15 Steps, Why So Many Stages In The Pesach Seder?
15 steps! That seems so many? Can we not merely say. We were slaves, Hashem sent 10 plaques we were freed let’s eat?
I once had an argument with a friend about a soccer game. His comment was it doesn’t matter if you watched the game or not the result is the same. Yes, the result is the same but you missed all the emotion and the excitement of the match. Even a zero all game can be exciting. But if all you have is the result, then the response is that it must have been a boring game.
We live in an age of instant responses. Quick let’s look it up on Google. That certainly is helpful. However, we miss something when we rush through and skip stages.
The Seder night is a journey. The Haggadah leads us through a staged experience. Each one building on the previous one. The symbols are transformed. The Matzah we hold up at the start of the Seder as the food our ancestors ate in Egypt as slaves- is transformed into the bread of freedom that reminds us of the speedy exodus and that we had no time to bake the bread.
What Is The Order?
Kadesh – make Kiddush as we do with every Shabbat and festival
Urchatz– wash hands –again as we would do on every Shabbat and festival- but no blessing and only the head of the house. (That’s strange?)
Karpas– have some parsley or another vegetable. (That’s definitely not what we do on a regular Shabbat and festival)
Yachatz – break the middle matzah. (Ok we do break bread on Shabbat and Yom Tov – but that’s after we have washed and said the blessing over bread. What’s going on here?)
Maggid- the child asks why is tonight different? The stages before triggering the question and the discussion about the Exodus of our ancestors from Egypt.
Rachtza– now we wash for real to eat the matzah.
Motzi – we recite the blessing over matzah
Matzah- we recite the special blessing over eating matzah for the first time. The taste of the matzah is imbued with the story we have just told. We can taste the freedom.
Maror– eat the bitter herbs- even in freedom, we must recall the pain of the past.
Korech- The Hillel sandwich –the original burger! Matzah, lettuce and in the days of the Temple the meat from the Paschal Lamb. All the symbols of Pesach in one bite.
Shulchan Orech- The meal. The oldest ritual after the brit milah. Performed annually for over 3500 years. We are not only eating a meal we are sharing a meal with the generations.
Tzafun– the eating of the Afikoman- the piece of matzah broken off and hidden in step 3 reappears and is eaten. The Afikoman symbolizes the Pascal lamb eaten at the end of the meal. The night started with us telling the story of how the matzah was transformed from the symbol of slavery to one of freedom. But parts of the story are hidden. Only at the end can we see the full completed picture of history. Eating the Afikoman at the end of the meal means we now have clarity of the story.
Barech– now we are able to bless Hashem first for the food we ate. But also for the miracles, He performed.
Hallel– having moved through the steps we now burst into songs of praise
Nirtza – and we now understand what the night was meant to teach us. A night of rededication to Hashem, His Torah, and His People. We end the night singing songs of praise.
The 15 steps of the Passover Seder provide us with the framework to appreciate the journey of Jewish history.