The meaning of the original division
of the Passover Seder
into four main parts.

PhD dissertation: Part I (pp. 285-321) of chapter III

Wojciech Kosek

This article was first published on
on Thursday, 2 Apr 2020,
on the 15th anniversary of Pope John Paul II passing away.

DOI of this paper:

Here it was published on 2 Apr 2020.


The main goal of this paper is to show the method of discovering the fundamental division of the Passover Seder into four parts, each of them connected with one cup of wine. It is not an easy task to properly understand where ends the first group of liturgical acts of the Passover Seder and begins the second group and so on. To perform this task, one analyzed each liturgical sign of fourteen points of Seder. The fruit of such research is that the logic of their arrangement emerges from behind the whole ritual layer and helps to understand this whole deeply.

One performed this task based on The Hebrew Bible and Hebrew/Aramaic text of The Passover Haggadah and The Talmud, especially The Treatise Pesachim; one took into account explanations and observations of famous their commentators of the people of God until now. To discover the connection between significant events described in The Hebrew Bible and customs of Passover Seder, one found common Hebrew words linking them.

In particularly significant moments of Seder, one showed the unique Jews’ understanding of the liturgical possibility to make the past events present. What is more – one proved that there is the four-element sequence of making present four main events – stages of the history of the salvation of Israel by God. These four steps are simultaneously the four elements of the covenant-making ceremony, which God and Israel performed to enter in a relation of spousal love. The covenant in concern – it is the covenant between the parts of the Sea of Reeds.

The comprehensive fulfillment of the goal of the research task could not be possible without the knowledge of the literary structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 as the ancient treatise describing the ceremony of the covenant-making, performed by God and Israel simultaneously with the four-stages process of liberating Israel by God; the same concerns the literary structure of the pericope of law (Ex 13:17-14:31). The first two chapters of the dissertation to which belong the present paper (as the first part of the third chapter) allowed to understand both these structures, their logic, and the dependence of the four-element ancient Hittite treaties of XVI-XII century before Christ. The middle part of this chapter has already been published – see on The Passover Afikoman in light of its Hebrew origin.

This paper is a translation of part I of chapter III of doctoral dissertation:

W. Kosek, Pierwotny ryt Paschy w świetle schematu literackiego Księgi Wyjścia 1-18

(The original rite of the Passover in the light of the literary scheme of the Book of Exodus 1-18),

Kraków 2008, p. 287-321.

See also:

Table of contents:

3.1. Introduction.
3.2. Celebrating of the Passover in light of the biblical history of Israel.
3.3. Introduction to the description of the Passover Feast. Division of the Seder into 14 points and four parts.
 3.3.1. Basic information about the Passover Seder.
 3.3.2. Acts immediately preceding the Passover Seder.
 3.3.3. Fundamental 14-point structure of the Passover Seder.
 3.3.4. Part I of the Passover Seder.
 I.1. Kaddesh (קַדֵּשׁ): a recitation of the Kiddush, i.e., a blessing.
 I.2. Urechatz (וּרְהַץ): the washing of hands.
 I.3. Karpas (כַּרְפַּס): the eating of the parsley.
 I.4. Yachatz (יַחַץ): the breaking of the middle matzah to have Afikoman
 I.5. Maggid (מַגִּיד): reciting the Haggadah – telling the story about Exodus from Egypt
 3.3.5. Part common to parts I and II of Seder.
 3.3.6. Part II of the Passover Seder.
 II.1. Rachtzah (רַחַץ): the second washing of hands.
 II.2. Motzi – Matzah (מוֹצִיא מַצָּה): two blessings over matzoth.
 II.3. Maror (מָרוֹר): the eating of the bitter herbs (after dipping it in salty water).
 II.4. Korekh (כּוֹרֵךְ): eating of sandwich made with matzah, bitter herb and charoset.
 II.5. Shulchan Orekh (שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ): the eating of the festive meal.
 3.3.7. Part common to parts II and III of Seder.
 III.1. Tzafun (צָפוּן): the eating of Afikoman.
 III.2.Barekh (בָּרֵךְ): Thanksgiving prayers for the food and a request for a redemptive exodus led by Elijah and Messiah.
 3.3.8. Part III of the Passover Seder.
 3.3.9. Part IV of the Passover Seder.
 IV.1. Hallel (הַלֵּל): the recitation of the second part of Hallel.
 IV.2. Nirtzah (נִרְצָה): the final singing.

3.1. Introduction.

In the previous chapter of this doctoral dissertation, one showed a very interesting relation between the literary structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 and the structure of the description of ancient covenants. Comparative analysis has shown that the six pericopes of which the biblical writer composed the first eighteen chapters of this book constitute a six-element structure of the description of the covenant that God made with Israel in Egypt. However, the model for the very act of making (literally cuttingכרת) of this covenant is God’s passage in signs of fire and smoke between the halves of the animals cut by Abram (cf. Gen 15:17f). In this first, described in Ex 1-18, God’s original covenant with the seed of Abraham, the counterparties of the covenant passed between the halves of the cut-up Rahab – the Sea of Reeds.

Amazing is this extraordinary scenery of the covenant-making by God; astonishing is the hiding of its description by the biblical writer under the picturesque robe of the description of Lord’s intervention for the oppressed sons of Abraham in Egypt.

The hidden is a treasure, both in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the biblical writer! This treasure, a sign of the deep love of God for His people, is hidden in the Scriptures. However, it is not only Scripture that is the treasure of the word of love between God and man. The liturgy, the gift of the Most High to Israel, is the second vessel that holds this original record of a marriage that יְהוָה made with יִשְׂרָאֵל

What cultic feast brings to the next generations of Abraham’s sons this fundamental event for their relationship of love? The Passover, celebrated on the 15th day of the first month (Abib – Nisan) each year, the Passover, which commemorates the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, is this cultic, lasting record of the covenant of יְהוָה and יִשְׂרָאֵל

The order (rite) – in Hebrew ‘seder’ (סֵדֶר) – of the Passover feast is strictly defined at the level of structure [1]: it consists of four successive basic elements, corresponding to the successive four stages of the Passover/Exodus covenant.

In this chapter of this dissertation, one will present the Seder of the Passover Feast, which all believing Israelites celebrate to this day as a home liturgy on the 15th day of the first month of the liturgical year. We will show in this liturgy the customary acts and words which are content of each of the four basic parts-elements of the rite. Although today Jews’ liturgies differ in detail, the essential content of each basic element of the rite must be identical.

One should extract this content and compare it with what was discovered in the previous chapter of the work concerning the structure of the Passover/Exodus covenant reduced to four elements, recorded in the Book of Exodus 1-18. The result will be surprising: The history of the Passover/Exodus covenant was inscribed in the Seder of the Passover Feast.

The indicated in-depth analyzes will be preceded by a review of biblical places in which the Passover is mentioned. Thanks to this, basic biblical knowledge will be shown, giving the right direction of interpretation to what Tradition conveyed. Namely, in seven biblical accounts of six [2] Passover celebrations, the solemn Passover celebration always occurs as a key event in the renovation of the covenant between God and Israel.

3.2. Celebrating of the Passover in light of the biblical history of Israel.

Passover was commanded by God at a crucial moment for the creation of the people of Israel – at the time immediately preceding the exodus from Egypt. However, this significantly important feast in honor of God – contractor of the covenant and spouse of Israel – was often neglected at the time of their biblical history. In periods of moral-religious decline, Israel either did not celebrate Passover following the requirements of the Law, or not celebrate it at all. Renewal of life always involved a return to celebrating the Passover [3].

