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Mishnah Pesahim 10:2-9: The Passover Seder

Greco-Roman Period
The Passover Seder was originally a Temple ritual. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. it became a home ritual and one of Judaism’s central educational tools. The mishnah presents a basic outline of its rituals.

10-2 They mixed for him the first cup [of wine]- The House of Shammai say, “He says
the blessing over the day 69 and afterwards [he] says the blessing over the wine.” And the
House of Hillel say, “He says the blessing over the wine and afterwards [he] says the
blessing over the day.”

3 They served him- He dips the lettuce [the vegetable used for the bitter herbs] before he
reached the bread condiment. They served him unleavened bread and lettuce and haroset
[a mixture, e.g. of nuts, fruit, and wine pounded together] even though the haroset is not
a [biblical] commandment. Rabbi Eleazar ben Zadok says, “It is a [biblical]
commandment. And in the Temple they serve him the carcass of the Passover offering.

4 They poured for him the second cup, and here the child asks—and if the child lacks
intelligence, his father instructs him—“How is this night different from all the [other]
nights? For on all the [other] nights we eat leavened and unleavened bread, 70 this night
we eat only unleavened. For on all the [other] nights we eat other vegetables, on this
night, maror (bitter herbs). For on all the [other] nights we eat meat roasted, steamed, or
cooked [in a liquid, boiled], this night only [or ‘all of it’] roasted. For on all the [other]
nights we dip once, this night twice.” According to the child’s intelligence, his father
instructs him. He starts [reading] with the disgrace [section of the Bible] and ends with
the glory; and he expounds [the biblical section] from “A wandering Aramean was my
father” (Deut. 26-5) until he finishes the entire portion.

5 Rabban Gamaliel said, “Whoever did not say these three things on Passover did not
fulfill his obligation- pesah, matzah, and merorim [the Passover offering, unleavened
bread, and bitter herbs]. Pesah—because the Omnipresent skipped over the houses of our
ancestors in Egypt. Merorim—because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our
ancestors in Egypt. Matzah—because they were redeemed. Therefore we are obligated to
give thanks, to praise, to glorify, to crown, to exalt, to elevate the One who did for us all
these miracles and took us out of slavery to freedom, and let us say before Him,
Hallelujah” (Ps. 113-1ff.).

6 Up to what point does he recite [the Hallel]? The House of Shammai say, “Until ‘[He
sets the childless woman among her household] as a happy mother of children’ [the end
ofP s. 113].” And the House of Hillel say, “Until ‘[Tremble… at the presence of the
Lord… who turned] the flinty rock into a fountain’ [the end of Ps. 124].” And [he]
concludes with [the prayer for] “redemption.” 71 Rabbi Tarfon says, “…Who has
redeemed us and redeemed our ancestors from Egypt and brought us to this night [to eat
thereon unleavened bread and bitter herbs” 72 ]-and [he] does not conclude [with a
concluding formula]. 73

Rabbi Akiva says, “[One adds to the blessing-] Thus a Lord, our God and God of our
ancestors, bring us in peace to the approaching festivals which are coming to meet us,
rejoicing in the building of Your city and joyous in Your service, and to eat from the
Passover and festive offerings the blood of which will reach the wall of Your altar with
favor, and let us thank You for our redemption. Praised art Thou, Lord, Who redeemed

7 [They] poured for him the third cup [of wine]—he says the blessing over his food. 74
[At] the fourth [cup], he finishes the Hallel [through Ps. 118], and says over it the
blessing over the song. Between the former cups, if he wants to drink [further] he may
drink. Between the third and fourth, he should not drink. After [eating from] the Passover
offering, they do not end [with] afiqomon[revelry].

8 [If they] fell asleep- 75 [if it was] some of them, they may eat [again because the
remaining individuals of the group, who stayed awake, maintained the group]; and [if] all
of them [fell asleep], [they] may not eat [again]. Rabbi Yose says, “If they dozed, they
may eat [again]. And if they slumbered, [they] may not eat [again].”

9 After midnight the Passover offering imparts uncleanness to the hands; piggul 76 [the
“offensive” sacrifice] and notar 77 [the “remnant”] impart uncleanness to the hands. [If
one] said the blessing over the Passover offering, one is exempt from that over the festive
offering; [if one said] the [blessing] over the festive offering, one is not exempt from that
over the Passover offering”—the words of Rabbi Ishmael. Rabbi Akiva says, “[Saying]
the former does not exempt [one from saying] the latter, and [saying] the latter does not
exempt [one from saying] the former.”

68. Trans. B. Bokser, Yerushalmi Pesahim,pp. 473, 485, 488-9, 494, 497-8, 502-4.

69. “Blessed art thou… who sanctifies Israel and the festivals,” the main benediction of the Kiddush prayer.

70. The order of the questions here follows the version set forth in the Mishnah for the Temple in which the
Paschal lamb was being offered and roasted.

71. He ends with a blessing that has the motif of “redemption.“

72. This phrase is added in certain manuscripts of the Mishnah.

73. The benediction does not conclude with “Praised art Thou…”

74. Grace After Meals.

75. If some of those who have joined together to offer a Passover sacrifice (cf. Exod. 12-3-4) fall asleep.

76. Sacrifice offered with the intention to eat it past the proscribed time.

77. Meat from a sacrifice which has been left over after the proscribed time for eating.

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