These Halachos (except for passages found in [* ]) are copied from Rabbi Blumenkrantz's book

"The Laws of Pesach"


Preparation for the Seder

Chapter Nine

The Seder

A. The Seder Plate

Various opinions how to arrange the Seder plate
According to the Ari
THREE MATZOTH
EGG SHANKBONE
BITTER HERBS
KARPAS HAROSET
HAZERETH
According to Rabbi Elijah gaon
HAROSET BITTER HERBS
TWO MATZOTH
EGG SHANKBONE
Others arrange it in this manner
EGG SHANKBONE
THREE MATZOTH
HAROSET BITTER HERBS

Ke'arah: the Seder Plate
One should prepare a large plate, tray or specially made ke'arah which has spaces for the items that must be displayed on the Seder table: the shankbone, the roasted egg, the maror (bitter herbs), the charoses and, according to most opinions, also the karpas (parsley).

According to the Maharil and the Rema, everything is placed on the ke'arah in the order it will be used. Whatever is used earlier is closer to the person leading the Seder.

According to the Vilna Gaon, the shankbone and the egg should be placed closest to the person leading the Seder, the two matzos (the Vilna Gaon did not use the third matzo) are placed in the middle, and the maror and charoses are on the other side. (The karpas is not placed on the ke'arah, and the ke'arah is only brought to the table for Yachatz, after eating the karpas.)

According to the Arizal, there are six items on the ke'arah, and they are arranged at the points of two triangles. According to the Arizal there should be two forms of bitter herbs on the ke'arah. The second one is reserved for korech. This is the most common way to arrange the ke'arah (see diagram).

There are many customs among Jews all over the world on how to set up the Ke'arah even in accordance with the Arizal and/or the Remoh. For example, the great Mekubol Rebbi Sholom Sherbi, ZT"L, who followed the Arizal, set up the Seder plate the following way: He had a large rectangular plate. On the left side, he had the 3 matzos one on top of the other without any divider between the matzohs. Onthe right side of the plate, he had the 6 items in accordance with the Arizal.

Rabbi Yaakov Emdin (Yaavat"z) who followed the Remoh set his seder plate this way: He had a large circular plate, in the center he placed 3 matzohs with no dividers between them, and on the protruding edge of the plate he set up the 6 items of the seder plate: My Rebbi HAGRA"M Feinstein, ZT"L, set up his seder plate this way.

My father Hagaon Horav Chaim Menachem Ben Tzion Blumenkrantz, ZT"L, followed the Arizal's custom but he had the 3 matzohs in a bag with each matzoh separated by a piece of material, and on top of the three matzohs he placed a seder plate with the 6 items.

There are those whose custom is to have the 6 items sitting directly on the top matzoh.

1. Z'Roah (arm or wing)
A cooked thigh or neck of a chicken, broiled a little over the fire, comes in memory of the Paschal lamb. We call it z'roah (arm) to remind us of the outstretched hand with which G-d delivered the Jewish people from bondage.

2. Beitzah (egg)
A hard boiled egg, broiled over the fire, reminds us of the offering in honor of the Yom Tov, Korbon Chagiga, which Jews were required to bring when the Bais Hamikdosh existed. An egg is used because it is a food eaten by mourners, and the day on which the first night of Pesach falls coincides with the day on which the ninth of Av comes out. Also beitzah in Aramaic (pronounced beyah) means "“want" or "desire", thus the egg on the Seder plate implies the "desire" of G-d to deliver His people.

3. MORROR (Bitter herbs)
This reminds us of the bitter life our ancestors experienced in Egypt. The Mishna (Psachim 39a) lists five vegetables which one can use for morror-Chazeres. Tamchah, Charchevina, Ulshin, Morror. Most authorities identify Chazeres with romaine lettuce and Tamchah with horseradish (Mishna Brurah 473:34). Even though the Poskim use the term Salatim for Chazeres which could include all kinds of lettuce, nevertheless" the common practice is to use romaine lettuce. One whose parents use or used romaine lettuce should not change to regular lettuce. But one who has no tradition may use regular Iceberg or Loose-leaf lettuce, if he so chooses, even though Romaine lettuce is preferred. It should be remembered that the Romaine or the regular lettuce must be checked for bugs. (See Chapter 20.)

