Passover Seder Prayers, and The Meaning of the Seder Foods

Seder means order. You say certain prayers in a certain order as you go through your Passover meal.

The below info is a free Passover Seder Haggadah with all the prayers you will need if you want to conduct your own meaningful Passover seder. They are appropriate for a reformed Jewish or an interfaith family, and you’d find similar prayers in any typical Haggadah.

Haggadah means “the telling”. A Haggadah is a book with blessings, prayers and songs in it for the seder. Just like any Jewish prayer book, it typically is opened “backwards”, and read from right to left.

The seder often starts at sundown, and you can have a seder any night you want during Passover. One person can read all the prayers, or you can go around the table and take turns reading them.

Christians celebrating Passover with their interfaith family and friends, often are fascinated with the seder, as many of the symbols and themes of the Jewish holiday, are found at the very root of the Christian religion.

The house is typically cleaned before the seder, and the table is adorned with flowers, two candlesticks with sabbath candles, and the best china and crystal the family owns, or fancy paper plates. Everyone should have a Haggadah, or a set of prayers and songs in front of them. On the table should be a wine glass or cup for Elijah filled with wine, an empty wine glass and small pitcher of water for Miriam, extra salt water, horseradish, charosis, and parsley, plus a seder plate, like the one shown above.

There should be a plate with three matzah on it covered with a fancy cloth or napkin. You can break the middle matzah and hide it ahead of time, if you wish. Have wine, water, sparkling cider, soda or juice for drinking during the seder, and have matches ready for lighting the candles. If you have children, have crayons available to use with the coloring pages. Don’t forget pillows for chairs if people want them, and toys, money or prizes for the kids once they find the hidden matzah after dinner.

Passover is celebrated with close friends and family. It is the custom to invite new neighbors or someone who is alone also. It is typical to give the normal bread you would have eaten during the week of Passover to charity or a homeless shelter.

Click to download a copy of Julie’s free Passover Haggadah eBook with blessings, songs, coloring pages and Passover recipes here.

Start your seder here by reading below what the Passover symbols mean. Have someone lift each item as you mention it.

Read aloud:

Passover is the eternal story of belief in one God, and of the triumph of hope over suffering. It is about human passion for freedom and justice. This seder tells us of the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. By celebrating this holiday, we obey the command to teach the story of Passover to our children. We pray for a better world, and remember people who are in need. Tonight, we say to the the poor, “Let those who are hungry, come and eat.”

(Keep reading aloud.)

On the Passover Table, there are items that symbolize certain things:

1) A roasted bone reminds us of the lamb that was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering to God in ancient times during the Passover festival.

2) Horseradish roots and bitter herbs remind us of the bitterness of slavery.

3) Charoses – a mixture of finely chopped apples, nuts and raisins, with wine, reminds us of the clay used to make bricks by slaves in Egypt.

4) Parsley and green vegetables of spring are dipped in salt water to remind us of the tears shed by the slaves, and the bitterness of slavery.

5) A roasted egg reminds us of the sacrifice brought to the Temple in Jerusalem, and that Passover happens during the spring when new life and new beginnings bring hope.

6) A cup is filled with wine for Elijah who we hope will come soon to announce when all people will be free.

7) We drink four cups of wine tonight, or juice, to remind us of God’s power and of God’s promises to us.

8) Miriam was the sister of Moses. She protected him, and told him that he was Jewish. Miriam’s Cup reminds us of her wisdom and inspiration, as we dedicate ourselves to helping the world.

9) The orange is a symbol that we are all equal under God’s eyes.

10) The Matzah reminds us of the bread that was baked in a rush to leave Egypt. They left in a hurry so it did not have time to rise. Three Matzah are placed on the seder table to remind us of three types of people; those not yet free, those that don’t care about the freedom of others, and those who are free who help others to become free. Other people say the three Matzah represent the priests of the ancient Temple, the servants of the Temple and the congregation of Israel.

At this point, if you have not done so earlier, break the middle matzah in half. Wrap one half in a napkin and hide it for the children to find after dinner.

