Passover 2018 begins at sundown on Friday, March 30 and ends in the evening of Saturday, April 7.

The Congregational Passover Seder is held on the second night of Passover. This is a catered dinner with many of the items made by our sisterhood women. See the homepage for details. Yiskor is recited on the last night of Passover.


Along with Sukkot and Shavuot, Passover is one of the Shalosh Regalim, or Three Pilgrimage Festivals, during which people gathered in Jerusalem with their agricultural offerings in ancient times. There are several mitzvot (commandments) unique to Passover, which are evident in the customs and rituals of the holiday to this day: matzah (the eating of unleavened bread); maror (the eating of bitter herbs); chametz (abstention from eating leaven); b’iur chametz (removal of leaven from the home); and haggadah (participation in the seder meal and telling the story).


The seder is the centerpiece of any Passover experience. A seder is an elaborate festive meal that takes place on the first night(s) of the holiday of Passover. Family and friends join together to celebrate. The word seder literally means “order,” and the Passover seder has 15 separate steps in its traditional order.  These steps are laid out in the Haggaddah, the book used during the seder. Many congregations hold a community seder during at least one night of Passover.


The seder plate contains various symbolic foods referred to in the seder itself. The contents of a seder plate vary by tradition, but most of them contain a shank bone, lettuce, an egg, greens, a bitter herb, and a mixture of apples, nuts and spices. Most of the ritual items are carried in our Judaica Boutique.

The following symbolic foods should be placed near the leader of the Seder. During the course of the Seder, they are pointed out, lifted up and displayed, and explained.
On the Seder plate (use either a special one for this purpose or a regular dinner plate), include:

  • Shank bone, zaro’ah, symbolizes the lamb that was sacrificed in ancient days
  • Roasted Egg, beitzah, represents the Passover offering of ancient days as well as the wholeness and continuing cycle of life
  • Bitter herbs, maror (horseradish or romaine lettuce), a reminder of the bitter lives of the Hebrew slaves
  • Charose, the mixture of apples, nuts, sweet wine, cinnamon and sugar in the Ashkenazic fashion or dates, nuts and sweet wine in the Sephardic tradition, reminds us of the bricks and mortar made by the Hebrew slaves
  • Greens, karpas, symbolizes the springtime of the year when Passover takes place

Also place on the table:

  • Three matzot (pl. of matzah), on a plate with a cloth or napkin cover
  • Salt water, a reminder of the tears shed by the Hebrew slaves
  • Cup of Elijah, Kos Eliyahu

Along with these traditional symbols, families may choose to include a Cup of Miriam, Kos Miriam, on the holiday table. This symbol honors Miriam, the sister of Moses, who played a vital role in the history of our people. The cup of Miriam is a special goblet filled with water and placed on the Seder table.

The Haggadah (pl. haggadot) contains the text of the seder. There are many different haggadot: some concentrate on involving children in the seder; some concentrate on the sociological or social justice aspects of Passover; there are even historical haggadot and critical editions.

The afikoman is half of the middle matzah that is broken in the fourth step of the seder, yachatz. It is traditional to hide the afikoman, and the person who finds it gets a prize! The afikoman is eaten last of all at the seder, during step 12 of the seder, tzafun.


Following an ancient practice of Babylonian Jews that is now observed throughout the world, the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are divided into 54 sections called parashat hashevua, the weekly portion. A different section is read each Shabbat. Special sections of the Torah are designated to be read at each Jewish holiday. Often, these sections are thematically related to the holiday.

The Torah reading for the first day of Passover is taken from Exodus 12:37-42 and 13:3-10, which describes the Exodus from Egypt, the basis for the Passover story. The Haftarah reading, an additional selection from the Prophetic books, is Isaiah 43:1-15.