Some people prefer romaine lettuce over any other permissible bitter Herb because Romaine lettuce is sweet to the taste at first on. This is similar to our exile in Egypt, which started with sweetness but turned out to be very bitter indeed. Also, the Hebrew word for lettuce is chasah which also means 'mercy.' The lettuce thus alludes to the mercy which G-d showed to our forefathers when He freed them from the house of bondage. The Chazon Ish says that when using romaine lettuce for maror, it is important to take a well-grown head, for the very young light green romaine lettuce is not bitter. However, most people don't seem to be particular about this.

The horseradish if used should be grated according to the Gro and other authorities (Mishna Brurah 473:36). Rav Yaakov of Lisa, in the introduction to his Hagadah. Maaseh Nissim, contends that one must eat horseradish whole in order to fulfill the Mitzvah. So also is the opinion of Chavos Daos cited by the Sha'ar Hatzion (ibid.). Most people grind it and uncover it at the beginning of the Seder. My Rebbi, zt”l, however, permitted the ground horseradish to stand uncovered long before the Seder began. He maintained that the Halocho required bitterness and not sharpness and, therefore, even a small degree of sharpness is sufficient. Most authorities would prefer the use of Romaine lettuce. (Romaine Lettuce)

Hagaon Harav Yosef EIiyahu Henkin, zt"l, held that the preferred vegetable used in morror is ground horseradish. Because there are those who question whether the lettuce existent in our time is the Chazeres vegetable mentioned in the Talmud.

(To prevent tears when grinding the Horseradish, place a carrot in your mouth while you are grinding the Horseradish.)

There are those who use Endive for morror (in Shaalos Utshavos Chacham Tzvi No. 119, the Chacham Tzvi identifies Ulshin as endives). The endives sold in the U.S. are apparently not the true endive. True endive or escarole (endive), a salad vegetable since antiquity, is cultivated in a broad or curly leafed variety. The endive sold today is known as French (Witlooof) or Belgium endive. They are not cultivated but rather are grown on the chicory root. The chicory seeds are planted in early spring, and by fall have a good root system. The roots are then dug, replanted in sand and peat moss, and kept in a warm dark place for winter forcing. Finally, a gourmet crop of "chicons" or endives with tightly folded, creamy blanched leaves, 5-6 inches long, is harvested.

These Belgium endives are imported from Europe and they saturate the fruit markets in the U.S. In some places they grow file Belgium endive using hydroponics (in water), meaning that once chicory root is harvested, it never touches soil again. This Belgium endive has been enormously popular in Europe since the middle of the 19th century, when a horticulturist in Belgium reportedly stored chicory roots in his cellar during the winter, and discovered "winter endive."

I would like to quote from a book "The Fundamentals of Growing Vegetables".

Chicory: Related to endive, escarole, and radicchio, chicory is a warm-season vegetable. The names chicory and endive are sometimes used interchangeably, although this is not technically correct chicory has oblong, basal foliage, which forms a loose head of dark green leaves that can be used in salads. What is known as French or Belgian endive is actually a chicory called Witloof chicory, which is forced and blanched in the dark to produce bobular heads of leaves, usually but not always indoors in the winter. To grow French or Belgian endive, grow Witloof chicory from early summer to fall. Then after cutting back the tops and digging up the plants set the roots in moist soil in a warm cellar and cover with a 6- inch layer of moist sand. New leaves will grow in the sand and produce tight, blanched heads.

Endive and Escarole:
Endive and escarole are basically the same plant, but varieties called endive have curled and cut, lacy leaves, whereas those called escarole have smoother broad leaves. True Endive should not be confused with French or Belgian endive, which is variety of chicory.