Continue your seder with the following Passover prayers in the order listed:

a.) Light the Passover Candles and say:
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech haolam asher kid’shanu b’mitsvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Yom Tov. We praise you God, Ruler of the Universe, who makes us holy with commandments, and has instructed us to kindle the festival lights.

b.) Prayer for Miriam. Click here to get more info on the prayer for Miriam. Read:

According to tradition, God gave Miriam a movable well as a reward for her wisdom and caring. In the years of wandering in the desert, Miriam’s well accompanied the Israelites. It is said that Miriam’s well is still with us. She is here to provide healing, inspiration, and wisdom. She and her waters sustain us as we await Elijah.

Baruh atah adonay eloheynu meleh ha’olam shehakol nihyeh bidvaro.
Praise are you, Eternal One our God, sovereign of all worlds, who creates all things.

Everyone pours a bit of the water into Miriam’s Cup, or you can select your daughter to represent everyone at the seder to pour the water into Miriam’s Cup, to encourage her to continue the seder tradition when she has her own family.*

c.) First cup of wine or juice. This reminds us of God’s promise to free us from slavery. Blessing before drinking the wine: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen. We praise you God for creating fruit that grows on the vine. Drink the wine.

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiymanu, vhigi-anu, laz’man hazeh. Thank you God for enabling us to reach this season.

Some families wash or wipe their hands at this point. It is a symbol that we are servants of God. No blessing is recited.

d.) Blessing for the karpas. Dip parsley or greens in salt water to remember the tears of slavery. Before eating recite: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-adama. We praise you, God, for creating food that grows from the earth. (Eat the karpas.)

Passover has become the great symbol of liberation and hope. It is a time when servant and master, and when rich and poor, are reminded that all are equal in God’s eyes. It is also a time to celebrate the earth’s creation, the wonder of rebirth and renewal during spring, and the mystery of life. Let us recite the Song of Solomon:

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone,
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing has come,
The voice of the turtle is heard in our land,
The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs,
And the vines in blossom give forth their fragrance.

e.) The 4 questions. These are recited by the youngest child at the table who can read: Why on this night do we eat only matzah? Why on this night do we eat bitter herbs? Why on this night do we dip greens in salt water and dip maror in charosis? Why on this night do we lean to one side?

A parent or an adult responds to the child: This night is different to remind us that we were once slaves in Egypt and that God helped us to be free. We lean on this night because we relax as free people. In every generation, it is still the duty of each person to consider that God delivered them out of slavery, and to try to be the best individual that he or she can be. This night is also different because we once worshipped many idols, but now we worship only one God.

f.) Let’s remember the Story of Passover. Long ago the Jewish people lived in Egypt and were slaves. They had to work very hard and build cities for the Pharaoh. It was a terrible time. A baby was born. His sister, Miriam, was afraid that he would be hurt, so she placed the infant in a basket in the water, near a place where he would be found. An Egyptian princess, the Pharaoh’s daughter, saw the baby and adopted him. The princess named the baby Moses. When Moses was grown, he ran away from Egypt. One day, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. God told Moses to return to Egypt, and tell the Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go. The Hebrews wanted to be free, but Pharaoh would not listen. So God sent ten plagues to convince Pharaoh of God’s mighty power.

As the plagues are read, it is the custom to pour a drop of wine or juice on your plate for each one.

Recite the plagues:

Blood-All the water in Egypt turned to blood;
Frogs-They hopped everywhere;
Lice – This made everyone scratch their skin;
Wild Beasts – They galloped, roared and slithered;
Diseases – People and animals were very sick from diseases with no cures;
Boils – People were screaming in pain from boils on their skin;
Hail – The ice smashed crops and broke everything;
Locusts – They ate all the greenery and turned the land to dust;
Darkness – Day turned to pitch black;
Death of the First Born – The oldest child in every Egyptian family died.

