly reveals the fact that Jesus followed a traditional Passover seder. The two cups of wine described in Luke 22:17 and 20 correspond to the cups of deliverance and redemption consumed as the second and third during the Seder. Jesus uses the traditional Jewish symbolism of the cup of redemption to point to the ultimate redemption through the “blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remissions of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Likewise, the bread they were eating (Matt. 26:26) represents the afikoman (desert in Greek), a piece of matzah (unleavened bread) saved until the end of a meal to create a memorable aftertaste. Jesus assigns the new symbol to this tradition, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).

The Passover Seder and the Christian Ordinance of Communion

In rabbinic literature, participating in the Passover Seder was never viewed as a part of the 613 commandments of the Torah. Jewish tradition makes a clear distinction between the commandments based on Scripture (d’Oraita) and the Rabbinic decrees (d’Rabbanan), to which all the traditions of the Passover Seder belong. After the destruction of the Temple, the Seder was the only tool that helped the Jewish people, who were scattered in different places around the world, to remember who they were. By participating in the Passover Seder, Jews not only seek to merit their salvation but also to identify themselves with the events that happened during the Exodus.

Jesus used this purely rabbinic tradition, which demonstrates that there is nothing against the Bible in it. He did not want his disciples to forget their Jewish history. More so, according to Paul, non-Jewish Christians, “being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Rom. 11:17). The events of the Exodus should be an integral part of the heritage of every Bible-believing Christian.

But with Jesus, these events acquire new meaning and momentum. As shown above, Jesus took some of the elements of the Seder and gave them new application. According to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Christians are commanded to break the afikoman bread and consume the third cup of redemption to “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (I Cor. 11:26).

Unlike the traditional Seder, which happens once a year and consists of all the elements outlined in the Haggadah, communion represents a fragment from the Seder and consists only of breaking the afikoman-bread and drinking the third cup of redemption. Therefore, it differs from the Seder and was done “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” (I Cor. 11:26).

Overview of the Seder Plate

Most historians trace the origins of the customs of the Seder today to the second century BC. These customs have constantly evolved throughout the history of Judaism. Some elements were lost and others added. However, since the earliest times, there have been four basic foods used during each Seder: matzah (unleavened bread), bitter herbs (represented here by horseradish and romaine), karpas (parsley, which has to be dipped in salty water), and charoset (traditionally a sweet mixture of nuts, apples, and grapes). All of these elements are mentioned in the Mishnah.

In particular, the customs and laws concerning Passover are written in the Mishnaic tractate Pesachim.

Pesachim 10:3 mentions that during the Seder, people were supposed to eat at least two cooked dishes. A festive meal is an integral component of the Seder, and this is exactly how the Gospels portray the last supper of Jesus with His disciples, who ate a meal during the Passover as recorded in Matthew 26:26 and Luke 22:20.

Later Talmudic traditions developed after the fifth century CE and added more elements to the Seder plate. Thus, on a typical Seder plate today, you will also find beitza (egg) and z’ro’a (roasted shank bone of a lamb or the neck-bone of a chicken, as substituted by poorer families).

The common explanation is that the shank bone, traditionally known as z'ro'a, represents the outstretched arm of God—z'ro'an'tuyah—described in Exodus 6:6. Interestingly enough, the prophet Isaiah mentions the sacrifice of the Messiah when he says, “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isa. 53:1).

The last two elements were introduced in the Talmud as a remembrance of two Passover sacrifices offered at the Temple. The Babylonian Talmud Tractate Pesachim states that the shank bone is to be used until God restores the Temple and Passover sacrifices are reinstituted.

Therefore, you will see that both the egg and the shank bone are not on our plate. We believe that our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us. He has taken away the animal sacrifices that he did not desire or take pleasure in (see Heb. 10:8–10).

The shank bone is not present on our Seder plate because we accept the account in the Gospels showing us that before His death, Jesus gave the symbols new meanings. The symbols that we have on our plates speak not only of our physical deliverance from bondage but also of our spiritual deliverance. Every part of Passover portrays this redemption.

Consider each element carefully as you participate in the Seder.

Removing the Leaven 

“Whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land” (Exod. 12:19).

According to Exodus 12:14–20, the Israelites were commanded to abstain from eating any leaven for seven days. This institutes a week of unleavened bread, which accompanied the Passover celebration. Deuteronomy 16:4 stipulates that during this week, nothing leavened must be found in the houses of the children of Israel.

