How do you design a holiday ritual? Sometimes it seems hard to pull together the unifying thread to all the various parts of the Passover seder. This mystery was solved for me when I learned that the meal as we celebrate it today was influenced by the Greco-Roman symposium: An exciting banquet night of intellectual discussion on a specified topic, wine, reclining on couches with a little "tv tray" of food for each participant.
The Jewish people has a habit of taking the mundane and transforming it into something for the Holy One, and so the topic of the seder became "The Going Out From Egypt," the wine became the 4 cups, the reclining, today on pillows, to liken us to a free people as opposed to slaves, and the individual trays of food became our wonderful seder plate of ritual foods.
In addition, the rabbis made an "order" (seder in Hebrew) to our evening, so that we will make sure to include all the important elements needed to make the celebration proper:
Kadesh: Blessing over the wine to begin the seder
Urchatz: Washing of the hands
Karpas: Dipping the spring green in salt water
Yachatz: Breaking the middle matzah
Maggid: Telling the story of the going out from Egypt
Rochtzah: Hand washing
Motzi Matzah: Eating matzah
Maror: Eating the bitter herb
Korech: Eating the matzah and maror sandwich
Shulchan Orech: Eating the meal
Tzafun: Eating the afikomen
Barech: Blessing after the meal
Hallel: Reciting psalms of praise
Nirtzah: The conclusion
Here is a little song to this rhyming "order of the service."
I've designed a postcard sized "party favor" with the order on the back, and my painting "Miriam Watching" on the front to enhance your seder, and give your guests a bit of learning to take home. Or you might like to send some Passover greetings. Here are some cards with a Passover theme.
As we are made ever more aware of the many woeful areas of our world that still need freeing, may your seder be a source of inspiration and energy to do what you can in your place in the world to carry on the work. May your seder be filled with the promise of Spring.
Blessings, Rabbi Me'irah