During the tenth plague, the Hebrews were passed over and spared, but Pharaoh’s first son died. In his sorrow, Pharaoh let the Hebrews go free. Moses thought that Pharaoh would change his mind so he told the Hebrew people to quickly pack whatever they could carry. There was no time to bake bread and for it to rise. The Hebrews went into the desert. Pharaoh changed his mind, and started to chase them with his mighty army. When they came to the edge of the water, it looked like there would be no escape. Then God parted the Red Sea, and let the Hebrews cross on dry land. When the waters closed, Pharaoh’s army was trapped. Now the Israelites were really free!

g.) The purpose of the Exodus was not just to let the Jewish people go free, but to make them a holy nation. As the Hebrews wandered in the desert, God called Moses to Mt. Sinai, and gave him the ten commandments. At Sinai, the Jewish people agreed “to do and to listen” to the words of the Torah. Let us say the ten commandments together now:

1. I, the Lord, am your God who led you out of the land of Egypt to be your God.
2. You shall have no other Gods besides me.
3. You shall not invoke the name of the Lord in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house or anything that is your neighbor’s.

h.) We say the prayer of a grateful people. Who is like you, O God? You are the Eternal One! We shout Dayenu because each one of God’s wonders would have been enough, but the Lord did so much, that we are grateful for everything.

God took us out of Egypt with an outstretched arm, and with signs and wonders. Dayenu!

God punished the Egyptians and destroyed their idols. Dayenu!

He divided the sea, and led us across on dry land. Dayenu!

He fed us with Manna, and gave us Shabbat. Dayenu!

He brought us to Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah. Dayenu!

He brought us to the land of Israel, and built us the temple. Dayenu!

For all these, alone and together, we are grateful. Thank you, God. Dayeinu! Dayeinu!

If you know it, sing the song “Dayeinu”.
The Dayeinu prayer teaches us to be grateful for what we have. If you don’t know the song, go around the table and have each person say what they are grateful for.

Click here for the English version of Dayeinu on YouTube.

i.) Drink the 2nd cup of wine or juice, for redemption. It also reminds us that God does not want us to make slaves of other people, and recite: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen. We praise you God for creating fruit that grows on the vine.

Sing “Let My People Go” or another song from the song page.

Song: Let My People Go!
When Israel was in Egypt land, Let my People Go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let My People Go!
Go Down, Moses, Way down to Egypt Land,
Tell Old Pharaoh, Let my People Go!

Thus saith the Lord, bold Moses said, Let My People Go!
If not I’ll smite your people dead, Let My People Go!
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land,
Tell Old Pharaoh, Let My People Go!

As Israel stood by the water side, Let My People Go!
By God’s command it did divide, Let My People Go!
Go down, Moses, Way down to Egypt Land,
Tell Old Pharaoh, Let my People Go!

Continue reading aloud:

j.) Matzah is the bread of poverty and affliction which our ancestors ate in Egypt. We say to the poor to have hope. We say to all who are hungry to come and eat. Passover is a time to dedicate ourselves to help those who are suffering. Blessings over the Matzah: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam hamotsi lechem min ha-arets. We praise you God for bread.

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam asher kid’sahnu b’mitsvotav v’tsivanu al achilat matzah.
We praise you God for the commandment to eat matzah.
(You may break the matzah and eat it.)

k.) Take matzah, horseradish, called maror, and charoses, and make a sandwich with them. Before eating recite:
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam asher kid’shanu b’mitsvotav v’tsivanu al achilat maror.
We praise you God for the commandment to eat maror. (This is called the Hillel sandwich. Feel free to eat it now.)

The famous rabbis of long ago said that whomever has not considered the symbols of Passover; the lamb bone, the matzah and the maror or bitter herbs, has not had a complete Passover celebration. The roasted bone, symbol of the Temple sacrifice, recalls the time when the homes of the Israelites were passed over. The matzah reminds us that the Hebrews had to leave Egypt so quickly that the bread did not have time to rise, and the maror reminds us of the bitterness of slavery. We have considered all three of these important Passover symbols so now we may eat!

Dinner is served. Eat salad, fish, or matzah ball soup and dinner at this point. If needed for more space, clear the seder plate from the table. Children can play a game, and look for a hidden piece of matzah, called the afikoman, wrapped in a napkin. Once found, they present the matzah to get a prize. Serve coffee, etc.

