What Is A Seder Dinner?

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What is a Seder dinner? was one of the first questions I heard from my son when I told him we were attending.  The festival Passover (or Pesach) is a festival that celebrates God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  Passover is a seven day celebration that includes the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Seder which is a communal meal.

The Seder is generally a meal celebrated with family and friends.  In Jewish homes, it is usually a huge feast with food, games for the kids and a time to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt.  There is a specific order to the service and meal that includes what is eaten and the order that the story is told.

We celebrate the Seder at our church as a communal meal with our Pastor leading the Seder service.  However, there are roles that other church members play as well.  Traditionally, the mother of the family lights the candles that start the celebration.  In our church, one of the women parishioners lights the candles. There are four questions that the youngest child asks about what the different elements of the Seder meal mean with the father responding.

What is a Seder dinner

What Is A Seder Dinner?

The first night of Passover is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The second night if Passover is the Seder meal. The second night is also known as Pentecost in the Christian religion. There are differences in how the Seder is celebrated in the Jewish faith and the Christian faith.  My experiences are from the Christian point of view.

The Seder meal consists of:

  • Birkat Ha’Ner – Lighting of the Candles
  • Kaddesh – The Cup of Salvation (John 15:1-8) Grape juice since  we do not drink
  • U-r’chatz – Washing of the hands (Exodus 30:18) Done  in our congregation by our teens
  • Karpas – Rebirth & renewal (Psalms 126:5) Parsley or hyssop dipped in salt water
  • Yachatz – Breaking of Bread (Luke 22:19) Unleavened bread (Matzoh)
  • Maggid – The Cup of Deliverance (John 8:32) Grape juice
  • Rachtzah – Second washing of hands & blessing of meal
  • Motzi – Blessing for the bread (Luke 22:19)
  • Matzah – Break, share, and eat the bread (1st Corinthians 11:23-24) The Communion bread
  • Maror – Bitter Herbs (for us scallions) with Charoset (a mixture of nuts, fruits,and herbs) Represents the bitterness of life before Christ and the antidote (Christ)
  • Korech
    • The Haleel Sandwich. Represents Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday and His resurrection on Sunday.  You put horseradish on one end of a broken Matzah and Charoset on the other end. You eat as much of the horseradish as you can tolerate before eating the Charoset.  Note, it’s particularly fun to watch your son take a HUGE bit of the horseradish and turn purple during this part of the Seder.
    • Eating of the Egg.  A hard boiled egg (or deviled egg for some) represents the suffering and oppression in Egypt. Everything else in water softens but the egg gets harder, like the Israelites. It also symbolizes the new life we have in Christ.
    • Explanation of the shank bone (of a lamb). Reminds us that there was blood sacrificed to save our lives (Hebrews 9:22)
  • Shulchan Orech – Eating the Lord’s Supper. For us, a communal potluck where everyone brings a dish to share.
  • Tzafun – Earlier in the ceremony, part of the broken Matzah is hidden (the Afikoman).  At this time, the children search for the Afikoman. This symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  Those who find him have riches of everlasting life. It’s also the time when the children receive a ton of Easter candy and run around and play in our service.
  • Barech – The Cup of Elijah (Luke 22:20) When Jesus drinks from the cup never drank from before. It is the new covenant that represents Jesus’ blood, that was shed for us.
  • Hallel – The Cup of Joy (Revelations 19:9) Represents the marriage we look forward to in Heaven.
  • Nirtzah – The Song of Praise (Revelations 21:3) All is accepted. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

I hope that this helps answer the question of What is a Seder dinner for you. I know that there are many differences in how the various religions celebrate but this is how we do it. I’d love to hear how you celebrate in your home.

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Comments

  1. our church is having one tomorrow night but I dont think we will be able to attend. Very interesting post, thanks!
  2. Joyce@MommyTalkShow says
    I love when a church is inclusive like this and remembers our Jewish brothers/sisters were among the first Christians.
  3. Thank you for the great explanation!
  4. We celebrated every year when my grandfather was alive. It was kind of boring for me as a kid, but he always tried to make it really fun with the hiding of the afikomen.
  5. I wish our church did something like this. We did attempt to celebrate Passover 2 years ago, but I know we didn't get everything right. I think the Jewish feasts are important but have no clue how to go about celebrating them. It's ashame more Christian churches don't celebrate them.
  6. This is a great explanation of the dinner, Ellen. I was unfamiliar with a lot of the terminology that you used, so thank you for including the definitions. 
  7. Thank you for posting this wonderful explanation, Ellen.
  8. This is fascinating!  I'm a Christian but no one I know has ever done anything like this, except for a Lutheran friend.  If you don't mind me asking, what denomination are you part of?
    • Ellen Christian says
      It's a beautiful service.  It is held each year at our Baptist church.  I'm really glad that our church does it.
  9. Felissa (Two Little Cavaliers) says
    It is really interesting reading about the Passover Seder from your point of view. I do have a question for you. In the post you talk about how the first and second night is different for you for us it is exactly the same and celebrated in the same way. Do you have the dinner on the second night only and something else for the first night or does your Potluck Seder happen an a different day entirely?
    • Ellen Christian says
      I am far from an expert, Felissa.  We only have one Seder dinner and I have never seen anything on the other night except possibly a church service depending on the church. I would love to learn how other churches celebrate.

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