We start the Seder with the Holiday consecration and its official inauguration: the Kiddush. This year, 5772, we integrate the Kiddush of Yom Tob with the Kiddush of Shabbat. Upon concluding the Kiddush and the blessing shehecheyanu everyone shall drink his or her first cup of wine, while leaning on the left side. Each cup should contain at least 3 ounces. Throughout the Seder we drink four cups of wine. Symbolizing a celebration for the four expressions of freedom found in the Tora. If one cannot drink wine, it could be substituted by grape juice.
We wash our hands without saying any Berakha. In our community it is customary that the children help with the Netilat Yadaim bringing a bowl of water and a towel to the adults. This Netilat Yadaim is done in order to eat the Karpas dipped in vinegar. Our sages instituted that the night of the Seder we should dip the Karpas not once but twice to awake the curiosity of the children and stimulate their questions. These questions are already integrated into the famous text: Ma Nishtana. One of the questions refers to the double dipping of the Karpas.
We eat a small piece of Karpas, (celery). In ancient times it was common for affluent people to have an aperitif (celery or another vegetable) before the meal to induce the appetite (poor people did not need appetizers!). In this night we should feel that we are free and all our needs are covered, as if we were royalty. This is also the reason why we sit leaning: the slaves use to eat sitting on the floor, and the dignitaries would lean in luxurious chairs. Now, we also dip the Karpas in vinegar (or salted water) to remind us of the misery of our slavery and the tears we shed in captivity. As you will see once and again: the Seder is a balance between remembering our past as slaves and celebrating our God-given freedom, for which we should be infinitely thankful to Hashem. Before eating the Karpas we recite the blessing Bore Peri haAdama. As we have explained, all these deviations from the ordinary dinning habits are meant toward one single goal: to motivate the children to ask questions in order to ensure their active participation during the entire Seder.
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