After dinner prayers:

(Read aloud)

We thank God for the food we have eaten and for special times. We thank God for rainbows and flowers and for the bounty of spring.

l.) Drink the 3rd cup of wine or juice, which reminds us that God reaches out to us, and say the blessing:
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen. We praise you God for creating fruit that grows on the vine.

m.) Open the outside door for Elijah and say the following prayer:

Elijah the prophet, in you we will rejoice. May the day come quickly, when all people will have good tidings, sympathy and salvation. Elijah’s return will lead us to an age of peace. As it is written, “he shall turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents.”

Sing Eliyahu Hanavi (In Elijah we rejoice) or say:
Eliyahu hanavi, Eliyahu hatishbi.
Eiliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu hagi ladi.

Close the outside door.

n.) Drink the 4th cup of wine or juice, which reminds us that God chose us and loves us, and say the blessing:
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen. We praise you God for creating fruit that grows on the vine.

O.) Let us remember and never forget the victims of the Romans, of the Inquisition, of the violence over the centuries against our people, the six million who fell to an evil tyrant, and the victims of terrorism. Let us remember those who gave the world an eternal example of courage; the heroes at Masada, the heroes in the resistence and in the concentration camps, those who gave their lives to protect us, and those who still fight for us today.

We thank God for delivering us from danger because not only in ancient times, but during every generation, evil people have tried to hurt us. We are therefore bound to thank, praise, glorify, honor and revere God who brought us blessings and protection, for our ancestors, and for us. Am Yisrael Chai; the Jewish people live! Praise God!

p.) The Torah teaches us that thou shall not hate thy brother in thy heart, and thou shall love they neighbor as thyself.

Read together.

The Prophets teach us that:
Out of Zion, shall go forth the Torah,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.
But they shall sit every man under his vine and fig tree,
And none shall make them afraid,
For the mouth of the Lord of Lords has spoken.

q.) Our seder is ending. Dear God, we hope our prayers have been acceptable to you. Please, O God, have compassion on us. Bring peace and freedom to all people. For Thou, O Eternal, are good and loving to all.

r.) Praise God! Halleluyah! Next year in Jerusalem! Next year, may all be free!

s.) End your seder with songs from our song page or other music. Happy Passover!

Click here for tips on setting the Passover Table.

Recipe for Charosis.

3 Apples, peeled, cored, chopped well
3/4 teas. ground cinnamon or to taste
3 Tablespoons of either Kosher Red Wine or Grape Juice
2 teas. sugar or honey
½ Cup Walnuts or Pecans, chopped well
Raisins, optional, chopped well

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a nice serving dish.
A double batch will be needed for a large seder.

Whole Foods often sells excellent Charosis too if you are in a rush.

Click to download a copy of Julie’s free Passover Haggadah eBook with blessings, songs, coloring pages and Passover recipes here.

*Adapted from A Night of Questions – A Passover Haggadah -2000

Call 703-978-6028 for Kosher MonaVie or contact

7 Responses to Passover Seder Prayers, and The Meaning of the Seder Foods

  1. Beautiful Seder, easy to follow and well composed.
    Thanks for making this available online.

  2. Mitchel says:

    Very nice Seder, our family enjoyed it. Perhaps add Hebrew for the four questions. Thanks!

  3. Julie says:

    Sure. Thanks for asking. You can say photo permission given by Julie Rana,

    Take care. _____________________________ Julie Rana Senior Recruiter Burke, VA P: 703-978-6028

  4. John Burrison says:

    Hello, Goldenthal Family. Your Passover Seder blog reminded me of my family seders in Philadelphia, in the last years catered by an African American concern! I have what may seem like an odd request for you: I’m writing a book about world ceramic traditions, and would like to include the symbolism of the Seder plate. The photo in your blog is the best I’ve found of the plate in use. Would you be so kind as to allow me to use the photo? If so, a brief permission statement via email, with the credit line you’d like to see, is all that I’d need; the photo from your website is big enough to use. Many thanks for your consideration, John Burrison, Director, Folklore Curriculum, Georgia State University, Atlanta

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