Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Passover Seder Preparation Checklist

I made up this "Seder Preparation" list for an Introductory Seder program several years ago, and people found it useful. It's intended to be very basic and simple.

(I believe I took the marror and matzah measurements from Rav Eider zt"l's book on the laws of Pesach.)

Seder Checklist

Good translations and pictures are a plus!
Include Haggadot designed for children
Include toys for children, too

Pillows, Sofas or Cushioned Chairs

For the Seder Plate (Ke’arah)
Shankbone (Zroa) and Roasted Egg (Beitzah), or two other cooked foods
Small amount of bitter herb (Maror)
A second small amount of bitter herb, according to some customs (Chazeret)
A green which will not be used as the bitter herb (Karpas)

Wine / Grape Juice
Cups that hold at least 4 oz (but not too large; one should drink the majority of the cup each time!)
Wine and/or Grape Juice – At least 16 ounces per person

For Washing - Towels

Any item which is halachically considered to grow from the ground rather than a true tree – celery, cooked potato, banana, pineapple

Salt water or vinegar for dipping

A minimum of 3 whole Matzot which will sit on a tray
Note: Overall one needs at least 1¼ round shmurah matzot per person, for the mitzvot of the Seder
Matzah Covers and Afikoman Bags for each set of 3 Matzot

Bitter Herb (Maror)
If ground horseradish – 38 grams (1.4 fluid oz) per person – half for Maror, half for Korech
If lettuce stalks – 6*5 inches per person – half for Maror, half for Korech
If lettuce leaves – 18*10 inches per person – half for Maror, half for Korech

Charoset for dipping the Maror

Popular Customs
Egg and Salt Water (to dip before the meal)
An Exterior Door (to leave open all seder, or at least for Sh'foch Chamatcha)

Please send me additional items I forgot to include...


  1. Haggadot: if any of your guests is elderly there are larger print haggadot made which makes it far easier for them to follow than the print in the smaller haggadot.

    A kos on the table for Kos shel Eliyahu.

    Re washing, some have the minhag that the first washing of hands is done at the table, at least for the baal habayis. So you'd need a washing cup and a bowl to pour the water over in addition to the towels.

    Glad to see that there is someone else for whom mentioning Pesach this early is not a "sin."

  2. For all of the food and drink items, don't go with just the bare minimums; inevitably some wine will spill, some matzah will crumble, etc.

    Also, this is now the second place I've come across the idea of using a banana for karpas. Isn't the idea that it should not only be something whose blessing is ha'adamah, but something used as an appetizer? I wouldn't think that bananas (or pineapples) fall into that category. (And who would want to dip them in saltwater?)

  3. rambam dips karpas in haroset. therefor : you need a lot of both. rambam does not limit karpas to less than a kzayit , rather requires at least a kzayit

  4. A small pack or bag prepacked with some matza, and a walking stick for each participant. How can you have a seder without first taking the kids (and willing adults) on an exodus?! ;-)

    Your karpas had me hearing Rav Mordechai Eliyahu's voice from years ago: "lo tapuhei adama v'lo bananot!" "Not potatoes and not bananas!" I thought he was joking about the bananas. Never heard of it. This is the first time I've seen that someone might seriously use such a thing.

  5. ProfK-
    Good points! And at this point, Pesach has been in my head for weeks...

    Anonymous 1:40 PM-
    Food - good point.
    Banana/Pineapple - The main point of Karpas, per the gemara, is to make the kids ask questions. Indeed, your comment proves that this is an excellent choice! (And pineapple, for the record, tastes great in salt water.)

    True; I wrote this with an Ashkenazi audience in mind, but a Rambam-er would need to vary it. Thanks.

    R' Mordechai-
    Do you hike around in the New Mexico desert that night?
    I use pineapple; I wonder what Rav Eliyahu would say about that.

  6. I have no doubt what Rav Eliyahu would say about pineapple! ;-)

    We start outside the door with the kids. We enact a little script at the door, then scurry through the house with our staffs and packs, 'with hast and mercy we left Egypt! with awe and mercy we left Egypt!' (It sounds better in Aramaic.) We sit at the seder with our staffs and packs.

    A little Sfardi 'corruption' in my education. Those dratted Religious Zionist yeshivas...

  7. Rema sugests vinegar rather than salt water...and banana dipped in blasamic vinegar is actually quite tasty.
    Credit for bananas-as-karpas seems to go to Rav Elozor Preil whose son-in-law, Rav Pinchos Teitz popularized it in the Elizabeth (NJ) community and beyond.
    It seems it had two effects: (1) taught an immigrant community, most of whom never saw bananas before, what the proper bracha is and (2) elicited the curiosity of those at the seder table--and not just kids.

  8. Anonymous 3:16 PM-
    Vinegar - Indeed, many poskim mention both. Worth noting, though, that balsamic vinegar is not actually vinegar.
    Bananas - Thanks for the attribution.

  9. Also,
    According to the Rema, the vineger (or salt water) should be placed on the seder plate, and not just be in a dish beside it.
    This is the German custom.
    Space is made for this by not placing the chazeres on the seder plate, but only maror.

  10. I thought of Bananas as Karpas a few years ago. Thought it was original. I like the link to Fair Trad Bananas from the carribean and to recalling the Slave trade and the origins of Banana plantations there.

    Glad to see others had the same idea.

    My Rabbi didn't like the idea but did not pursuade me of any solid reason why not

  11. Great check list. Thank you, It has been very helpful