The first mention of the Passover celebration after leaving Egypt is recorded in the Book of Numbers (9:1-5) – after the Sinai covenant was made, and before setting out from this Mount of God, on the first anniversary of the exodus, Israel celebrated the Passover on God’s explicit order. The next nine verses also contain a very important testimony of the law of the Passover, analogous to the law of the Passover, given in Egypt [4]. What is more: the necessity for purification, as detailed in the following texts, analyzed below, has its counterpart: those who became unclean through touching a dead body could not celebrate Passover with others. God set a second celebration date for them: 14/15 of the second month of the year.

One should note that Passover is closely connected here with the covenant (that made on Sinai – through the place) and with the requirement of purifying each of the Passover participants [5].

The next mention of the Israelites’ celebration of Passover is in the Book of Joshua (5:10f). It was preceded by the circumcision of all Israelites who were born after the departure from Egypt. Their circumcision just after their birth in the desert was neglected! – cf. 5:6-9. Just as in the Book of Exodus (4:24-26), where the circumcision of the son of Moses must have preceded his participation in the Passover (whose ‘description’ is hidden in the pericopes II, III, IV, V) in honor of the Lord, so here, when Israel entered the Promised Land, circumcision precedes the celebration of the Passover. One can say that by remedying this neglect, Joshua renewed Israel’s covenant with God.

God himself emphasized that the day of circumcision was the day of removing the reproach of Egypt from off Israel (cf. 5: 9). Therefore, it is again – as in the previous event – a purification preceding participation in the Passover.

One must, therefore, conclude that the Passover here is also closely related to the purification and the covenant (Passover/Exodus – with the requirement of circumcision imposed on the participants of the Passover: cf. Ex 4:24-26 and 12:43-49).

Another two biblical records about the celebration of the Passover by the Israelites are in the Second Book of Chronicles: 30:1-27 and 35:1-19. Both events are related to the religious and moral renewal of the nation: the first one during the reign of King Hezekiah in 721, the second during the reign of King Josiah in 621. Both are connected with the renewal of the covenant with God, although each in a slightly different way, namely:

As it was before, in both descriptions in the Second Book of Chronicles, the celebration of Passover connects itself with cleansing and the covenant-making, and, in this way, renewal of the original covenant with God.

The last description of the Passover celebration is recorded in the Book of Ezra (6:19-22). The Israelites, having returned from Babylonian captivity, which they understood as punishment for their desertion from the covenant with God, at the same time returned to the observance of God’s Law, cleansed themselves of sinful customs (cf. 6:21), rebuilt the Temple from the rubble, restored the service of priests and Levites, prescribed by law. Finally, after having done all that was necessary to observe their covenant with God, the Israelites celebrated the first Passover. The Passover was immediately preceded by the cleansing of the Levites (cf. 6:20).

As it was before, the renewal of the covenant with God (not so much formal as through purification and return to observance of His Law) preceded, in light of the Book of Ezra, the first solemn celebration of Passover of Israelites after return from Babylonian captivity.

Therefore one can conclude: from all of Israel’s history, only six Passover feasts have been chosen and described in Scripture. One should note that they have always been connected with purification and covenant: Passover celebration took place either simultaneously with the covenant-making (it is the case of the first Passover in Egypt; this simultaneousness is, strictly speaking, identity) or immediately after making of the covenant (it is the case of the second Passover – after the covenant under Sinai) or immediately after the renewal of the covenant (it is the case of four other Passover feasts, celebrated by Joshua, King Hezekiah, King Joshua, and by the leaders Joshua and Zerubbabel) [7]. This fact cannot be a matter of accident, especially since the number of the chosen Passover feasts – 6 – equals the number of pericopes of Ex 1-18, which constitute the six-element structure of the covenant’s description.

Therefore, the Passover should be seen as a fundamental element of the covenant of God and His people.

One should note at the same time that nowhere (except for Ex 1-18) is the rite of the Passover ceremony described. This fact is significant: it was nowhere unveiled the course of the marriage-ceremony of God and His people – no one who does not love God will be allowed to see what happened in the mystery of love.

The intention of God and biblical writer, obedient to Him, to conceal this rite becomes even more evident if one notice that the Holy Scriptures give a very detailed description of the cult equipment, robes, activities, and ministries, commanded at Sinai, and especially the Tent of Meeting, including the holiest place of worship – the holy of holies, God’s place of residence among His people [8]! This contrast indicates it is deliberate, and not just accidental, ‘mysteries silence’ of the Bible about the Passover rite.

Analysis in the next points of this chapter will serve to show the Passover rite hidden in Ex 1-18.

3.3. Introduction to the description of the Passover Feast. Division of the Seder into 14 points and four parts.

3.3.1. Basic information about the Passover Seder.

Keeping the order to celebrate the Passover according to the Passover Law is an unquestionable requirement of God’s covenant with Israel. Today’s Israeli believers, therefore, use printed, usually beautifully illustrated books, entitled The Passover Seder or The Passover Haggadah or Haggadah [9] to celebrate the Passover Feast. Depending on which tradition of Judaism a family belongs to, they use the right ‘Seder’ for them.

The prototype of contemporary editions of this ‘Seder’ is found in The Treatise Pesachim from the second century after Christ, contained in Mishnah [10].

The Treatise Pesachim has been analyzed many times, not only by rabbis commenting on the Passover customs for their fellow believers but also by Christian biblical scholars trying to learn the probable course of the Last Supper – the Passover celebrated by Jesus Christ.

As shown in the previous point of the dissertation, the Old Testament does not enumerate the consecutive elements of the detailed rite of the Passover [11]. This rite is known from Jewish Tradition [12] as a set of four successive basic parts, each of them consisting of cultic acts related to one of the four cups, consumed by the participants of the supper successively – as the liturgical rite progresses [13].

For a correct understanding of the structure of the Passover, one should note, following R. Cantalamessa: the four cups of wine consumed by the participants of the Passover supper are fundamental to the structure of this cultic feast, dividing it into four main stages [14].

The importance of the number ‘4’ is emphasized many times in the customs that fill the Passover Seder [15]. For example:

3.3.2. Acts immediately preceding the Passover Seder.

Before the Jews sit down for the Passover ceremony, they must prepare it in accordance with the Law. The most important acts here are preparation of a lamb, matzo, maror, other symbolic foods, dishes, robes, removal of acid from the house, a blessing of Passover light.

According to God’s command, recorded in the Book of Exodus (12:3), the Passover lamb had to be detached from the herd four days before being offered to Passover, that is, on the 10th day of the month Abib. At the time of the Jerusalem Temple, Israelites used to kill the lamb in its courtyard before dusk of 14th Abib, and then carried it home and baked without breaking its bones. For every family, its representative did it.

There is currently no temple in Jerusalem, so rabbis claim that one can not offer the Passover lamb. During the feast, however, it is represented by a small piece of lamb bone, placed on a special ‘Seder plate’ next to other symbolic foods.

Unleavened bread (matzo – מַצָּה) has a significant place on the table.

A matzo has two principal meanings:

Currently, one recommends [19] to place three special matzoth on top of each other on a special four-level plate: the lower one is the symbol of Israel, the middle one of Levi, and the upper one of priests. Afikoman is a part broken off from the middle matzo – Levi. At the highest level, above the three matzoth, there is a Passover Seder Platter with six cavities for six Seder foods.

It is required that there are still some other things on the Seder platter next to the lamb’s bone:

Charoset and maror are to give participants of Passover experience of their Fathers’ bitterness and thus introduce them to an atmosphere of time before Exodus.

