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Tuesday, Adar 21 5783 (Hakhel Year) / March 14, 2023


Now that Purim is behind us, we start preparing for the holiday of Pesach (Passover), which is one month after Purim. The highlight of Pesach is the Seders. In Israel only one Seder is performed, and, in the Diaspora, two Seders are celebrated. In Israel Pesach is a seven-day holiday, while in the Diaspora eight days are celebrated.


Q.  On Shabbat and holidays, we wash our hands after the kiddush, recite the Hamotzi over the Challah and eat the meal right after. Yet, at the Seder after the Kiddush we recite the Hagadah before the meal. Only after do we wash our hands and eat the matzah, etc. Why, at the Seder don't we eat the matzah and meal after the Kiddush and then recite the Hagadah?


A.  The rabbis instituted this order to make sure that the participants, especially the children, stay awake for the entire Seder. If we would eat the meal first, there is a good chance that people will become drowsy and not perform the Seder properly.


Q.  Why is it customary for the children to hide the Afikoman at the beginning of the Seder? 


A. We encourage the children to hide the Afikoman in order to keep them awake throughout the Seder. The excitement of receiving a reward for returning the Afikoman will keep them from falling asleep.


Q.  Why is it important to eat the Afikoman before midnight?


A. The matzah eaten for the Afikoman represents the Passover sacrifice at the time of the Temple.  The meat of the sacrifice had to be eaten before midnight.


Q.  Why do we eat the Afikoman matzah after the meal?


A.  As mentioned before, the Afikoman represents the Pesach sacrifice which was brought in the time of the Temple. It had to be eaten at the end of the meal, in order that the taste of the Pesach meat will remain in the person’s mouth. This is symbolic of the fact that the experience and message of the Seder should stay will us long after we have finished the Seder.


Q.  What is the significance of the hard-boiled egg on the Seder plate?


A.  One reason is that the egg is a sign of mourning.  It is the first meal that a mourner eats after a funeral.  At the Passover Seder the egg reminds us that, although we are celebrating our freedom, we still mourn the loss of our Beth Hamikdash (Holy Temple). 


This is especially significant in light of the fact that the first Seder night always falls on the same night of the week as Tisha B'Av (9th of Av) - the day of the destruction of the Holy Temples.