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    A Pesach alphabet

    ADDIR HU – “Mighty is He”, a (late medieval) Seder song. It praises God’s might through an alphabetical list of adjectives and prays for the rebuilding of the Temple.

    AFIKOMAN – a Greek word probably meaning “entertainment” or “dessert”, forbidden after the Seder; now denotes a last Pesach taste, for which a piece of matzah is hidden. (See also here and here.)

    AKIVA – 2nd-century rabbi from B’nei B’rak. He backed Bar Kochba’s revolt against the Romans; at Seder with 4 other rabbis, he discussed the chances of military success.

    ARAMI OVED AVI – “My father was a wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:5): understood by the Haggadah as “An Aramean – Laban – sought to destroy my father (Jacob)”.

    AVADIM HAYINU – “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt” – the beginning of the Exodus narrative in the Haggadah.

    B’DIKAT CHAMETZ – search for chametz on the night before Seder night; see CHAMETZ.

    BI’UR CHAMETZ – the disposal of the chametz by a set time on Erev Pesach morning: see CHAMETZ.

    B’NEI B’RAK – a town near modern Tel Aviv; the home of Rabbi Akiva. See AKIVA.

    BREAD OF AFFLICTION (LECHEM ONI) – a name for matzah; in Egypt the slaves were given matzah to eat, not leavened bread.

    CHAD GADYA – the final Seder song (of medieval origin, written in Aramaic), tracing Jewish history from Sinai through centuries of persecution to the messianic redemption. (See also here.)

    CHAMETZ – foodstuffs prohibited on Pesach; literally, “leavened”. (See also here.)

    CHAROSET – a sweet mixture of grated apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine; a contrast to bitter herbs on Seder night; symbolic of mortar used by Hebrew slaves in making bricks.

    COMMUNAL SEDER – groups of people sharing a Seder; instituted in Biblical times.

    DAYYENU (“It would have been enough”) – a Seder song praising God for His boons. (See also here.)

    DEW – see TAL.

    ECHAD MI YODE’A (“Who knows one?”) – a song about 13 themes from 1 (God) to 13 (Maimonides’ Principles).

    EGGS – a roasted egg on the Seder plate recalls the festival offering; some families eat hard-boiled eggs in salt water.


    ELIJAH – harbinger of Messiah; will come on Seder night; the door is opened and a cup of wine poured out for him: see KOS SHEL ELIYAHU. (See also here.)

    EREV PESACH – a busy day; matzah is not eaten so as to create an appetite for matzah at the Seder ; special rules apply if Erev Pesach is Shabbat.

    EXODUS (YETZI’AT MITZRAYIM) – the start of Jewish national history; the great symbol of freedom. (See also here and here.)



    FOUR CUPS – symbolic of 4 promises of redemption (Ex. 6:6-7). A 5th phrase (Ex. 6:8), is symbolised by Elijah’s Cup – see KOS SHEL ELIYAHU. (See also here.)

    FOUR QUESTIONS (MAH NISHTANAH) – asked about special features of the Seder table; instead of a question about roast meat we ask one about reclining (see PASCHAL LAMB); the answers emerge through reading the Haggadah. (See also here, here, here , here, and here.)

    FOUR SONS – different types of person must be answered according to their capacity. (See also here, here, and here.)

    FREEDOM – Pesach stands for physical, moral and intellectual freedom for all mankind. Heine said that the message of freedom speaks with a Hebrew accent. (See also here and here.)

    GEBROCHTS (“broken”) – matzah-based foods that have come into contact with liquid: not eaten on 1st 7 days of Pesach by some orthodox groups.

    GOD – the Redeemer and Protector – see MOSES.

    HAGGADAH (“narration”) – the book used for the Seder ceremony. (See also here and here.)

    HALLEL psalms of praise on Seder night; some include them in the evening prayers.

    HAVDALAH (“separation”) – ceremony at the end of Shabbat and festivals; if Seder night is at the end of Shabbat, Havdalah is inserted in Kiddush.

    HEBREW – the Haggadah is in Hebrew but if necessary can be recited in any language.

    HILLEL – iconic rabbi who made a “sandwich” of Pesach foods because the Torah says (Num. 9:11), “On matzah and bitter herb shall you eat it” (the paschal lamb).

