There were a number of people who asked me about differences in the way the Seder is conducted by Ashkenazim and S’fardim. As I myself am Ashkenazi, I cannot claim to be an expert of the minhagim, the customs, of Sefardim. In fact, to my understanding, there are different customs depending what country the family is from ( for example Syria, Spain/Portugal, & Morocco) However, I spoke to the Rabbi Michael Azose, rabbi of a major Sefardic shul in Chicago, who related the following differences to me. Sefardim only make a blessing of Hagafen on the first and third cups of wine at the Seder, as opposed to Ashkenazim who make the blessing of Hagafen before each of the four cups. Another difference is the order of the questions of the Mah Nishtana. Sefardim have the following order of questions:
- Why do we dip?
- Why do we only eat Matza?
- Why do we eat Maror?
- Why do we recline?
Ashkenazim follow this order:
- 1) Why do we only eat Matzo?
- 2) Why do we eat maror?
- 3) Why do we dip?
- 4) Why do we recline?
I consulted other sources and found out that some Sefardim do not open the door when Shfoch Chamascha is said. Some do not say the songs contained in Nirtza, and conclude the Seder with Chasal Sidur Pesach. Some, after the matzo is broken by Yachatz, take the piece to be used as the Afikoman, throw it over their sholder, and say the verse located in Shemos 12: 34. If there are any Sefardim, or people who observe minhagim and customs other than that of Ashkenazim, please send in descriptions of these customs, and I hope to include them in the next special edition.
In posting # 4, we discussed the passage of Ha Lachma Anya. There were readers who wanted an explanation of how the three parts of the passage connected to each other:
- The declaration about the Matzo being poor man’s bread;
- Extending an invitation to the needy;
- Declaring our present status as being in exile, and that next year we will be free in Jerusalem.
The Aruch HaShulcha, Rabbi Yechiel Epstein, in his Hagada Leil Shimurim, offers an explanation. He notes that our departure from Egypt occured in a “super-natural” way, “L’ma’ala min hateva.” We were slaves who had to eat a poor man’s bread, yet because of the miracles of Hashem, we are now free. At this point in the Seder, before we truly begin, the compiler of the Hagada wanted to confort the destitute and poor, as well as strengthen their trust in the divine intervention of Hashem. He wanted to stress that the poor ( as well as those who are not) should trust in Hashem , that he will provide, even though at this moment in time it seems so far from likely that the status of the poor person will change. However, as we know that Hashem is the one who dictates what is to occur, and is not bound by what we may call the laws of nature, the salvation of the poor can occur at any time. We therefore say to the poor “See this bread that we ate in Egypt. We were destitute, we were downtrodden! Yet we were STILL freed from the enslavement because Hashem performed miracles for us. Hashem will perform miracles for you, too. Go ahead, all those who are needy, eat from other people’s table and do not be depressed about your situation. Go share in someone else’s Pesach, and do not feel bad that you have to turn to others for help at this time. Just lift your eyes to Hashem in prayer, so that he will save you personally as well in a way that may seem super-natural, not according to what we call nature. Hopefully, out of the kindness of Hashem, your prayers will find you in a better situation, and will result in all of Israel being in a better situation, as free men, in Jerusalem!”