A question arises concerning our endives, whether or not they are morror. We therefore suggest that they not be used.

Do not be misled by letters stating that "our Belgian Endives are grown in the traditional manner." This letter appeared last year in fruit markets.

(It is interesting to note that Dr. Yehuda Felix in his Mareos Hamishna asserts that Ulshin is chicory. If this is true then most probably one would be able to use the Belgium endive. Or maybe chicory refers to the actual chicory (which was present in the days of Chazal) and not to the "forced chicory" or Witloof chicory (which was not present in the days of Chazal) and, therefore, the French or Belgian endives would not be morror. There is also a general question for year round purposes. That is, what Brocho do you make on the Belgium endives especially those that grow hydroponically. Some say She'hakol, others say it is still Ha'adoma).

[Many Halachic issues involve fruits and vegetables which are grown in a liquid chemical solution (hydroponics).]

Hagaon Rav Ovadia Yoseif, Shlita (Yechaveh Da'as Vl: 12), Hagaon Rav Chanoch Zundel Grossberg, Shlita (Siddur Minchas Yerushalayim p. 334) and the Tshuvos Machazeh Eliyahu (28) are of the opinion that such fruits and vegetables are similar to mushrooms about which Chazal (Brochos 40b) say that since they do not obtain their nourishment from the ground, one recites She'hakol on them. (However, the Yechaveh Da'as writes that if one recited ha'eitz or Ha'adoma over fruits or vegetables grown through hydroponics, he need not repeat the Brocho).

Hagaon Rav Shmuel Wozner, Shlita, (Tshuvos Sheivet HaLevi 1 :205, notes to Shulchan Oruch 204) says that it would seem to more appropriate to recite Ha'eitz or Ha'adoma on such fruits or vegetables, since that is the proper Brocho for that type of food (which is normally grown in the ground). One cannot bring a proof from mushrooms where the proper Brocho is She'hakol since all mushrooms grow in a manner in which they do not derive their nourishment from the ground.

It would seem, that, in regard to certain bean sprouts which are typically grown through hydroponics that even Hagaon Rav Wosner would admit that the appropriate Brocho for them would be She'hakol.]

4, Charoses (paste-like mixture)
A mixture of apples, filberts, ginger, and red wine. Apples are used because the Jewish mothers went to give birth outside the city under apple trees so as not to be detected by the Egyptian task masters. Filberts are used because the Jewish people are compared (in Shir HaShirim) to a garden of filberts. Ginger reminds us of the mortar that the Jewish people used for making the bricks with which they built the Egyptian cities. The red wine reminds us of the blood of the infants that were hurled into the Nile by the Egyptians. The Charoses should be thick, to remember the mortar, but before dipping the morror in Charoses, we make the Charoses more liquefied by adding a little more red wine.

There are some who add pomegranates, dates, figs and grapes to the Charoses, because the Jewish people are compared in Scriptures to them; They also add almonds because almonds hurry to ripen, to symbolize the fact that the A-mighty hurried in the time of redemption.

5. Karpas (celery, root, radishes, onions, parsley, potatoes)
Karpas should be a vegetable not included in the family of bitter herbs, which requires a Borei Pri Ha'adoma, and is used as an appetizer. The above vegetables all conform to the prerequisites except for the potato. The potato was introduced in some countries where there were no other affordable vegetables. In the spirit of following in the footsteps of our fathers, many of us continue to use the potato, even though we can readily get any of the other vegetables.

The word Karpas is made up of the letter samech (numerical value 60 which alludes to the sixty myriad of Jews (600,000) who left Egypt) and the word perech (extremely hard work). This signifies the 600,000 (60 x 10,000) Jews who worked extremely hard in Egypt and passed through the sea (salt water).

Another reason we dip the Karpas in salt water (or vinegar) as a symbol of the tears and sweat which poured from our people during the Egyptian bondage.

6. Chazeres (Bitter herbs)
Most people use horseradish, for the 2nd morror on the Seder Plate. some use romaine lettuce. This is used for the morror which is eaten with the matzo as a sandwich during the Seder.

