How To Host a Passover Seder | The Savings Wife

Monday, March 11, 2013

How To Host a Passover Seder

 A New Tradition

We started a new family tradition last night: we hosted our first Passover Seder. It went great, considering we have never done it before. Traditionally, Jewish families celebrate a Seder during their Passover celebrations to tell the story of how God freed the Jews from Egyptian slavery. For Christians, there are many ways that the rituals of the Seder also illustrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. The most fitting day to celebrate a Seder would be the Thursday before Easter, as it would symbolize the Last Supper of Christ (which was a Passover Seder) before his death on the cross. However, this year we celebrated it on the Sunday before Easter to help us kick off our week-long Easter observances.

Preparing for the Seder

The inspiration for this event came from an article on leading a Seder by Stan Kellner with Pam Woody from Thriving Family magazine. You can see their online instructions to see where I got the bulk of what we did. Below is Stan Kellner's preparation instructions:

Abby enjoyed setting out all our small pillows for us to sit on.

Preparation for the Seder

After all leaven has been removed from the house, the traditional Seder begins just after sundown as the mother lights the candles and recites a blessing. Throughout the meal, the family maintains a posture of reclining; using pillows or cushions to lean against.

A list of basic Seder elements includes:

For each individual:

  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon of charoset
  • wine/grape juice — 4 servings of 3 oz. each
  • saltwater — 1 bowl per 4-5 people
  • ½ teaspoon fresh horseradish (bitter)
  • ¼ square matzah (available in most grocery stores in the kosher or ethnic food section — use plain style)

Elijah's place:

Same as the "individual" amounts with the exception that only one serving of wine or juice is poured and left next to the place setting for the duration of the ceremony.

For the leader's use:

  • 2 white candles and candlesticks with matches
  • 1 bowl of saltwater
  • 1 lamb bone with no meat, roasted in oven until brown
  • 3 whole squares of matzah (unleavened bread) and 4 napkins
  • 1 roasted egg
  • 1 bowl of clear water and a hand towel
  • 1 pillow or cushion for reclining
  • 1 small reward, such as a small toy or piece of candy
  • vegetable (optional)

Seder Planning Instructions

My engineer-husband also helped me streamline the instructions for our Seder leaders, who have never lead or experienced a Seder before. We added three instructions to help them understand what to do:

Direct: Tells the leader how to direct the group in what they are supposed to do.
Do: Tell the leader what he is supposed to do.
Say: Lets the leader know to read the following section out loud.
Traditionally, the father of the household leads the entire Seder. We decided to split the father's responsibility between the three fathers who attended. So, each father lead five of the fifteen steps. We also decided it would flow a lot smoother to have the mothers look up all the scripture ahead of time and be ready to read it out loud when the father gets to that part.

We printed out the fifteen steps and handed each father his five when he arrived. We had Exodus 6:6-7 on our TV screen so that everyone could read it together. Teacher-me also made a chart so we could better understand the link between the Exodus 6 passage and the 4 glasses of wine/juice:

God’s Promise
Cup of Wine

I will bring you out
1st: Cup of Sanctification

I will rescue you
2nd: Cup of Plagues

I will redeem you
3rd: Cup of Redemption

I will take you as my people
4th: Cup of Praise

For the Kids
Although I normally prefer casual and comfy, I asked our guests to dress in their "Sunday best" so that our kids would realize this was not the usual family fun hangout time. I think it help them realize that this was a special event. Stan Kellner, the author or the Thriving Family article, said he attended his first Seder when he was five years old. That seemed like a good starting age. We got a sitter for anyone under five and were very glad we did.

Our Seder lasted about an hour which was a long time for kids to sit and listen, although there are many tasting experiences and a few fun activities throughout. The kids did great at sitting still. Although I know the kids did not understand every piece of symbolism or listen to every word we read, I do think they understood some concepts and took away an experience of the family celebrating Jesus and practicing their faith together. My prayer was that we would learn more about God's people, God's son, and God's story. I think everyone accomplished that to some degree.

We opted for a medium-intensity version of the Seder experience to balance the needs of the adults and the kids. Here are some options for how to lead the Seder:

Low Intensity: To shorten the time and make it more kid-friendly, follow Stan Kellner's version of the Seder experience (link above) without reading the bible passages that are referenced. This would easily cut the time in half. You could still add in the children's bible stories for the kids.

Medium Intensity: This is the version we did (link here) that combined Stan Kellner's version with the children's story bible readings (where given an option, we chose to read from the children's story bible instead of the longer bible passages), shortened bible passages, and additional information from Beth Moore. 
High Intensity: Doing the same as above, but with the full bible passages instead of the children's story book readings. 
A Better Understanding:
In some ways, we are observing the same traditions that Jesus and the other Jews observed before and after His Last Supper. But in many other ways, we are adding a lot of explanation of those traditions and how they show us Jesus' role in God's great rescue plan for His people. As He did with most of the Old Testament laws, Jesus radically changed our understanding of the Jewish feast days and traditions. What a great experience this was. I look forward to doing it again next year.