According to the Mishnah’s Tractate Pesachim 1:1, Jews are supposed to search for any leaven in their houses on the night preceding the fourteenth day of Nisan. In the first century, the thirteenth of Nisan was the preparatory day for the Passover Seder. Pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration in accordance with the commandment (Exod. 23:14–15, 17; Deuteronomy 16:1–8) rented rooms in the houses of Jerusalemites where they would have their Passover Seders. The Mishnah states that it was the duty of the renters to prepare the room for Passover and remove all leaven from the house.

This was a part of the Passover preparation mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. “Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?’ And He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, “The teacher says, ‘My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.'"' So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover” (Matt. 26:17–19).

In modern times, religious Jews use the week before Passover to do extensive house cleaning. This modern custom has spiritual implications. Don’t we need a “massive house cleaning” of our hearts?

In ancient times, leaven, or yeast, was prepared by placing a small amount of old flour mixed with water in a hot corner of the house. However, Passover, or the Unleavened Week, coincided with the new harvest of barley. By requiring the Israelites to rid their houses of leaven, God wanted them to experience a new beginning. The previous year’s old fermented dough must have been left in the old year, and the new leaven was to be formed by the feast of Pentecost. This stipulation had an important spiritual meaning.

Exiting Egypt, the Israelites had to leave the old baggage of slavery behind and start life as free people. This is why the New Testament uses old leaven to represent the past life of sin. “Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor. 5:7-8, NRSV)

We Proclaim the Seasons of the Lord 

“These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times” (Lev. 23:4).

Reader 1: Welcome to the celebration of our “Festival of Freedom” from slavery. Tonight, we come before God to remember and honor His appointed time, thanking and praising Him for the deliverance He has given us in His only begotten Son. Tonight will also be a time of teaching, eating, and reflecting.

Some of what we do tonight is tradition without direct biblical instruction behind it, yet the spiritual truths gleaned from this service still hold great value.

Tonight’s celebration is called a Seder (Say-der)—a Hebrew word referring to the “order of service.” The order, or Seder, is written in a booklet called the Haggadah (ha-ga-dah), meaning “the telling.” This Haggadah will tell of two great Passover events. It was at this appointed time that our forefathers received the Lord’s Passover, as He saved their firstborn from death under the blood of the first Passover lambs. And it was at this same appointed time that the world was delivered through the death of the last Passover Lamb of God. He is the first, “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8), and the last, and beside Him there is no other.

Reader 2: To begin, we need a man and a woman at each table to act as the mother and father of that table. We will do it this way to reflect the fact that Passover is really a family observance normally conducted at home by the mother and father. Mothers, you will light the candles when instructed, while your fathers will hold up or point out the Passover elements as they are mentioned by the readers.

We Light the Festival Candles 

Sha-mor and Za-chor 
(Observe and Remember) 
Deuteronomy 5:12, 15

Reader 1: The actual Seder begins with the mother lighting the Passover candles, just as she lights the candles at the beginning of the Sabbath to remind us that God and His Word are light. One candle is lit in remembrance of the power of creation. The other is lit in remembrance of the power displayed in our redemption from bondage:

All: “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15).

Mother #1: Mothers, let us light our candles.

I will recite the prayer in Hebrew. Then join me in saying the prayer in English. Baruch ata Adonai, Elohainu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, u’v’dam Yeshua haMashiach, v’tzivanu ‘l’h’yot ore l’goyim v’natan lanu Yeshua Mi-sha-cha-nu or ha-olam.

Mothers: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us by your commandments and the blood of our Messiah Jesus, and commanded us to be a light for the nations, and gave us Jesus our Messiah, the light of the world.

We Drink the First of Four Cups

The Cup of Sanctification

Reader 1: Traditionally, four cups from the fruit of the vine are consumed at different points during the Seder—twice before dinner and twice after dinner. These four cups are based upon four “I will” promises in God’s redemptive covenant to Israel found in Exodus 6:5-7, and they represent the four steps in the plan of salvation typified in the Exodus:

“I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord”:

1) The Cup of Sanctification—“I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians;”

2) The Cup of Deliverance (or plagues)—“I will rescue you from their bondage;”

3) The Cup of Redemption (or Blessing)—“I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

4) The Cup of Acceptance (or Praise)—“I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.”