For the feast, one need to prepare yet special vessels (there are usually expensive one in wealthy homes), used only once a year – just for Passover [21]. Also, the Passover robes are to be festive; they are often unique [22]. It is done in order to emphasize the highest rank of the feast. It is probably also connected with the record, occurring three times in the Book of Exodus (Ex 3:22; 11: 2; 12:35), about God’s order that the Israelites leaving Egypt are to borrow costly vessels and robes from their oppressors. In this way, both the time of celebration, and the food, dishes, and robes of the celebrators – alongside The Passover Haggadah, sung hymns, and recited prayers – introduce the participants of the cult feast to the unusually solemn time of the Egyptian Passover.

The celebration is preceded by the custom of removing acid from the house, according to the law given by God in Egypt (cf. Ex 12:15).

Lighting the Passover candle and saying a blessing over it, introduces directly into the strictly defined order of the ceremony. The words sound beautiful:

“Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of this Festive Day.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

3.3.3. Fundamental 14-point structure of the Passover Seder.

In the evening beginning the 15th day of Abib [23], the Israelites in Egypt sat down to the Passover supper in honor of the Lord, held under the principles which He established and imposed through Moses on His people, and which the people undertook to obey (cf. Ex 12:1-28). It was at this time, when the obedient Fathers were eating the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, that the Lord at midnight killed all the firstborns of Egypt (cf. Ex 12:29), in this poignant way opening Pharaoh’s heart to let the Israelites come out of his land and the cruel bondage associated with it.

Today’s Israelites celebrating on the same day, year after year, have to eat the same food as on that memorable night. However, the order of the Passover supper itself is different – it reflects the subsequent four stages of the Fathers’ liberation process from Egypt, stages planned and effectively implemented by God saving them. These four stages are connected with the four ritual cups of wine, structuring the whole rite of the Passover.

How do we know that? The rabbis do not say anything about it! However, this dependence one can see by analyzing the words and actions that fulfill gradually – and in a fixed order! – a cultic supper. Understanding the logic according to which these successive acts of rite have been arranged will require an in-depth analysis of the Passover Seder.

One should note at the beginning that in the original 14-point scheme of the Passover Seder presented here, published in 1927, the publisher did not divide it into four fundamental parts, corresponding to the four cups that constitute this structure. As one will show in the following sections of this chapter, making such a division is not an easy task, but possible and necessary.

Seder according to Haggadah from 1927  [24]:

1. KaddeshThe blessingקַדֵּשׁ
2. UrechatzThe first washing of handsוּרְהַץ
3. KarpasEating of parsley (after dipping it in salty water)כַּרְפַּס
4. YachatzBreaking of middle matzah to have Afikomanיַחַץ
5. MaggidTelling the story about Exodus from Egyptמַגִּיד
6. RachtzahThe second washing of the handsרַחַץ
7. Motzi – MatzahTwo blessings over the matzahמוֹצִיא מַצָה
8. MarorEating of bitter herb (after dipping it in salty water)מָרוֹר
9. KorekhEating of sandwich made of matzah, bitter herb, charosetכּוֹרֵךְ
10. Shulchan OrekhEating of the festive mealשֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ
11. TzafunEating of Afikomanצָפוּן
12. BarekhThanksgiving for food; prayers for Elijah/Messiah’ comingבָּרֵךְ
13. HallelRecitation of the second part of Hallelהַלֵּל
14. NirtzahThe final singingנִרְצָה


3.3.4. Part I of the Passover Seder.

I.1. Kaddesh (קַדֵּשׁ): a recitation of the Kiddush, i.e., a blessing.

In the beginning, after all the participants of the Passover have gathered in the ready-made room with the table, the first cup of wine is poured, but it is still necessary to wait for drinking it, for the leader raises it and says two blessings: one over the wine, the other over the feast. The beginning is identical in both: “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe.”

A blessing over the feast praises God, recalling in the central part the exit from Egypt and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which commemorates this event:

Blessed are You, God, our God, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all people, and raised us above all tongues, and made us holy through His commandments. And You, God, our God, have given us in love festivals for happiness, feasts and festive seasons for rejoicing the day of this Feast of Matzoth and this Festival of holy convocation, the Season of our Freedom, a holy convocation, commemorating the departure from Egypt. For You have chosen us and sanctified us from all the nations, and You have given us as a heritage Your holy Festivals, in happiness and joy. Blessed are You, God, who sanctifies Israel and the festive seasons. Blessed are You, God, our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

After the blessing, everyone drinks the first cup of wine while sitting and leaning to the left at the sign of freedom [25].

I.2. Urechatz (וּרְהַץ): the washing of hands.

The leader of the supper washes his hands. Other participants in the ceremony may do so – in other Jewish traditions [26]. It is the first washing of hands [27].

I.3. Karpas (כַּרְפַּס): the eating of the parsley.

The leader takes a small piece of the Karpas (i.e., greens: parsley or celery), dips it into salty water or vinegar, and recites the following blessing: “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.” When reciting this blessing, one has in mind that it is also for the bitter herbs (of maror and Korekh, to be eaten later on)  [28]. Rabbis emphasize that one eats the Karpas to commemorate the state of slavery and not as a preparation for liberation [29].

I.4. Yachatz (יַחַץ): the breaking of the middle matzah to have Afikoman

The leader takes the middle matzah and breaks it into two so that one piece is larger than the other. He wraps the larger of them on a special napkin, puts aside (hides it under the pillow on which he reclines) to serve as Afikoman. The smaller piece, he puts back between the two matzoth.

According to the words of Ex 12:34 saying that the Fathers, leaving Egypt in a hurry, carried matzoth on their shoulders, some people put the Afikoman on their shoulders for a while and say: ‘Biwhilu Jacaku mi Micrajim’ (we left Egypt in a hurry) [30].

I.5. Maggid (מַגִּיד): reciting the Haggadah – telling the story about Exodus from Egypt

The leader raises the tray with the matzoth and says:

“This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct (וְיִפְסָח) the Seder of Pesach. This year we are here; next year in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we will be free people.”

The leader sets the tray with the matzoth aside.

Now the second cup of wine is poured, but it will take a long time to drink it: until the leader ends the story (haggadah) [31].

Now the youngest son asks:

מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַַַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת

What makes this night different from all other nights? Seeing that:

  • On all other nights we need not dip even once, on this night we do so twice!
  • And on all other nights we eat chametz or matzah but on this night only matzah.
  • On all other nights we eat any vegetables but on this night maror!
  • On all other nights we eat sitting upright or reclining but on this night we all recline!

The leader puts back the tray to its place, with unleavened bread partly uncovered [32]. Now the prayer “We were slaves” is said:

“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord, our God, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children, and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

Then begins the time for the four sons to ask questions, established by the Tradition based on the Bible: the wise one (Deut 6:20), the wicked one (Ex 12:26; and the answer from Ex 13:8), the simpleton (Ex 13:14; the answer here too), and the one who does not know how to ask (no question in the Bible, only the answer in Ex 13:8). Particularly noteworthy is the answer to the question of the wise son – one will carry out the analysis of this question in point 3.5 of this dissertation (see on point 2. The prohibition against offering).

The leader then answers the four sons’ questions listed above, thus starting the Passover story (haggadah) [33]. In a solemn way, citing many Scripture excerpts (mostly from Ex and Deut, as well as from Gen, Josh, 1Chr, Ezek, Joel), he presents the whole history of Israel, starting with the fact that the Fathers (Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, and his sons) served other gods (Josh 24:2-4).

He goes on to tell that God brought Abram out from Ur of the Chaldeans (from beyond the river), made the covenant between the parts with him, and announced that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign country, from where He would bring them out with many possessions after 400 years (cf. Gen 15). Then he stories that Jacob descended into Egypt and lived there with a small family. Years later, the Egyptians began to oppress the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Israelites cried out to God, and He came down and led them out with all their possessions, among the great signs. Then the leader lists ten plagues. When saying the ten plagues, he spills from the cup ten times. The story concludes with the listing of fifteen of the many blessings that the Blessed One sent to Israel, leading them out of Egypt; it begins with “He led us out of the Egyptians” and ends with “He built for us the Temple to atone for all our sins.”