Passover Seder: The 15 Steps

Introduction: The Story

(Explain the father’s role and the concept of the Seder and the “Direct,” “Say,” “Do” directions. Explain the mother’s role of looking up the scripture passages while the father leads his part, and reading them to the group (be sure to name the book and chapter before reading). Also, explain to the kids that it’s not about liking the foods we taste. It’s about the experience of what the foods symbolize. Sometimes a bitter taste will have a meaning to help us understand something better.)
The mother lights the candles and says a blessing before the Seder begins. Start by reading the story of the Passover and the escape from Egypt from a children’s story bible.
Read: During our Passover ceremony we will be having 4 symbolic cups of wine or juice. These 4 cups correspond with a promise that God made to the Israelites when they were still slaves in Egypt in Exodus 6:6-7: “Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

1. The First Cup: The Cup of Sanctification

Direct: Each person fills a glass with wine or juice.

Do: Hold up your cup of wine as you talk.

Say: This is the cup of sanctification. The word sanctification means to be set apart for God. Remember God’s first promise: “I will bring you out.” Jewish families remember that God performed miraculous deeds to free (or set apart) Israel from Egypt. We remember that Christ set us apart from the world as a holy nation to himself. (Read 1 Peter 2:9).
Direct: Everyone drinks the first cup.

2. Washing of Hands

Do: Dip your hands in a bowl and wipe your hands on the towel.

Say: Jewish families remember how the priest washed in the basin before he could come before God on behalf of Israel (Read Exodus 30:17-21). The ritual of the washing of hands pointed to Jesus, who washes away our guilty conscience so that we can draw near to God (Read Hebrews 10:22). This symbol of cleansing also provides insight concerning the comments and reactions of the disciples when Jesus washed their feet at His Passover Seder (Read John 13:8-9).

3. Dipping of the Parsley

Do: Hold up the Parsley.

Say: The first dip of Parsley refers to the tears shed by the Israelites while they were enslaved.

Direct: everyone to dip the first sprig of parsley into the saltwater and eat it.
Say: The second dip refers to the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea and the miraculous deliverance that came for the nation of Israel.
Direct: everyone to dip and eat the second sprig of parsley.
Do: Read Exodus 14:13-31 or the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea from a children’s bible.
Say: In the New Testament, the apostle Paul compares the crossing of the Red Sea to baptism, which symbolizes our redemption from sin (Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-2).

4. Breaking of the Middle Matzah

Do: Take the middle square from a stack of three matzah, break it in half, put one half back in the middle of the three and wrap the other half in a napkin.

Say: We use Matzah, or unleavened bread, during the Passover meal because it symbolizes how God’s people were brought out of Egypt (Read Exodus 12:39). It also represents, for Christ-followers, that we are new creations in Christ (Read 1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Do: Now hide the middle half of matzah as the rest of the family closes their eyes.
Do: Hold up the remaining stack of three matzahs.
Say: We can see the beautiful picture of the Trinity in the matzah — the top piece representing the Father; the bottom piece representing the Holy Spirit; and the middle piece representing Jesus, who was broken for us and then wrapped in linen to be hidden away (Read Mark 15:44-46).

5. The Four Questions and the Passover Story

Do: read the dialog called “Passover: The Four Questions” with the youngest child in the room.

Introductory Question
Child: Why is this night different from all other nights?
Leader: Once we were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but now we are free. We set aside this night each year to remember the great things God did for us.
Question 1
Child: Why, on this night, do we eat only unleaved bread?
Leader: Matzah reminds us of two things — we were delivered from slavery in Egypt, and we have a new life.
Question 2
Child: Why, on this night, do we eat only a bitter vegetable?
Leader: We remember how bitter our ancestors' slavery was while they lived in Egypt.
Question 3
Child: Why, on this night, do we dip our vegetable twice?
Leader: We are reminded of tears and of a miraculous deliverance, as we just saw portrayed with the parsley.
Question 4
Child: Why, on this night, do we all recline?
Leader: Before, we were slaves, but now we are able to recline to express the rest we enjoy as free people. This pillow represents our freedom.

Do: hold up the lamb bone as you read Exodus 12:1-13 or the story of the Passover from a children’s story bible.
Say: At the original Passover celebration, a lamb was killed and its blood was spread on the doorposts and lintel of the house to protect the home from the 10th plague, the slaying of the firstborn. God said He would pass over the house when He saw the blood. Each person had to eat of this sacrificial lamb — no one could eat for another person. We understand that we must each make a personal decision to spiritually apply the blood of Jesus to the doorposts of our heart so we never experience sin's judgment (Read 1 John 1:7-8).
Say: It is significant that for His last supper, Jesus asked Peter and John to prepare the meal, which was the traditional Passover Seder, also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Preparations for the meal would have included the slaying and roasting of the lamb. (Read Luke 22:7-8). Later both Peter and John referred to Jesus in their writings as the Lamb of God. Peter compared Jesus to a lamb without blemish (Read 1 Peter 1:18-19). John wrote that the Lamb who was slain was worthy of our highest praise (Read Revelation 5:6-12).