7. Salt Water
This serves a double purpose; first, it represents the tears of the Karpas Jews (see above), and so we dip the Karpas (symbolizing the 600,000 Jews who worked so hard) into it. Second, it represents the sea. We then dip the Karpas into the salt water to express the fact that the 600,000 Jews (who worked very hard), crossed the Red Sea.

It is preferred not to delay eating the matzo by discussing and commenting on the Hagadah. since it is of utmost importance that the children be awake when the matzo and the morror are eaten. If there are many families gathered, and there are, a:) many children, some of the children should say Ma Nishtanah during the recitation of the Hagadah. The rest should recite it later, during the meal, at which time discussion on the Hagadah and Divrei Torah should be encouraged. Here too, though, some restriction is necessary, to insure that the afikomen is eaten before Chatzos (this year 1:00 AM in New York,). After the Seder, one can fulfill the dictum of our Sages: "Kol hamarbeh l’sapair biy’tzias Mitzrayim haraih zeh meshubach." (The more a person discusses the story of yetzias Mitzrayim, the more praiseworthy he is.)

8. The Kittel
It is customary in many communities to wear a white robe, referred to as the Kittel, at the Seder. White alludes to the qualities of purity and mercy. Thus, the High Priest would wear a white robe when he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

A White Garment For The Seder Although it is a mitzvah to adorn oneself on this night with brightly colored, costly garments of silk and tapestry, nevertheless it is customary for the head of the household to wear a plain white garment.

One of the reasons for this is that the dead are clothed in white before burial. This reminder will prevent a person from becoming too full of pride. Similarly the eggs which many people eat at the Seder are also a symbol of mourning and thus a warning against pride. In addition, the ninth of Av", the anniversary of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh, always occurs on the same day of the week as the first day of Pesach, so a symbol of mourning is appropriate. However other authorities interpret this quite differently. They maintain that there is nothing finer than a plain white garment for it was thus that the Cohen Gadol entered the innermost sanctuary. On this night each Jew who celebrates the sacred Seder is like the Cohen Gadol performing the avoda.

The custom of wearing a white garment at the Seder is not observed among Sephardic Jews.

9. The Four Cups

Wine is a symbol of celebration and freedom. The four cups of wine refer to the four promises of redemption (Exodus 6:6-7):

"I will free you form the labor of the Egyptians: and I will deliver you from their slavery. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great judgments: and I will take you to be my people."
Also, the Jerusalem Talmud (Psachim 10:1) explains that these four cups refer to the four cups of retribution G-D will force the gentiles to drink in the Messianic age, and the four cups of comfort He will give the Jewish people. The Sh'lah emphasizes that these four cups have their source in the four letters of H-shem's name, which is the scouce of all creation.

10. Thursday Night: Second Day Yom Tov
a. One who carries the Machzor to Shul at the end of the lst day Yom Tov, should make sure to daven Mincha in it, or to use it in any other way (e.g. saying the Seder Korban Pesach, or by learning some halochos about Pesach which usually are found in the Machzorim) before Shkioh of the 1st day Yom Tov.

b. Maariv should be recited when it is fully dark (i.e. 45 minutes after Shkioh). It must be emphasized that even those who are scrupulous and recite Maariv on a regular Motzoei Shabbos or Motzoei Yom Tov 72 minutes after Shkioh, should not practice it on Motzoei Yom Tov of the first day. Rather, Maariv should be recited, even by the most scrupulous, right after 45 minutes after Shkioh. The reason is so that the children be awake when the matzo and morror are eaten.

On to "The Order of The Seder"

Main Pesach page
Back to Neveh Homepage



The webspace for the Neveh Zion site
has been generously donated by

Website hosting and design, 56K and ISDN dialup service,
family filtering and fixed IP addresses available,
reasonable rates. Email Sruli Shaffren for a quote.

Please daven for a Refuah Shelaymah for:



send your comments to webmaster@neveh.org