One can see from the presentation so far that part I of Seder is focused on showing the greatness of Lord’s goodness in history of Israel and on explaining customs of the celebration in His honor on this Passover Night. Formally, this first part does not end yet but is crowned with acts that might as well be the beginning of the second part. Because of this specificity, one will discuss them in a separate point below.

3.3.5. Part common to parts I and II of Seder.

Part I is crowned by acts which, on the one hand, are related to it, because they refer to history, to the act of liberating Israel. On the other hand, however, these acts are an explanation of the prescribed Passover meals, they are a preparation for their eating, which no longer belongs to part I of Seder, but is the essential content of part II.

Through this double dimension, the acts listed below constitute, as a kind of subpart, an intermediate element connecting part I and part II of Seder. These acts are as follows:

It is worth noting that:

Psa 113 shows the greatness of the Lord, who raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the dunghill, and who gives offspring to a barren woman. The Lord’s intervention, outlined in this way, corresponds to a difficult situation of Israel in captivity when they were oppressed by the murderous work and the pharaoh’s order to kill boys immediately after born. It was in such circumstances that God protected Israel from extermination (He extracted them from dust and dunghill of oppression) and multiplied Israel with more and more descendants (like He did it for a barren woman) because He is above kings and lords – of Egypt and the whole world.

The content of Psalm 114 is the departure of Israel from Egypt. Psalmist points out the power of the Lord, revealed by the miracle of dividing the sea and then Jordan, and the miracle of turning the rock into the spring of water.

The rabbis of the Hillel school discussed with the rabbis of the Shammai [36] school, whether in this part one must recite both Psa 113 and 114 or only Psa 113. One should note that discussion between them is a testimony to the question of logic according to which Passover seder is arranged.

The shifting of the recitation of Psa 114 from this first main part of Seder to the fourth part points out the historical relation logic in Seder. Namely, if its first part makes present the time of Israel before the exit from Egypt whereas the fourth part makes present the singing of the hymn of Moses and the whole Israel, performed by them on the other side of the Sea of Reeds in honor of God the Deliverer, then Ps 114 belongs in terms of content to part IV of Seder.

However, also the recitation of Psalm 114 in the first part would not be inconsistent with this ‘historical’ logic. Namely, psalm 114 would be a finalizing of liturgical haggadah, which represents the entire history of the relationship between God and His people up to the erection of the Temple in the land of Israel. Moreover, from among psalms of Hallel (113-118), only Psalm 114 speaks about entering into Promised Land. This interpretation is confirmed by the sentence of the Hillel school, contained in Pesachim X.6 [37], which advocates this version: “It ends in liberation.”

On the other hand, one has to ask: if Seder is built like a historical relation, and the next part of Seder will make-present the banquet only, i.e., the event from before the departure, then why does the leader’s haggadah tell the whole story and not only the events before that banquet?

The answer is possible thanks to the analyses carried out in the first two chapters of this dissertation: apparently, the Passover Seder is built according to the pattern of ancient treaties. One must remember that the first two literary elements of treatise documenting the covenant conclusion depicted the greatness of the sovereign and its boons towards the vassal, with all the most important boons from the entire history of their mutual relations until the day of the covenant-making.

Therefore, the first part of the Passover Seder (that is, points I.1-I.5) does not only represent God’s blessings granted to Israel before Israel’s exit from Egypt but all of His blessings from the whole history of Israel – till the erection of the Temple in Jerusalem. The main first part of the Passover Seder corresponds in terms of logic and content to the first two main parts of ancient treaties being the description of covenant-making. Point I.5 (Haggadah) belongs to this first part.

At the same time, one can see that:

This part of The Passover Haggadah is preserved in the form unchanged from the times of the First Temple in Jerusalem since it does not present the blessings of God from the periods of Israel’s history after the building of that temple.

3.3.6. Part II of the Passover Seder.

In this part, one eats unleavened bread and bitter herbs, as the food-symbols prescribed by God in Egypt. Then one eats ordinary foods, remembering that there could be no acid in them. In the preserved customs, the analogy of this second part of Seder to the pericope of law (Ex 12:1-13:16) can be seen very clearly.

II.1. Rachtzah (רַחַץ): the second washing of hands.

It is the second washing of hands. The washing of hands before eating is an accepted custom among Jews [38]. This practice during Seder is accompanied by the blessing thematically associated with it: “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments (בְּמִצְוֹתָיו) and commanded us (וְצִוָּנוּ) concerning the washing of the hands.”

II.2. Motzi – Matzah (מוֹצִיא מַצָּה): two blessings over matzoth.

The leader recites the blessing, holding in his hand all three matzoth (without the piece put away as Afikoman), which are unleavened bread, and expresses his thanks to God “who brings forth bread from the earth.”

Then the leader puts down the lower matzo and says a blessing over the remaining two matzoth, in which he thanks God for the command to eat unleavened bread (cf. Ex 12:15-20): “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments (בְּמִצְוֹתָיו) and commanded us (וְצִוָּנוּ) concerning the eating of matzah.”

Now he breaks off piece by piece from the matzoth held (upper and middle) for everyone, and all eat it while leaning to the left at the sign of freedom.

II.3. Maror (מָרוֹר): the eating of the bitter herbs (after dipping it in salty water).

The leader immerses a small amount of bitter herbs (maror) in charoset, reciting a blessing in which he expresses gratitude to God for the command to eat bitter herbs (cf. Ex 12:8): “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments (בְּמִצְוֹתָיו) and commanded us (וְצִוָּנוּ) concerning the eating of maror.”

Now everyone eats bitter herbs. According to some traditions, they should lean on the left side as a sign of freedom; the others do not have this custom.

II.4. Korekh (כּוֹרֵךְ): eating of sandwich made with matzah, bitter herb and charoset.

According to the custom of Hillel in the times of the Temple, a special ‘sandwich’ is prepared: bitter herbs are placed on the remaining (lower) matzah. In Hillel’s time, there was still lamb meat on such a sandwich. This custom was a meticulous way of fulfilling God’s command to eat the lamb-Passover with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (cf. Ex 12:8).

Before eating, this time it is necessary to say not a blessing, but a declaration of obedience to the Holy Tradition, analogous in its meaning to a blessing: “Thus did Hillel do at the time of the Holy Temple: He would combine (הָיָה כּוֹרֵךְ) Passover (lamb), matzah and maror and eat them together, as it said: ‘They shall eat it with matzah and bitter herbs.’”

Everyone eats a piece of ‘sandwich’ while leaning to the left at the sign of freedom.

II.5. Shulchan Orekh (שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ): the eating of the festive meal.

In the successive points b, c, d of this second part of Seder, the Passover participants were fulfilling Lord’s orders given to the Fathers for the time of the Passover banquet at the night of 15th Abib. Now they will eat without any special regulations – except the obligation not to eat anything with acid.

To do this, one must first take the Seder plate off the table (the dishes-symbols were on it: matzoth, bitter herbs, and others), set the table with various festive dishes, and sit down to eat them freely and joyfully. This festive, joyful supper ends the second part of the Passover Seder.

One should note that part II of Seder is analogous to:

  • the banquet of the Passover-lamb, eaten by Israel on the night of 15th Abib, just before leaving Egyptian captivity
  • the pericope of law: Ex 12:1-13:16
  • the point ‘the bestowal of the law’ in the literary schema of the Hittite treaties, documenting the covenant-making

3.3.7. Part common to parts II and III of Seder.

This part is the making-present of the passage of the Lord and His people through the desert and dry uncovered bottom of the sea (cf. Ex 13:17-14:31).