6.The Second Cup: The Cup of Plagues

Direct: Everyone fills the cup a second time.
Do: Hold up your cup of wine as you talk.

Say: This is the cup of plagues. God poured out 10 plagues on Egypt in order to show His strength and deliver the nation of Israel. Remember God’s second promise: “I will rescue you.” Thank God that He delivered Israel and He delivers us.
Direct: Each person dips a spoon into his cup, then makes 10 drops of wine fall onto his plate (or white napkin) as he says the name of each plague: blood, frogs, lice, flies, cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and slaying of the firstborn. Finally, each person drinks from his cup.

7. Eating of the Bitter Herbs

Direct: Everyone takes a piece of matzah, adds a small portion of horseradish and eats it.

Say: Eating bitter herbs (like horseradish) symbolizes the bitterness of slavery the nation of Israel endured in Egypt. We also remember the bitterness of our slavery to sin (Read John 8:34).

8. Eating of the Charoset

Direct: Each person enjoys a piece of matzah with a little charoset.

Do: Hold up your matzah and charoset.

Say: This mixture symbolizes the mortar that was used by the Israelites to make bricks while in Egypt. This sweet mixture represents bitter toil because even harsh labor is sweetened by the promise of redemption. We know that it was through Christ's bitter suffering that the sweetness of redemption also came to us (Read Hebrews 2:9-10).

9. Sharing of the Charoset

Direct: Everyone takes another piece of matzah with charoset and feeds it to the person on his right, saying, "Shalom, peace to you."

Say: When Jesus brought sweetness into our lives through His forgiveness, He never intended for us to keep it to ourselves. As we feed each other the charoset, we are showing that we want to pass this sweet message on to others (Read Matthew 28:19-20).

10. Explanation of the Egg

Do: Hold up the egg while you read the explanation below.

Say: The egg is a reminder that because the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 the Jews were no longer able to sacrifice. The egg is referred to as the Hagigah, the holiday sacrifice that was made during temple times. We are also reminded that Jesus was the final sacrifice that took away sin once and for all (Read Hebrews 10:1-18 or just Hebrews 10:8-10).

11. The Eating of the Meal

Say: At this point, a Jewish family would eat the Passover meal, including the roasted lamb. We are going to taste a bite of lamb.

Direct: Everyone tastes a bite of the roasted lamb.

12. Finding and Eating of the Afikomen

Say: The Afikomen ("ah-fee-koe'-men") is the piece of matzah that was hidden earlier. It's time to play a fun game as we send all the kids on a hunt to look for the hidden matzah. Whoever finds the piece gets a token reward — a ransom is paid for the Afikomen. When found, the Afikomen is broken in pieces and distributed to everyone.
Do: Send the kids to find the Afikomen. Give the prize to the one who finds it. Break the Afikomen in pieces and distribute it to everyone.
Say: Jesus himself used matzah as a picture of His sacrifice when He broke the bread during the Last Supper and declared the traditional matzah from that point on to symbolize His body (Read Luke 22:19).

13. The Third Cup: The Cup of Redemption

Direct: Everyone fills the cup a third time.

Do: Hold up your cup of wine as you talk.

Say: This is the cup of redemption. The word redemption suggests the idea of a price being paid to bring someone out of slavery. The sacrificial lamb offered on Passover paid the price to deliver the nation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Remember God’s third promise: “I will redeem you.” We know that Jesus drank this cup with His disciples, declaring it from that point on to symbolize His blood (Read Matthew 26:27-28). Drink the third cup in remembrance of Jesus.

14. Looking for Elijah

Direct: One of the children goes to the door and peeks his head out to see if Elijah is coming.

Say: Is Elijah there?

Direct: The child should reply: "No, he is not here."
Say: Maybe next year Elijah will come!
Do: Read Malachi 4:5-6.
Say: According to the prophecy in Malachi, the Jewish people know that Elijah will prepare the way for the Messiah. When they ask if Elijah is coming, they are actually proclaiming that they are waiting for the Messiah. We recognize that John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord more than 2,000 years ago (Read Luke 1:13-17). Although the Jews who do not believe that Jesus is the Savior still look for Elijah when they partake of the Passover Seder, we who are Christ-followers recognize that this part of the prophecy and tradition has already been fulfilled.

15. The Fourth Cup: The Cup of Praise

Direct: Everyone fills the cup a fourth time.

Do: Hold up your cup of wine as you talk.

Say: This final cup is a reminder of God's promise to Israel. Remember God’s fourth promise: "I will take you as my people.” The Jewish people look forward to a golden age when everyone will be at peace and will be reunited with God. In Jewish homes, it is traditional to close with the song, "Next Year in Jerusalem," a further indication of their waiting for the Messiah. As followers of Jesus, we, too, have been chosen by God to be His people, and we eagerly wait for the return of the Messiah so that we will be with Him forever (Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). So, with the Passover ceremony finished, let us drink the fourth cup, proclaiming, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Direct: Everyone proclaims “Come, Lord Jesus!” and drinks the fourth cup.

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