All: Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has chosen us and exalted us from every language, kindred, and tongue and has sanctified us by Your commandments. And You have given us, in love, O Lord our God, the Sabbath for rest and appointed times for joy and seasons for gladness. This is the season of our liberty, a holy convocation, the commemoration of the Exodus from Egyptian bondage, and the deliverance from the slavery of sin. For us, you have chosen, and for us, you have sanctified. This joyful time with the love, favor, and gladness you have bequeathed us.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctifies His people.

Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has made us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time.

Reader 2: Pour a little juice into your glass for the first cup. Raise it in your right hand, but do not drink it yet. Jesus said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:17, 18). Those who know the blessing may join us in singing the blessing.

Cantor: Bah-rooch, ah-tah Ah-doh-nai, Eh-lo-hey-noo meh-lech ha-oh-lahm, boh-ray p’ree ha-gah-fen. A-men.

All: Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, and Creator of the fruit of the vine. Amen.

(Drink the first cup.)

The ritual of four cups is a heightened experience for believers. In addition to the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt, we do it in remembrance of Jesus, the source of our redemption—past, present, and future.

The Cup of Sanctification

To be sanctified means to be separated, or set apart, from something else. The Israelites needed to be separated from the Egyptians so as to see that God was ready and able to redeem them from their life of bondage. So God, through Moses, had the people shabbat (rest) from their labors on the seventh day as a sign that He would separate them and bring them out of Egypt (see Exod. 5:4, 5).

We, too, need the sanctification of God because, without it, we are part of the world and its ways. God said that He would “bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians” (Exod. 6:6, literal translation by Alexander Bolotnikov). In Hebrew thought, the yoke that someone bears consists of the rules and regulations, or the laws, that they are under. This may be a bad yoke, as when our fathers were under the yoke of the Egyptians, or for us when we are under the yoke of the world. Or, this may be a good yoke—when we put on the yoke that Jesus offers.

God separates us from the rest of the world and brings us to Him. He removes the yoke of Egypt (which is the way of the world) and gives us His yoke (which is the way of Jesus). So the Sabbath, like all the other appointed times, is a gospel sign of what He has done, is doing, and will do for us.

As we drink this first cup, we thankfully praise God for separating us from the world and for bringing us out from under the yoke that unbelievers bear. 

Urchatz (Washing) 

Leader: Traditionally, there is a washing of the hands that usually occurs after the first cup. This pouring of water reflects the world of disciples and masters seen in Judaism in antiquity. A disciple learned by waiting on his master's hand and foot and taking in every detail of his master’s devotion to God. We find a biblical example of this in 2 Kings 3:11–12. “Elisha ben Shafat is here, who poured water on the hands of Eliyahu” (literal translation by Alexander Bolotnikov).

Elisha is known to us as the disciple who received a double portion of Eliyahu’s (Elijah’s) spirit. But before he was known for having the spirit of Eliyahu, Elisha was known as the disciple who poured water on the hands of Eliyahu.

According to early rabbinic custom, the best of a Rabbi’s disciples sat at his right side during the Seder and was given the honor of washing his hands. This is why the gospel story portrays the mother of Zebedee’s sons asking Jesus to set one of her sons on His right and another on the left (Matt 20:20–23). As we can see, Jesus definitely did not want to create a successor for himself. For this reason, the ritual intended to honor the best was transformed into a rite of humiliation when we honored each other.

Karpas and Salt Water 

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses” (Ps. 107:6).

Leader: (Lift up the Karpas.) Karpas, or parsley, is mentioned in the Mishnah as a part of the combination, which comprises bitter herbs. Rabbi Chizkiah ben Manoach (fourteenth-century France) linked the Hebrew word karpas with the biblical phrase K’tonet PASim, the ornamental tunic Jacob gave Joseph, which produced the chain of events that brought our ancestors into Egypt.

Reader 1: (Lift up the salt water.) For the Hebrew slaves, life in Egypt was a life of pain and tears, represented by this salt water. Let us remember that although life is sometimes immersed in tears, God can bring people together through tragedy. The salt water also reminds us that our Savior was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3), the one “who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear” (Heb. 5:7).

Cantor: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-adamah. Amen.

All: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

Reader 1: Let us eat.

Yachatz (Breaking) and the Invitation to Passover 

"If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

Leader: Many of our Messianic friends draw attention to the fact that factory matzah has stripes. They claim this is a prophecy fulfilled by Jesus. After all, there’s a verse in Isaiah that says, “By his stripes, we are healed” (53:5). The problem is that, prior to machine-made matzah, matzah didn’t have stripes. Hand-made matzah still doesn’t have stripes. How can an industrial product of the twentieth century really be a prophecy of Jesus? Furthermore, the word translated “stripes” in Isaiah simply means contusions or bruises. It has nothing to do with a pattern of stripes. This is one type of fallacy that arises when we ignore historical development.

