Seder - 1. The Passover Seder (Hebrew: סֵדֶר, seder, "order") (full name Seder Haggadah) including a meal and recital of the Haggadah prayer book, which is the central part of the celebration of the holiday of Passover.
2. Seder simply means order. In the Jewish religion, it can refer to the order of prayer for any ritual observance such as Sabbath eve or Yom Kippur.
The Passover holiday begins on the evening prior to the 15th day of Hebrew month of Nisan, in the spring. The ancient Hebrew and Jewish ritual day begins at sundown of the prior day in secular reckoning. Outside of Israel the Seder is supposed to be celebrated on the first and second nights of Passover. In the Solar Gregorian calendar, the holiday is celebrated in late March or in April. The Christian celebration of Easter in Western Christianity is dated according to Passover, since the Passover meal was Jesus's last supper. However, the calculation of this date is often confused because Jewish days are dated from the previous evening and for other reasons.
The Passover holiday celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt. Jews have celebrated the Passover holiday since ancient times according to the commandment of the Book of Exodus, Chapter 12. Originally, it was celebrated by the sacrifice of a lamb to commemorate the lamb that Jews slaughtered in order to signal to the angel of the Lord to pass over the houses of Jews in inflicting the plague of the first born son on the Egyptian people. Originally, the holiday was observed by sacrificing the lamb and by refraining from eating leavened bread for eight days. The unleavened bread (Matza) signifies that the Jews had no time to allow dough to rise before leaving Egypt in haste.
The Passover holiday includes a ritual meal that is a family gathering and an educational, didactic vehicle for inculcating a significant part of Jewish national history into the young of the family. This is shown by the ordinances of Book of Exodus, Chapter 12: And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation. and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you (Ex 12:16) and
The word "shew" is a mistranslation in the King James bible. The Hebrew reads, "Vehigadeta" - thou shalt tell, or recite or say.
The full verse being:
"Vehigadeta levincha bayom hahu lemor: Beavur zeh asah adonai li betzeiti memizrayim"
והיגדת לבינך ביום ההוא לאמור: בעבור זה עשה יהוה לי בצאתי ממיצרים.
The Seder meal was apparently formalized gradually and was a ritual observance in the time of Jesus. According to Luke 22 and other New Testament references, Jesus and his disciples ate the Passover meal, which was the last supper. Christians were supposed to have celebrated this Seder, and some still do, though they often give it a different meaning and a different date. (see here for example)
After the destruction of the temple and exile by the Romans, the Seder ritual was further codified by the Mishnah into a Haggadah, which became a vehicle not only for educating the young, and for commemorating the exodus from Egypt, but for transmitting major principles of the Jewish tradition and attachment to the land of Isael in the Diaspora and it has remained so. The Seder was probably codified by the end of the Mishnaic period (about 200 CE).
According to various surveys ( The NATIONAL JEWISH POPULATION SURVEY 2000-01 (NJPS) American Jewish Identity Survey ) Passover and Hanukkah are celebrated by nearly all American Jews, including the members of intermarried families. Because of their nationalist content, these two holidays were given new emphasis by Zionists. The ritual has not changed in essence since that time, though various songs and customs have been added very gradually over the centuries. Because it is a vehicle for national and religious traditions, it is important to observe the Seder as closely as possible following the traditional rituals.
The Seder is open to all. Traditionally, indigent persons are invited to celebrate the Passover with the family. Evidently this stems from Exodus 12:4:
The The Kimcha DiPascha (Flour for Passover) charity is also part of the Passover observance and is rooted in Jewish law and customs. Money is collected to ensure that the poor have the resources to celebrate Passover.
Modern Jews often invite non-Jews to the Seder, though this is strictly forbidden by Exodus, unless they are slaves who are circumcised and join the Jewish people:
The Seder is integral and central to the Jewish faith and to Jewish national identity. It inculcates secular progressive values more than religious ones: national liberation and abhorrence of slavery.
The Seder is composed of several essential observances including the eating of certain foods in a certain order and the recitation of key parts of the Haggadah.
There are several essential symbolic foods of the Seder, most of which are displayed in a ritual plate, except for the Matzah, which has its own plate. Passover is celebrated at the vernal equinox and was evidently merged with an even more ancient spring holiday. It is probable that some of the foods like the baytzah (egg) and the karpas are eaten because they were part of the spring ritual. Of these foods, three are central to the Passover Seder. One must not only eat them, but say them as well, to commemorate the Exodus. These are Pesach (Passover) , another name for the shank bone that symbolizes the lamb that was slaughtered, Matzah, to commemorate the unleavened bread, and Maror, to commemorate the bitterness of life in Egypt.
The Seder Service and Meal
Prior to the Passover Seder, the entire house must be cleansed of all Hametz - unleavened bread. The Biur Hametz (removal of leavened bread and other items not kosher for Passover) is a part of the Haggadah and actually part of the Seder. It takes place before the Seder meal itself. All utensils must be cleaned and purified, and if that cannot be done because they are porous, they must put away during Passover. All Hametz that cannot be destroyed can be sold to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover. In Israel this is done for the entire state by the chief rabbinate.
The head of the household, generally the oldest male, leads the Seder and provides guidance to the other invited guests.
The participants in the Seder should be "reclining" on comfortable chairs with cushions. In addition to the meal, it is incumbent on participants to drink four cups of wine during the Seder. Following is an outline of the Seder service and meal. Some of the customs are explained differently in different traditions, but all of them are part of the Haggadah for all Jews.