Part III consists of two points: Tzafun and Barekh. In this fragment of Seder, they eat Afikoman and recite thanksgiving for the food the Lord gives to His people. They do it as the liturgical act of commemoration of the eating by the Fathers of the ‘unleavened bread of the way out’ in the time when they were leaving the place of eating the Passover lamb in Egypt. Strictly speaking, their liturgical act of commemoration is the act that makes them present in the time and place of that past events.

However, they do it, above all, as an expression of gratitude to God, who not only brought Israel out of captivity with a mighty hand but constantly cared for food for all of them, especially in the first, most challenging stage of their way: during their escape from the Egyptian army, during passage between walls of the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds at the bottom (bed) of sea.

The requests for the grace of the coming of Elijah and Messiah are closely related to the making-present of Exodus (i.e., making the Exodus as the event present for them now). Just as God led the people from Egypt under the leadership of Moses, so now He can do it under the leadership of Elijah and Messiah. The opening of the door in the third part after drinking the third cup and then requesting God to pour out His anger on the hostile nations is a liturgical sign that now the departure from Egypt is present, i.e., that now they are in that past, that now they are in that past great event.

III.1. Tzafun (צָפוּן): the eating of Afikoman.

Afikoman, that is, a piece of unleavened bread, hidden in the first part of Seder (in Hebrew: צָפוּן), must now be found. The leader breaks off the part of Afikoman for each participant of the Passover. Everyone eats it while leaning to the left at the sign of freedom.

In the remarks in The Passover Haggadah, it is stated here: one should eat Afikoman before midnight and not eat anything after it [39].

Commentators explain that Afikoman symbolizes the Passover lamb, absent in our times due to the impossibility of offering it in Jerusalem in the Temple – not existing today. Because, according to Tradition, one had to consume the lamb as last dish of the banquet (except, of course, for two cups of wine, which are in the last two parts of Seder), and do it before midnight, so now, since Afikoman symbolizes the lamb, the same applies to Afikoman.

One supplements this explanation by an indication of the probable etymology of the word ‘Afikoman’: it is to come from the Greek language: ἐπίκωμον – dessert or entertainment after a meal. If Afikoman is a dessert, it is something that one eats at the end, after the main meal.

It is also explained that the name of this point of Seder: צָפוּן (hidden) – refers to the custom of hiding Afikoman and finding it right now, at the end of Seder. One does it not in connection with the history of Exodus, but to arouse the curiosity of children to keep them from falling asleep during the Passover night of the vigil.

This explanation, however, is not correct because Afikoman does not symbolize the lamb-Passover. The name ‘Afikoman,’ in Hebrew אֲפִיקוֹמָן, means: ‘manna is its bottom’ or ‘its bottom, manna,’ or ‘bottom of the sea.’ It points out to unleavened bread of the way of Israel from the place where they were eating lamb-Passover to the place of passing through Sea of Reeds and then up to the place of the first receiving manna from God. Manna replaced that bread which they were baking of dough not yet acidified taken out of Egypt.

The word צָפוּן hides a connection with the place of crossing the Sea of Reeds. The name of this place, located on the other side of the sea, that is, where the Israelites found themselves after passing through it on its bare bed, is בַּעַל צְפוֹן – according to Num 33:7 – or בַּעַל צְפֹן – according to Ex 14:2.9. The words צָפוּן (hidden) and צְפוֹן (north) differ only in vowel signs, added to the Bible text by the Masoretes only six centuries after Christ.

The word יַחַץ as an apocopated form of imperfect qal of the word חצה is the name of the 4th point of Seder, in which the leader divides the unleavened central bread (matzah) into two different parts and hides the larger one as Afikoman. This word also refers to the passage through the Sea of Reeds on its bare bed. The passage was preceded by the act of dividing the sea waters. Although in the Book of Exodus, the biblical writer used a different word than חצה to express the act of dividing, but an analogous act of dividing the waters of the Jordan is stated by it (וַיֵּחָצוּ) in the Second Book of Kings (2:8.14).

These analyses of the Hebrew terms, related to Afikoman, are complementary and confirm each other.

On the other hand, The Passover Haggadah points out the following rules:

  1. the custom to eat lamb meat as the last bite of Passover supper
  2. an order to eat Afikoman before midnight
  3. a ban on consuming anything (except two cups of wine) after eating Afikoman

They should be understood as follows:

  • Regarding (a): this custom could have been a duty at the time of the Temple [40], but nowadays, since nobody offers or eats lamb-Passover, it could be replaced only by the eating of unleavened bread with bitter herbs, but certainly not unleavened bread solely! It would be contrary to the command from Ex 12:8, which defines how the Israelites must eat the lamb (“with unleavened bread and bitter herbs”). Therefore, one must conclude that eating of Afikoman is not a substitute for eating of the lamb meat as the last bite of the Passover supper.
  • Regarding (b): this custom is the result of a misunderstanding of Afikoman – as an alleged symbol of the lamb. Because they should have eaten the lamb before dawn (cf. Ex 12:10), so the rabbis, who were scrupulous in applying the law, could recommend to their fellow believers to do the same with Afikoman – to eat it before midnight. It might also result from the fact that the Lord beat the first-borns of Egypt at midnight, and so the Israelites probably found out about it immediately, and could not continue to remain calmly on the eating of the lamb-Passover, because they set off almost immediately afterward. Therefore, imitating the Fathers, the Jews also finish the eating of Afikoman (mistakenly understood as a symbol of the lamb-Passover) before midnight.
  • Regarding (c): this custom had to exist independently of commands related to Passover lamb, and this is because the eating of Afikoman is not the liturgical means to make-present the eating of the lamb but to make-present the Fathers’ eating on the way after leaving the place of eating the lamb. Since the Israelites did not take anything to eat from Egypt except unleavened dough (cf. Ex 12:39!), from which they baked only unleavened bread, so in the third part of Seder, which makes-present the way towards the Sea of Reeds and through it to its other side, the Jews eat nothing but unleavened bread – Afikoman.

At the end of the commentary on this point, one should note three issues:

1. Afikoman is associated – as the consumable product – with part II, which is the whole concentrated on consumption. However, it is necessary to distinguish between consumption in time before leaving Egypt and consumption in time after this breakthrough

2. Although the drinking of the third cup of wine takes place in the next sub-item (III.2.), but it does not mean that this is only when the third part of Seder begins. Here is the proof and explanation:

Firstly, we can see an analogous phenomenon in Passover liturgy in connection with the beginning of part II. Namely, part II begins formally with the second washing of hands (point 6 – רַחַץ – according to The Haggadah from 1927 – see point 3.3.3. of this dissertation), but actually begins at the end of part I (at the end of point 5 – מַגִּיד – according to the same Haggadah), in which one pours the second cup. We can explain it also differently: the two parts of Seder overlap partly, have a common fragment.

One should remember that the leader’s haggadah (Israel’s history) contained in point I.5. of Seder is crowned with the listing of 15 of the numerous graces that God gave to Israel until the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. This listing is followed by the acts which are formally related to the part I because they are an explanation, but simultaneously they are the beginning of part II because they are an explanation of the food-symbols which are consumed in part II.

It leads to the following conclusion: part II does not start with the drinking of the second cup; on the contrary, it starts with various explanations of what this cup means. This part has a joint fragment with part I.

Drinking of the second cup is, therefore, preceded by an explanation of the meaning of foods-symbols because part II is entirely concentrated on eating. The purpose of this liturgical eating is to involve participants of the liturgy into a significant time before departure, what is more, into a key event of that very time – the banquet of Fathers who were eating Passover lamb in Egypt before they departed from captivity.