Reader 1: Will the host or hostess at the table remove the middle matzo from the matzotash (a square white silk bag)? Break it in two. Return one half so that it rests between the two whole matzots. Now, wrap the other half in the napkin provided. Traditionally, this piece was placed between the pillow and the reclining cushion to be retrieved for dessert. This piece of matzah is called afikomen, a word borrowed from the Greek epikomen, which means dessert. Children, please cover your eyes while we hide the afikomen. You will be asked to recover the afikomen later in order to conclude our meal.

Reader 2: This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in Egypt. Everyone who is hungry, let him come and eat! Everyone who is needy, let him come and celebrate Pesach! This year here; next year in the Kingdom. This year, slaves; next year, free people.

All: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:48–51).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is indeed food, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:53–58).

Reader 1: The invitation for anyone who is needy to come celebrate redemption is familiar to Bible readers.

All: “Ho! Everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters! And you who have no money, come, buy, and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1).

Reader 1: The Christian Bible ends with that same gracious invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

After the destruction of the temple, when animal sacrifice was no longer acceptable, the traditional Jewish celebration of Passover continued without the Passover lamb. This means that the restriction barring uncircumcised aliens from the table (Exod. 12:43–49) no longer applies. The “everyone” of the haggadah is, really and truly, everyone without restriction. Jews and non-Jews qualify. No one who desires to be included is excluded.

Maror and Haroset We Eat Bitter Herbs

“...they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field” (Exod. 1:14).

Leader: (Lift up the horseradish and lettuce.) We eat bitter herbs to remind us of our bitter experience when we were slaves. Horseradish is an excellent reminder of the bitterness of slavery to sin. It even brings tears to our eyes, as if we were in bitter bondage. The bitter herbs also remind us of the unpleasant experience Jesus felt and still feels when one of His closest friends betrays Him.

All: “Even my own familiar friend, whom I trusted and who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9). “Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.’ And they began to be sorrowful and to say to Him one by one, ‘Is it me?' And another said, ‘Is it me?' He answered and said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve who dips with Me in the dish” (Mark 14:18–20).

Reader 2: Everyone, take a piece of romaine lettuce in your right hand and eat it. For those of you who are brave enough, put a bit of horseradish on the piece of lettuce.

Leader: (Lift up the haroset.) This traditional Passover mixture of fruits, honey, nuts, and juice symbolizes the mortar and the hard labor involved in building houses and pyramids for Pharaoh with bricks. But tonight, this mixture will symbolize a different kind of building, one that will last forever.

Reader 1: Now dip a piece of matzah into the haroset. Or, if you want, you may use the haroset, like mortar, to build a matzah house. The haroset reminds us that any affliction can be sweetened by the promises of God’s Word.

The Second Cup

The Cup of Deliverance or Cup of Plagues

“I will deliver you from their bondage” (Exod. 6:6, JPS).

Reader 2: We are entering the second part of our seder, designated by the second cup, known as the cup of deliverance. Let us fill our cups a second time, but wait. We are not ready to drink it yet.

Famous Four Questions 

Leader: The telling of the story of our Exodus is facilitated by the youngest children asking four questions, which are answered by the parents. We do this because God told us to instruct our children when they want to know the meaning behind why we do certain things.

“And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me” (Exod. 13:8; see also Ex. 14:14; Deut. 6:7, 20).

Traditionally, all four questions are asked consecutively and answered as the session progresses.

Selected Child #1—Question #1: What makes this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we eat leavened bread, or matzah. On this night, why do we eat unleavened bread?

Selected Child #2—Question #2: On all other nights, we eat all kinds of herbs and vegetables. Why on this night do we eat bitter herbs?

Selected Child #3—Question #3: On all other nights, we do not dip our vegetables even once. On this night, why do we dip them twice?

Selected Child #4—Question #4: On all other nights, we eat our meals sitting or reclining. On this night, why do we eat only while reclining?

Ma Nishtana What Has Changed? (Song)


Why is this night different from all the other nights?


On all other nights we eat both


chametz and matzah.


On this night, we eat only matzah.


That on all other nights we eat


many vegetables, many vegetables,


on this night only, on this night only, maror, maror,


on this night only, on this night only, maror, maror.


That in all other nights we do not dip vegetables even once, dip even once.


on this night, on this night, we dip twice,


on this night, on this night, we dip twice.



