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Learn Hebrew: Passover

March 15, 2010 | by Shira Cohen-Regev

The most exciting night of the Jewish year.

On the evening of the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan (ט"ו בְּנִיסָן), Jews around the world celebrate Passover (פֶּסַח). This holiday commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt after long years of slavery, as described in the biblical book of Exodus.

This night is called Leil HaSeder (לֵיל הַסֵּדֶר). The word סֵדֶר means “order,” because there are many mitzvot to keep track of this night. Families and friends gather around the table to read the Haggadah (הַגָּדָה). Haggadah means "telling," and the book called Haggadah fulfills the scriptural commandment to "tell your child" (וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ, vi’hee’gadeta li’vincha) about the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt. The Haggadah has served as the standard organized guide to the Seder for millennia.

The Seder includes drinking four cups of wine, eating matzah (מַצָּה, unleavened bread), maror (מָרוֹר bitter herbs) and other symbolic foods placed on the Seder plate. As the significance of the Seder is to teach the younger generation about the Exodus, different parts help keep this challenging crowd interested and alert: Four Questions that children ask during the Seder and the adults answer, and a Passover version of a treasure hunt with an expectation for reward, keeping the children enthusiastic throughout the Seder.

Order of the Seder

The commandments of the Seder are performed in a specific order. In every Haggadah booklet, we find the sequence of 15 steps of the Seder, as follows:

  Hebrew Translation Transliteration Explanation
1 קַדֵּשׁ Sanctify Kadesh The Seder begins with the first cup of wine and the recitation of "Kiddush" in honor of the holiday
2 וּרְחַץ Washing Urchatz Hands are washed without reciting a blessing
3 כַּרְפַּס Greens Karpas Eat a vegetable dipped in salt-water
4 יַחַץ Breaking Yachatz Break the middle matzah. One half is returned to the plate, the other is set aside for the Afikoman
5 מַגִּיד Telling Maggid Tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt – including the Four Questions
6 רָחֲצָה Washing Rachtza Wash the hands with a blessing
7 מוֹצִיא Brings Forth Motzee Recite the blessing usually said before eating bread
8 מַצָּה Matzah Matzah Recite the blessing for eating matzah
9 מָרוֹר Bitter Herbs Maror Eat bitter vegetable (usually raw horseradish or lettuce) symbolizing the bitterness of slavery – but mixed with sweet charoset
10 כּוֹרֵךְ Sandwich Korech Eat a sandwich of bitter herbs and charoset, in between two pieces of matzah
11 שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ Set Table Shulchan Orech Eat the festive meal
12 צָפוּן Hidden Tzafun Eat the Afikoman, which is usually the focus of a children's treasure hunt
13 בָּרֵךְ Blessing Barech Recite the Grace After Meals
14 הַלֵּל Praises Hallel Recite Psalms of praise over the last cup of wine
15 נִרְצָה Accepted Nirtza May G-d accept our service, and may we celebrate next year in Jerusalem


Related Vocabulary Words

מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת?

Translation: Why is this night different from all other nights? (the refrain of the Four Questions)

Transliteration: Ma nishtana ha’layla ha’zeh mikol ha’laylot


Translation: the special matzah for dessert

Transliteration: Afikomen

אֵלִיָּהוּ הַנָּבִיא

Translation: Elijah the Prophet, for whom we open the door at the Seder

Transliteration: Eliyahu HaNavi

Related Hebrew Names

Nissan - נִיסָן - a boy’s name which is the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, in which Passover falls.

Aviva - אֲבִיבָה - a girl’s name derived from the word for "springtime." Passover is also called the “Spring Festival.”

Hebrew Word Search -

See if you can find all the words in the puzzle below:



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