    IS’RU CHAG – “Bind the festival offering” (Psalm 118:27): a name for the day after a festival.

    KASHERING – preparing the house for Pesach; some utensils can be “koshered” for Pesach use: ask a rabbi for details.

    KARPAS – vegetable dipped in salt water, eaten as a prelude to the Seder.

    KIDDUSH – recited at the beginning of the Seder; this is the first of the 4 cups.

    KITNIYYOT (“LITTLE THINGS”) – grains or vegetables (e.g. peas) resembling the 5 species that must not be eaten on Pesach; Ashkenazim generally do not eat kitniyot.

    KNEIDLACH – matzah balls; not eaten by those who avoid gebrochts (q.v.). (See also here.)

    KOS SHEL ELIYAHU (Elijah’s cup) – in theory a 5th cup should mark the promise “I will bring you in” (Ex. 6:8); we pour it but leave Elijah to solve the problem.

    LAST SUPPER – Jesus’ final meal with his disciples might have been a Seder but probably wasn’t as essential features of a Seder were lacking.

    L’SHANAH HABA’AH (“Next year in Jerusalem!”) – said at the end of the Seder; Pesach in Jerusalem is a stage in the messianic redemption.


    MA’OT CHITTIN (“money for flour”) – a fund to help the needy.

    MAROR – bitter herbs (horseradish, bitter lettuce, etc.), an essential of the Seder.

    MATZAH – the 3 matzot on the Seder table possibly stand for Kohen, Levi and Yisra’el and show that Pesach is for the whole Jewish people; almost every Jew has a Seder.

    MATZAH ASHIRAH – “rich” (flavoured) matzah, sometimes made with fruit juice; it must not be eaten at the Seder and Ashkenazim do not eat it at all on Pesach.

    MATZAH SH’MURAH – “guarded” matzah made of wheat that has been watched from the time of harvesting to keep it away from liquid; the scrupulous eat only this matzah.

    MIDDLE MATZAH – part of the middle matzah is put aside for the afikoman (q.v.).

    MOSES – not in the Haggadah except incidentally; not he but God was the Redeemer. (See also here, here, here, and here.)

    NIR’TZAH – a poetical paragraph declaring that the Seder has been concluded.

    PASCHAL LAMB – the lamb’s blood on their doorposts saved the Hebrew first born from death; a bone on the Seder plate symbolises the paschal lamb offered in the Temple.

    PESACH (Passover) – the angel of death passed over the Hebrew houses; see PASCHAL LAMB.

    P’SACHIM (Talmudic tractate) – Rabbinic source on Pesach; the plural ending im may be because it deals with the annual series of celebrations.

    RED SEA – God sent a strong wind to part the waters, enabling the Hebrews to cross to safety; He stopped the angels singing because the Egyptian pursuers were His children. (See also here.)

    SALT WATER – on the Seder table to symbolise the salty tears of the slaves.

    SEDER (“Order”) – everything has its set time and place. (See also here, here, here, and here.)

    S’FIRAT HA-OMER – from the 2nd night we count 7 weeks to Shavu’ot, linking physical freedom with moral responsibility.

    SH’FOCH CHAMAT’CHA (“Pour out Your wrath”) – an imprecation on Israel’s enemies.

    SHIR HASHIRIM (Song of Songs) – read on Shabbat Chol HaMo’ed; a springtime story explained as showing the love between God and Israel. (See also here, here and here.)


    SIYYUM – the joy at ending a tractate overrides the Erev Pesach fast: see TA’ANIT B’CHORIM.

    TA’ANIT B’CHORIM – fast of the first born on Erev Pesach, showing sympathy with the Egyptian first born who died in the 10th plague.

    TAL (“Dew”) – on 1st day Pesach the prayer for dew marks the coming of spring.

    TEN PLAGUES – brought upon Egypt to weaken Pharaoh’s refusal to let the slaves go. (See also here, here, here , here, and here.)

    WICKED SON (RASHA) – 2nd of the four sons; a person with a good mind but a rebel. (See also here, here, here and here.)

    WINE – see FOUR CUPS.

    WISE SON (CHACHAM) – 1st of the four sons, clever and a good character.

    WOMEN – their moral qualities won freedom for the Hebrews.

    Z’RO’A – bone on the Seder plate, symbol of the paschal lamb; see PASCHAL LAMB.

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