That on all other nights some eat sitting and others reclining,


On this night, on this night, we are all reclining,


On this night, on this night, we are all reclining.

Leader: The third and fourth questions may need some explanation. We have already dipped our karpas in the saltwater, which counts as the first dipping. The second will be the dipping of our matzah in bitter herbs.

As to the fourth question, "Why are we all reclining?" in Greco-Roman culture, when they ate in the same room as free citizens, slaves were required to eat in a sitting or squatting position. Only free citizens were entitled to eat while reclining. Within that cultural context, Jews reclined on Passover as an expression of their God-given freedom, even those Jews who were legally slaves. On Passover, everyone is regarded as free.

Someday all of God’s children will eat “reclining.” It is interesting to note that the Gospel of John describes how Jesus’s beloved disciple was leaning on His bosom (John 13:23). This means that John himself was at Jesus’s right side, whereas Judas, for whom Jesus dipped the piece of bread and gave it to him, was at Jesus’s left side, and Jesus was leaning on him.

Avadim Haiyeny (We Were Slaves)

Leader: Now it’s time for us, the adults, to answer these questions asked by our children.

All: We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord our God brought us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, hadn’t brought our fathers and mothers out of Egypt, we and our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Avadim Haiyeny (Song)



We were slaves in Egypt, but now we’re free.



We were slaves in Egypt, but now we’re free.

Baraita of Four Sons

A baraita is a rabbinic tradition from the Mishnaic period, which we might expect to find in the Mishna but which is preserved in a later collection. In Judaism, whenever oral tradition is repeated, a blessing is recited.

Leader: In various passages (Exod. 12:27; 13:8, 14; Deut. 6:20), the Torah instructs parents to explain the Exodus story in slightly different ways. The rabbis that discerned these differences must be a matter of learning style. So, in the haggadah of Passover, it is traditional to present the four sons, who each learn the same truth but in different ways, as reflected in these verses of the Torah. One is wise. One is resentful. One is naive. One doesn’t know what to ask.

The wise son asks, “What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments that the Lord our God has commanded you?” (Deut. 6:20). Accordingly, you would answer him by explaining the laws regarding Passover and why you observe them.

The resentful son asks, “What do you mean by this service?” (Exod. 12:27). He directs the question to “you,” not “we.” Since he excludes himself from the group and denies the core belief of the Passover, you should accordingly say to him, “This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt” (Exod. 13:8). For “me,” not for “him.” If he had been there, he wouldn’t have been redeemed.

The naive son asks, “What is this?” To him you say, “By strength of hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exod. 13:14). You help him understand how everything is connected.

For the one who does not know what to ask, you initiate the question for him. As it is written (Exod. 13:8), “And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.’”

We see these four sons in John’s description of the last Passover that Jesus had with His disciples. The wise son called himself “one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” This was John who quietly leaned back on Jesus’s breast and asked Him, “Lord, who is it?”

We definitely see the resentful son in Judas, who left mid-Seder to betray Jesus (John 13:23, 25).

Peter fits the character of the naive son who asks Jesus, “Lord, are you washing my feet?” (v. 6). “Lord, where are you going?” (v. 36). “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for Your sake” (v. 37). And the remaining disciples are the ones who don't know how to ask. Jesus generates the answers for them. “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me, and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you is that you love one another; as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (vv. 33–35).

From the Beginning (Maggid)

Reader 1: “But I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan and multiplied his offspring. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir as his possession, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.” (Josh. 24:3–4, JPS).

Reader 2: God said to Abram, “Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years; but I will execute judgment on the nation they shall serve, and in the end they shall go free with great wealth." (Gen. 15:13–14, JPS).

Reader 1: “My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation” (Deut. 26:5, JPS).

Reader 2: They said to Pharaoh, “’We have come, they told Pharaoh, ‘to sojourn in this land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, the famine being severe in the land of Canaan. Pray, then, let your servants stay in the region of Goshen’” (Gen. 47:4, JPS). “Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons in all; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Deut. 10:22, JPS).

Reader 1: “The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us” (Deut. 26:6, JPS).

Reader 2: As it is written, “’Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise, in the event of war, they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.’ So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built garrison cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses.” (Exod. 1:10–11, JPS).

All: We cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression” (Deut. 26:7, JPS). As it is written (Exod. 2:24, JPS), “God heard their moaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” “The Lord freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents” (Deut. 26:8, JPS).