Secondly, part III has an analogous phenomenon of logic as part II. The drinking of the third cup is preceded by eating of Afikoman, thanksgiving for food, and asking for a salutary exodus under the leadership of Elijah because part III makes present the grace of God’s care for His people going out of captivity. It especially concerns the phenomenon, that the dough, which the Israelites were carrying in their kneading bowls out from Egypt, sufficed for all of them to pass the first, most challenging stage of the escape route from the Pharaoh’s troops chasing them. Consumption of Afikoman before drinking the third cup is to emphasize the main aim of part III. It is, therefore, an analogous role to that of explaining the meaning of foods-symbols before drinking the second cup and the formal start of part II of Seder.

One should add that the first and fourth cups are not preceded by similar explanations; only the second and third cups are. In this way, Seder maintains a beautiful symmetry of its structure.

3. Afikoman is of the same rank (!) food-symbol of Passover supper as the lamb-Passover (or, in present times, unleavened bread eaten with bitter herbs). It results from the analysis of Ex 12:1-13:16 structure (see in the next parts of this dissertation).

Above all, it is essential to note that in the history of Exodus:

  • the lamb-Passover was the main food of the Passover supper preceding their setting out into the way,
  • while Afikoman – unleavened bread – was the main food of the time of the way.

It is reflected in the structure of the Passover Seder. Namely, the two central parts of Seder (part II and III) concentrate on eating:

  • Part II concentrates on eating of Passover lamb,
  • while part III on eating of Afikoman.

It is because:

  • part II is to make-present the night when the Fathers were eating the lamb before starting the way from Egypt,
  • and part III is to make-present the time when the Fathers were eating unleavened bread during the way from the place where they were eating the lamb to the place on the other side of the Sea of Reeds [41].
III.2. Barekh (בָּרֵךְ): Thanksgiving prayers for the food and a request for a redemptive exodus led by Elijah and Messiah.

Comments to this sub-point indicate the connection between the thanksgiving prayers only with the Passover supper consumed in part II of Seder. However, it is not right. Here Israel thanks God for the food eaten in part II (especially the lamb-Passover with unleavened bread and bitter herbs) and for the food eaten in part III (i.e., Afikoman, which represents the miracle of the unleavened bread during the escape from Egyptian captivity. Thus there is a sub-part between part II and part III, linking them; it consists of point III.1 and the thanksgiving prayers of point III.2. This sub-part is analogous to the sub-part linking parts I and II.

If God had not made that the dough brought out of Egypt on the shoulders of the Israelites had been enough for the first stage of the way, the fugitives would have died of starvation, not even reached the Sea of Reeds, much less the other side.

Afikoman – unleavened (and therefore non-acid) bread, was replaced by a wonderful, sweet [42] (and therefore also non-acid) manna after a month of wandering (cf. Ex 16:1ff). After 40 years, manna was replaced by unleavened (and therefore non-acid) bread, baked from grain gathered by the Israelites in the first days of their stay in the land of Canaan: the Israelites began to eat new bread in the Land of Promise in the morning after the night of Passover (cf. Josh 5:11n), that is, after sunrise of 15th Abib. Exactly 40 years earlier, they departed out from Egyptian captivity with unleavened dough, as the author of the Book of Joshua also points out with words known from the Book of Exodus (12:17.41.51):

בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

on this very day, this very day.

It cannot be the work of chance [43], but the result of the deliberate action of God. Afikoman baked from the last Egyptian harvest is an equally wonderful gift from the Lord as manna falling from heaven and as the unleavened bread of Canaan’s first harvest.

It is for this food that Israel gives thanks on the Passover night to its God the Deliverer, because this night commemorates, above all, the omnipresent care of the watching Lord, through whom Israel experienced first the salvation of her firstborns, and then the departure of the whole people from Egypt and the arrival after three days to the other side of the divided sea.

Thanksgiving for food of the way connects with the second, essential dimension of this sub-point of the Seder: the request for God to come down with His salvation to His vigilant people on that very night, to make an exit from Egypt present and to lead Israel under the guidance of the Prophet Elijah and/or Messiah [44] towards the Messianic times, towards eternal life.

The course of this point:

One pours the third cup of wine first. At the beginning of part III – according to some traditions – one tidies up the room and table [45]. One should understand it as a liturgical sign to emphasize that it has just begun a new stage of Seder and a new stage of Exodus and the covenant as being made present now.

One should note that in some versions of The Haggadah [46], it is recommended to recite Psa 126 after pouring the cup. Its title: ‘Song of degrees’ – שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת – can also be translated as ‘the Song of an ascend,’ because הַמַּעֲלוֹת can come from the noun מַעֲלָה (degree), or from the verb עלה ( to ascend). It is important because the Israelites’ departure from Egypt is defined by this verb in Ex 12:38; 13:18.19. Since this part of Seder makes present Israel’s departure from captivity, which began with climbing up, Psalm 126 as the ‘song of ascending’ is a liturgical sign of making-present of this departure, just now being performed.

What is more, this psalm shows in its first words an unusual change in Israel’s situation: “When the Lord changed the fate of Zion…” to show a little further (in verse 6) the people carrying (נֹשֵׂאthe participle of the verb נשׂא) their sheaves (אֲלֻמֹּתָיו– from the noun אֲלֻמָּה) amidst joy. This depiction is more than enough to recall the Israelites coming out of Egypt, about whom the Book of Exodus (12:34) speaks: “And the people carried (וַיִּשָּׂא – from the noun נשׂא in the imperfect + ו) the dough, before it became leaven, in the kneading troughs wrapped in coats, on their shoulders.” The word sheaf אֲלֻמָּה – also leads the careful reader to this depiction; it appears in the Bible in just one more verse: four times in Gen 37:7, where Joseph, the later ruler of Egypt, tells the brothers his dream: “We were binding sheaves in the field when suddenly my sheaf arose and stood upright, and your sheaves stood around my sheaf and bowed down to it.”

In light of these observations, it becomes understandable the custom to put unleavened Afikoman on shoulders for a moment and then recite this verse of Psalm – it is in point ‘I.4. Yachatz.’

However, one should note that:

  • In point III.2, the liturgy makes present this stage of the departure of the Israelites carrying on their shoulders unleavened dough (and consequently in the whole third part: the liturgy makes present the passage of God and Israel between the divided waters of the Sea of Reeds – and thus it makes present the conclusion of the covenant between the divided waters of the sea).
  • It is different in point I.4, where liturgy does not make the conclusion of the covenant present but only illustratively describes that significant moment in the history of mutual relations of God and Israel. It is such because the whole first part of Passover seder (and thus point I.4. also) is to story the whole history of mutual relations between God and Israel, which preceded the day of the covenant-making in the waters of the Sea of Reeds.

One must know that the meaning of the liturgical sign depends on that to which essential part of the ritual this sign belongs.

One surprise is verse 4 of Psalm 126, which has a part of the word Afikoman (אֲפִיקוֹמָן)!: “Turn our fate, O Lord, like the streams (כַּאֲפִיקִים) in the Negeb.”

The depiction of Israelites coming out from Egypt, carrying dough on their shoulders for the unleavened Afikoman, walking in the joy of liberation – it is a model for the psalmist for depicting the later history of Zion. This description is also a prototype for three pilgrimage feasts, for which Israelites were obliged to appear with crops for the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. Above all, it is the foundation for the third part of the Passover Seder as a prototype for other pilgrimage feasts [47].

After reciting Psa 126, English-language Haggadot usually require to recite Psa 87, which praises the love of the Lord for Zion, and then to say prayer being an encouragement to keep God’s commandments.