Reader 2: (Lift up the cup.) This second cup is also known as the “cup of the plagues” in memory of the great price paid to deliver us from bondage.

Reader 1: Before we drink from the second cup, in remembrance of the plagues that fell on Egypt and the plagues that will soon fall upon the earth, we will recite the ten plagues together. For each plague, dip a finger into your cup and put a drop of the wine onto your plate, symbolizing God’s wrath being poured out. Remember that it was the finger of God that “delivered us from so great a death” (2 Cor. 1:10).

All together:


א Blood

ב Frogs

ג Lice

ד Flies

ה Cattle disease

ו Boils

ז Hail

ח Locusts

ט Darkness

י Death of the Firstborn

Reader 1: This tenth plague convinced Pharaoh to let God’s people go. The Israelites, in obedience to God’s command, applied the blood to their doorposts, and God passed over their houses and blocked the destroyer from entering.

Leader: Before the tenth plague fell upon the Egyptians, the plague narrative in the book of Exodus takes an interlude. God commands the Israelites to take a lamb and slaughter it in their houses. “And all the assembled congregation of the Israelites shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they are to eat it” (Exod. 12:6-7, JPS). God explains the reason for such a command: “For that night I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down every first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt, I the Lord. And the blood on the houses where you are staying shall be a sign for you: when I see the blood I will pass over you, so that no plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exod. 12:12-13, JPS).

In other words, the Almighty did not wish to just destroy all the enemies of Israel in His wrath. He wanted to give everyone the opportunity to be saved. If an Egyptian believed the words of God after nine plagues had befallen his land, all he needed to do to save his firstborn was to take the lamb, slaughter it, and put its blood on the doorposts of his house. If, however, an Israelite in a state of self-confidence ignored God’s command, his firstborn would be dead with the other firstborn children of the Egyptians.

What happened before the tenth plague was the greatest lesson of substitutionary sacrifice God ever taught humanity. If a family wished for their firstborn to live, the lamb had to die in his place. The Torah specifically calls this lamb Pesach LA’ADONAI—Passover to the Lord (Exod. 12:11). Paul teaches this: “For indeed Christ [Messiah], our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7).

Daiyenu (It Would Have Been Enough) 

Cantor: At this point in a traditional Seder, we sing a song in Hebrew called “Daiyenu,” which means “enough.” After each act of God’s grace is recalled, everyone declares, “Daiyenu—it would have been enough.” Daiyenu is part of a Hebrew chorus, which we are going to sing tonight. Don’t panic! It’s only one word, and the tune is very simple. Let’s relax and have fun, praising God with joy.

It is also a tradition to tap on the table while singing it. For example, when I say, “If He had only delivered us from Egypt, it would have been enough," Then you sing, "Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If the Lord had only brought us out from Egypt and not executed judgment against them, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only destroyed their idols and not slain their firstborn, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only destroyed their firstborn, and not parted the Red Sea for us, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only divided the sea for us and not drowned our enemies in it, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only drowned our enemies and not fed us with manna, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only led us through the wilderness and not given us His Shabbat [Sabbath], it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only given us His Shabbat and not given us His Torah, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only given us the Torah and not brought us into the Promised Land, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “If He had only built for us the Temple but not come to dwell within us, it would have been enough.”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “But blessed be the Lord our God, Adonai Elohainu! He has done all of these things for us and more!”

All: “Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu, Dai-ye-nu.”

Reader 1: “But blessed be the Lord our God, Adonai Elohainu! He has done all of these things for us and more!


But after we left Egypt and Pharaoh behind, Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued us with his army and chariots, trapping us against the Red Sea. But God parted the deep waters before us, and we passed through on dry ground. But when Pharaoh and his army tried to follow, the waters closed over them and destroyed them. And when we saw the salvation of the Lord, then we “feared the Lord and believed the Lord (Exod. 14:31). “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13). So we sang and danced before the Lord our God, singing:

All: “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (Exod. 15:2).

Reader 2: Tonight we celebrate our salvation history in the Messiah, from Egypt to Canaan and from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of heaven. The two celebrations do not mutually exclude each other; they complement each other. The latter is just a greater fulfillment of the former. And there is even greater fulfillment to come, for our Redeemer said:

All: “With fervent desire, I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15, 16).

Reader 1: In every generation, every believer may feel that he or she has been redeemed from Egypt and from this world. We retell the story because we are the ransom of the Lord. Let us raise the second cup and bless His name.

Leader: The second cup is specifically mentioned in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus “took the cup, gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’” (Luke 22:17-18).

Cantor: Bah-rooch, ah-tah Ah-doh-nai, Eh-lo-hey-noo meh-lech ha-oh-lahm, boh-ray p’ree ha-gah-fen. A-men.

All: “Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine, who delivered us from the bondage of Egyptian slavery and the bondage of the slavery of sin.” (Drink the second cup.)

Blessing the Matzot 

Reader 2: Fathers, pass out the remaining top matzah in the matzahtosh and the remaining half of the middle matzah. Each person at the table may break off a piece.

Cantor: Bah-rooch, ah-tah Ah-doh-nai, Eh-loh-hey-noo meh-lech ha-oh-lahm, ha-motzi lechem min ha’ah-retz. A-men

All: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Leader: Now, fathers, pass out the bottom matzah. These pieces should be dipped into the bitter herbs and charoset. You can also make a sandwich of them in accordance with the tradition known as the “sandwich of Rabbi Hillel”—the commemoration of the temple according to Hillel. During the days when the temple stood, Hillel would sandwich together matzah and maror and eat them together as his way of fulfilling the scripture of Numbers 9:11, “They shall eat it with unleavened bread [matzah] and bitter herbs.”

This completes this part of the Seder. We will now eat the main Passover meal, after which time the children will find the real dessert—the “afikomen.”

Please remain seated. (You will be dismissed by tables.)

The Afikomen Found —The Hidden Matzah

Leader: Now it is time for the afikomen to appear again. It’s customary for the children to search for the afikomen. Children, when you find it, you can ask for a ransom for it when you bring it to the father at your table. (Wait for all the afikomen to be ransomed.)

Now, the Gospel of Matthew states:

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body’” (Matt. 26:26).

We just finished eating, and now we can break this piece of bread that our children brought to us. The word “afikoman” means dessert. In those days, Jews were not accustomed to eating cakes or ice cream. The dessert was intended to create an aftertaste that serves as a memory trigger for a past event. This is exactly what Jesus commands in the Gospel of Luke by saying, “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).

It was customary during the Seder to share this small piece of “dessert” with someone closest to you.

Cantor: Bah-rooch, ah-tah Ah-doh-nai, Eh-loh-hey-noo meh-lech ha-oh-lahm, ha-motzi lechem min ha’ah-retz. A-men

All: (Eat)

The Third Cup 

The Cup of Redemption

“I will redeem you with an outstretched hand” (Ex. 6:6, JPS).

Reader 3: Before we consider the cup of redemption, let us say the barech—the grace that follows the meal.

All: “How can I repay the Lord for all His bounties to me? I raise the cup of deliverance and invoke the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people” (Ps. 116:12–14, JPS).

Reader 2: We will now fill our cups a third time. (Everyone pours a third cup.)

Reader 3: “In the same manner, he also took the cup after supper, saying,

All: ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:25–26).

Reader 1: Let us bless the Lord for the unity that is ours through the blood of the Messiah, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Cantor: Bah-rooch, ah-tah Ah-doh-nai, Eh-lo-hey-noo meh-lech ha-oh-lahm, boh-ray p’ree ha-gah-fen. A-men

All: “Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine, and giver of the blood of the new covenant, which is able to make us one in Him.”

Reader 2: Jesus said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:27–29). (Drink from the cup.

The Prophet Elijah

“Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the Lord” (Mal. 3:23, JPS [1]).

Reader 1: Tradition makes a place at the table for the prophet Elijah. Jews understand that Elijah, since he was taken to heaven alive, can come and visit them at their house. Jews believe that as soon as Elijah comes, the Messiah will quickly come, in accordance with the last passage in the Old Testament:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5).

In some traditions, a cup is poured at the beginning of the seder and, in others, at the end. This cup is left untouched until Elijah comes and drinks from it.

Jesus told his disciples that Elijah had come in the person of John the Baptist. Yet his words that were spoken after John’s death leave room for a dual application of Malachi’s prophecy:

All: “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished” (Matt. 17:11, 12).

Reader 2: The word used in Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2, and Luke 7:27 to describe John the Baptist is the same word used for the three angels of Revelation 14 who carry the everlasting gospel to all the world just prior to the second coming of Christ.

God’s purpose is to fill a people with a message that has the spirit and power of Elijah and who will “remember the law of Moses...with the statutes and judgments” and who “will turn the hearts of the fathers [Jews] to the children [believing Gentiles], and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:4-6).