Now there is the third washing of hands [48].

After that, until the end of this subpart, which connects part II and part III of Seder, one recites Birkat hammazon (בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן – a blessing of food).

Rabbis [49] explain that Birkat hammazon consists of several blessings:

First:it is to give thanks to God for giving food to every creature; Moses wrote it when the manna fell for the first time;
Second:it is for the gift of the earth; Joshua wrote it when they entered the Holy Land;
Third:it is for Jerusalem and Zion, which give the earth unique goodness; David and Solomon wrote it;
Fourth:it was added after the rebellion of Bar Kokhba [50].

The participants of Seder in several parts of this prayer praise God, thanking Him for food and salvation, at the same time asking for food and salvation, and especially for their salvation on this very day, that is, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They also ask for peace, for rebuilding Jerusalem, for crushing the yoke from their necks and leading them with the head raised to their land. They pray for sending them Prophet Elijah with the message about salvation, for a blessing for the host in whose house they have eaten Passover, for grace in the eyes of God and men, for remaining to the days of Messiah and the life of World which is to come.

So The Haggadah makes the participants of the Passover the participants of the exit from Egypt! The Lord had just crushed the yoke of captivity (the crushing of the yoke is made present by part II: God was killing the firstborns of Egypt in the time when Israel was eating the Passover lamb; eating of the lamb is now the central act of part II of Seder). Now Israel with the raised head and hand (cf. Ex 14:8; Lev 26:13), before the eyes of the Egyptians burying their dead, sets out towards the land of promise (part III makes present those events, namely: the exodus from captivity with unleavened dough/bread, i.e., Afikoman, in haste). Request for a blessing for the host of the house where they were eating Passover is like bidding goodbye to neighbors in Egypt before their soon set off – after the coming of prophet Elijah.

This wonderful prayer is not only thanksgiving for food but also the praise of God from whom Israel expects a similar salvific intervention as it was in Egypt. Namely, on this day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Israel expects the departure under the leadership of Elijah and/or Messiah to the reality of Messianic peace.

The prayer Birkat hammazon ends this subpart.

3.3.8. Part III of the Passover Seder.

After the prayer Birkat hammazon, one recites a blessing over the wine and, leaning to the left at the sign of freedom, drinks the third cup.

According to some traditions, one should now pour a special cup for Elijah [51].

Then one opens the door and asks the Lord to pour out His wrath now upon the nations who do not acknowledge His name and have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.

After that, one should close the door [52], thus closing part III of Seder. Right now, it ends the time of making present the way from the place where they were eating the lamb-Passover to the place where they were singing in honor of the Lord on the other side of the Sea of Reeds. This singing, however, belongs already to the next part of Seder.

One should note that:

One should remember that the acts preceding the drinking of the third cup – eating of Afikoman and reciting of prayers – seem to belong to both parts II and III; they are for them their common fragment of Seder. Why should one claim so?

One should notice a similar liturgical phenomenon with the second cup. Namely, one pours it in the second subpoint of point 5 of part I (I.5. Maggid), i.e., before the leader begins the story (his haggadah). One drinks it immediately before the beginning of part II, i.e., before the eating of the unleavened bread, bitter herbs and unleavened bread with bitter herbs, i.e., before the beginning of the essential fragment of part II, the fragment prescribed by the Passover law (after this fragment there is only an ordinary supper, not regulated by the law).

This rule seems to indicate the emphasis contained here: what follows the second and third cups, determines the essential content of the whole of the given part of Seder.

Indeed: in part II, it is essential to eat unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread with bitter herbs, following the law regarding the eating of the Passover lamb (cf. Ex 12:8). In part III it is analogically: it is essential to open the door with the hope of going out under the leadership of Elijah towards the Messianic times, to go amid the nations won over by God’s wrath, to go out with unleavened Afikoman, the food of the way (cf. Ex 12:17. 39; 23:15; 34:18; Deut 16:3).

At the same time, one can see that what precedes the drinking of a given cup is the essential explanation of this cup (or, rather, an explanation of this part of Seder, which connects with this cup):

However, there is not only the rule that there are two fragments around second and third cups, where one of the fragments is an explanation and other the implementation of what has been explained. There is also the next rule: the explaining fragment also belongs to the previous part of Seder. Indeed: the explanation of the meaning of the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs belongs not only to part II but also to part I because the whole of part I is an explanation; the consumption of Afikoman and thanksgiving for a food belong not only to part III but also to part II because the whole of part II is consumption.

However, in parts I and IV, located symmetrically around the center, the discussed liturgical phenomenon does not occur.

Finally, we must get to know some details of the prayer Birkat hammazon, essential for part III, in which the participants of Seder praise God in a series of consecutive calls:

a. God, Who is full of mercy, grace, for He feeds all creatures

b. God, Who gave their Fathers good land as a heritage, brought them out of captivity in Egypt, gave them a covenant of circumcision and a Torah, feeds them constantly at all times

c. God, to Whom they give thanks in the words of Deut 8:10 for food and land

d. God, Whom they ask for mercy upon Jerusalem and the kingship of the house of David, Whom they ask for food, consolation, release from all afflictions

e. God, Whom they ask to remember about Messiah (מָשִׁיחַ), the son of David, about Jerusalem as the city of God, about the entire people, to give salvation, happiness on this day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. They ask God that on this day of the Festival of Matzoth (Unleavened Bread), in this very day (בְּיוֹם הַזֶּה – cf. Ex 12:17.41.51; 13:3), He may come to visit them (פקד – cf. Ex 3:16; 4:31; 13:19!), to save them (וְהוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ from יָשַׁע – cf. Ex 14:30); with the word of salvation (יְשׁוּעָה) and compassion to spare them and save them (וְהוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ), because their eyes are directed to Him [54].

One should notice that:

וַיּוֹשַׁע יְהוָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל מִיַּד מִצְרָיִם

Thus the Lord saved Israel on that day from the power of the Egyptians.

• The request to God to visit Israel on the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, ‘to visit them to save them,’ makes them present with the Fathers in Egypt, who – in the attitude of obeying the Passover law, given by God in Egypt – were eating the Passover lamb and were ready to go out; it was at the night of 15th Abib, in the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

f. God, Whom they ask to rebuild Jerusalem

g. God, Whom they praise as King of the Universe, their Father, Protector, Savior (‘Goel’ – cf. Ex 6:6; 15:13), Who repays for their good deeds with love, salvation, consolation, food, and sustenance, Who makes them full of peace and without lack of any good [56]. One should understand all this as a desire for the manifestation of the coming of the Messiah times, an analogy to the Fathers’ desire to live in the Promised Land,

h. God, Whom they in various ways praise and beg as ‘the Merciful One’ their defender [57]; in particular, Whom they ask:

הָרַחֲמָן הוּא יִשְׁבּוֹר עֻלֵּנוּ מֵעַל צַוָּארֵנוּ וְהוּא יוֹלִיכֵנוּ קוֹמְמִיּוּת לְאַרְצֵנוּ

May the Merciful One break the yoke from our neck and may He lead us with head held high to our land [58].

It is like a request of the Fathers, who were wanting the Lord to lead them out of Egyptian captivity. It becomes apparent when we compare it with what the words of God communicate in Lev 26:13:

אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִהְיֹת לָהֶם עֲבָדִים וָאֶשְׁבֹּר מֹטֹת עֻלְּכֶם וָאוֹלֵךְ אֶתְכֶם קוֹמְמִיּוּת׃ פ

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

The difference in time is important here: God states in Lev 26:13 that He led the Israelites out with heads held high, whereas The Haggadah has a request for Him to do it now.