[1] English Bibles use different verse division. For example, in NKJV this verse is marked as Mal. 4:5.

Eliyahu (Song)


Elijah the Prophet. Elijah the Tishbite,


Elijah, Elijah, Elijah the Giladite.


Will soon in our days come to us


with Mashiach the son of David, with Mashiach the son of David.

The Fourth Cup 

The Cup of Praise

Leader: We have come to the fourth and last cup that we will drink tonight. It is called the cup of praise because, before it is consumed, special Passover psalms are recited. These psalms, 113 to 118 or 136, are the most commonly used. They are called Passover Hallels because of the common heading “Halleluiah” (“Let us praise the Lord"), which they share.

Let us read Psalms 113 and 114 (JPS) together.

All: Hallelujah. O servants of the Lord, give praise; praise the name of the Lord.

Let the name of the Lord be blessed now and forever.

From east to west, the name of the Lord is praised.

The Lord is exalted above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, who, enthroned on high,

sees what is below, in heaven, and on earth?

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts up the needy from the refuse heap.

to set them with the great, with the great men of His people.

He sets the childless woman among her household as a happy mother of children. Hallelujah.

When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob, from a people of strange speech,

Judah became His holy one, Israel, His dominion.

The sea saw them and fled; Jordan ran backward.

Mountains skipped like rams, hills like sheep.

What alarmed you, O sea, that you fled, Jordan, that you ran backward,

mountains that you skipped like rams, hills, like sheep?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,

who turned the rock into a pool of water and the flinty rock into a fountain.

(Drink from the fourth cup.)

Great Hallel (Closing Psalm)

Reader 2: The Gospel of Matthew records: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matt. 26:30).

Leader: Traditionally, Psalm 136, known as the Great Hallel, is sung or recited after the fourth cup. The words “For His Mercy is Everlasting” (ki lā-olam chas-do) act as a refrain throughout the psalm. Let us recite the bold text together.

Reader 1: Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

ki lā-o-lam chas-do (For His Mercy is Everlasting).

Reader 2: Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: Oh, give thanks to the Lord of Lords!

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: To Him who alone does great wonders,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: To Him who, by wisdom, made the heavens,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: To Him who made great lights,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: The sun to rule by day,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: The moon and stars to rule by night,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: To Him who struck Egypt with their firstborn,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: And brought out Israel from among them,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: With a strong hand and an outstretched arm,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: And made Israel pass through the midst of it,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: To Him who led His people through the wilderness,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: Who remembered us in our lowly state?

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: And rescued us from our enemies,

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 1: Who gives food to all flesh?

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

Reader 2: Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!

ki lā-o-lam chas-do.

The Fifth Cup

As the disciples made their way to the Mount of Olives, they were tired and sleepy after the Seder, which, according to Jewish tradition, was always quite lengthy. But while the disciples were falling asleep, Jesus was wide awake. He was so stressed that blood dripped from his forehead, mixed with sweat. He prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39).

According to Jewish tradition, anyone who drinks from the cup of Elijah, the prophet, shall experience the wrath and terror that come on the day of the Lord. The last prophet of the Hebrew Bible, Malachi, states that Elijah the prophet will be sent “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). In Gethsemane, Jesus basically drank from the cup of Elijah. All sins were placed upon Him, and He took the penalty for our transgressions. He is the only one who could drink from this cup for all of us.

Conclusion of the Seder

Leader: The traditional conclusion of every Seder is a hope expressed by Jews throughout history. Together, they exclaim, “L’sha-nah ha-bah-ah b’yeh-ru-sha-lah-yeem! Next year in Jerusalem!”

Since the restoration of the State of Israel, the desire to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem can actually be accomplished. However, does today’s Jerusalem fully complete the centuries-long yearning of the people of Israel?

It is interesting that many Jews who celebrate the Passover Seder in Jerusalem keep repeating the words “L’sha-nah ha-bah-ah b’yeh-ru-sha-lah-yeem!” Apparently, they are still waiting for something greater to be accomplished. They wait for the coming of the Messiah, who will take everyone to the heavenly Jerusalem. So let us conclude with the modified wish that we may celebrate Passover next year in the New Jerusalem.

The New Jerusalem is life with God, where death has died, alienation has been banished beyond the gates, sorrow and sighing have fled away, and the tears have been wiped from our cheeks.

As those who look for a city whose builder and maker is God, let us say—

All: “Next Year in the New Jerusalem!”


[1] All Scripture verses are quoted from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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