The expression ‘with heads held high’ Septuagint translates μετὰ παρρησίας – with joy, with openness, with courage.

The biblical writer noted in Ex 14:8:

“The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel went out with a high hand (יֹצְאִים בְּיָד רָמָה),” where the last expression is analogous to ‘walk with heads held high.’

Num 33:3b-4 shows the circumstances of this departure:

The sons of Israel went out with a high hand (יָצְאוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּיָד רָמָה), before the eyes of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the Lord had struck down among them. The Lord had also executed judgments on their gods.

So The Haggadah now takes the participants of the Passover into the time of exit from Egypt. Namely, the Lord has just crushed the yoke of captivity (Part II made present it: while Israel was eating the Passover lamb, God killed firstborns of Egypt), and then Israel goes towards the land of promise, with its head and hand raised, goes in front of the Egyptians, who bury their deads (Part III makes all this present, i.e., the exit from captivity with Afikoman, that is, with bread not acidified, in haste).

i. God, Whom they next ask for a blessing for this house and the table of this house where they have just eaten the Passover; then they ask God to send them the Prophet Elijah, who will preach (בשׂר, which LXX usually expresses as εὐαγγελίζω – to preach the good news, gospel) them the good news with happy, salvation (יְשׁוּעוֹת) and full of consolation. Then they ask for a blessing for father and mother, master and mistress of this house, and all participants of Passover seder.

This request is like farewell with the house before coming out under the guidance of prophet Elijah who is to be soon.

j. God, Whom they ask [59]: “May we receive blessing from the Lord and just kindness from the God of our salvation (מֵאֶלֹהֵי יִשְׁעֵנוּ), and may we find grace (חֵן) and good understanding in the eyes of God and man.”

The Israelites found such a grace (חֵן) just before leaving: Egyptians even lent them precious vessels and robes, even though they were burying their deads – cf. the announcement of this grace in Ex 3:21 and its implementation in Ex 11:3 and finally in 12:36:

וַיהוָה נָתַן אֶת־חֵן הָעָם בְּעֵינֵי מִצְרַיִם

And the Lord had given the people grace (חֵן) in the eyes of the Egyptians

k. God, whom they ask to cause them to inherit that day, which will be all Shabbat and rest for life everlasting.

l. God, whom they ask to grant them “the privilege of reaching the days of the Messiah (לִימוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ) and the life of the World to Come.” Using Psa 18,51, they pray to God, who “magnifies the salvation of His king (יְשׁוּעוֹת מַלְכּוֹ) and bestows kindness upon His anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” Then they pray: “He who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace for us and all Israel.” They end in this way:

“Fear the Lord, you are His holy ones, for those who fear Him suffer no want. Young lions are in need and go hungry, but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His kindness is everlasting. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and the Lord will be his trust. I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread. The Lord will give strength (עוֹז – cf. Ex 15:2.13!) to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.” [60]

Thus concluded, the wonderful prayer of praising God and asking for His salvific exodus finds its continuation in the blessing of the wine and the drinking of the third cup. All this culminates in the door opening and asking God to pour out His wrath against enemies of God and Israel. The leaving out of Egypt is made present now!

One should note that the Halacha prescribes that the third cup should contain 1/4 of the log (לֹג) of the drink, of which 1/4 of the volume is wine, and 3/4 of the volume is water [61]. It is not a coincidence that identical proportions are in the law pericope (Ex 12:1-13:16), where the description of Israelites’ departure (Ex 12:27b-42.50-51) occupies 1/4 of the text of that pericope, and 3/4 is for legislative formulas. One illustrated it in the table below [62]:

Legislative speeches: 740 wordsDescription of going out: 252 words
Ex 12:1-26Ex 12:27aEx 12:43-49Ex 13:1-16Ex 12:27bEx 12:28-42Ex 12:50-51

The whole pericope 12:1-13:16 contains 740+252=992 words.

Legislative speeches:740 / 992 = 0,75 = 3/4 of the law pericope
The description of going out:252 / 992 = 0,25 = 1/4 of the law pericope

The third cup is indeed the cup of going out!

The law pericope was indeed a model for the structure of the Passover Seder!

Part III of Seder ends with the closing of the door.

3.3.9. Part IV of the Passover Seder.

According to some traditions, one must pour the fourth cup before the door is opened in part III, according to others just now [63].

IV.1. Hallel (הַלֵּל): the recitation of the second part of Hallel.

They all sing Psa 114-118 (or 115-118), then Ps 136 [64] with the additional prayer, preceding it, then the very long prayer “The soul of every living being shall bless Your Name, Lord, our God”  [65].

According to some Jewish traditions, one should now finish the whole Seder with words: “Next year in Jerusalem!” Others, however, still here continue to praise God, listing the miracles God performed on various Passover nights [66], and only then finish this point (but not the whole) with the above words.

IV.2. Nirtzah (נִרְצָה): the final singing.

Now one must say, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Then [67] the leader says a blessing over the wine, and all drink the fourth cup of wine, leaning to the left at the sign of freedom.

Then one recites blessing which praises the goodness of God, who has given the Fathers and all Israel to this day a beautiful land and its crops, and the great city of Jerusalem. They ask God for joy on this day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. They finally thank God for the land and the vineyard fruit.

Then the leader says the formula: “So we have fulfilled the order of celebration according to the customs and regulations. We have mentioned the order so that we can carry it out happily” [68].

It is evident how great is the care taken to maintain the order in which the whole Passover is to run.

The following acts are in many Haggadot after this formula [69]:

  • The solemn listing of “Who knows one? Who knows two? Who knows three?, etc.,” having a religious and didactic character
  • An allegorical storing about a kid whose history symbolically represents God’s care of Israel. It crowns the whole ceremony.

Rabbis also point out [70] that when the Passover community finished the reading of The Passover Haggadah, it does not force them to end the staying together to praise God.

Quite the opposite: many recite Song of Songs, continue to consider all these wonderful circumstances of leaving Egypt, thus extending the worship of God until the end of the night.

In this way, contemporary Jews show their belief in their actual, real, personal participation in the exit with the Fathers from Egypt – they are not sleeping because the Fathers did not sleep on the first night of going out!


The present paper shows the method which allows us to discover the division of the Passover Seder into the original four main parts. Namely, in-depth reading of the original texts being the source for Jewish liturgical celebration is the fundamental approach. It means the reading of The Hebrew Bible and Hebrew/Aramaic text of The Passover Haggadah and The Talmud, especially The Treatise Pesachim. It also required to take into account explanations and observations of famous commentators of these original texts in the history of people of God until now. The fruit of such comparative analysis is the discovery of connections between significant events described in the Hebrew Bible and the customs of the Passover Seder, linked by the original Hebrew words or expressions.

The fulfillment of the goal of the research task could not be possible without the knowledge of the literary structure of the Book of Exodus 1-18 as the ancient treatise describing the ceremony of the covenant-making, performed by God and Israel simultaneously with the four-stages process of liberating Israel by God; the same concerns the literary structure of the pericope of law (Ex 13:17-14:31).

It was especially important to discover the liturgical signs (acts, words) of the Passover seder, which are connected with the possibility given by God to make the Passover community present in the past events of God and the Fathers of Israel in Egypt. Thanks to successively realized four main parts of Seder, they all participate in four fundamental stages of the process, performed by God for the sake of Israel, leading to liberate them from Egypt and to make the covenant with them simultaneously. The Passover seder comes out to be the liturgical means to successively make-present that process of liberating and covenant-making.

The research proved the Seder origins from the time of the First Temple. The Seder reveals its symmetry of the arrangement of its four cups and parts connected with each of them when one gets to know that it has the logic of Hittite ancient treaties from the XVI-XII century before Christ.