PESach Dictionary

AARON: Moses' brother was the one who went with him to Pharaoh. Moses was hard of speech, so Aaron spoke on his behalf. Aaron became the head of the priesthood. When Moses took the commandments on Mount Sinai and delayed them, the people lost confidence and wanted to make an idol. Aaron led them in this.

AFIKOMAN: Greek word meaning dessert. During Seder Eve, the middlemost of the three matzos is broken in two, and one piece is hidden or allowed to be taken. The meal ends with the afikomen being searched for/returned because dessert is the way to end the feast. If there is a child in the family, it is customary to give a gift if found/returned. Then we break it into small pieces and distribute them so that everyone can eat the dessert.

AVADIM HAJINU: So we were enslaved, an important starting point for the holiday of Pesach. It is also a song that we sing at the beginning of the Maggid portion of the Seder Eve when we begin to tell the story of our exodus.

AVIV: Spring. This is the holiday of Pesach, among others. Spring is not only a season of celebration but also a symbol of the rebirth that comes with freedom from slavery and the becoming of the Jewish people.

BAREH: One of the steps of the Seder Eve is to say a blessing at dinner and drink the third glass of wine.

BDIKÁT CHAMETZ: Meaning the investigation of the leaven, or the search for the last crumbs. Before Passover, all leaven must be cleared from the house. Bdikat Chametz is when, with a bird feather and a candle, we search for the last crumbs (we hid them beforehand) the night before Pesach.

BIUR CHAMETZ: Burning the last crumbs. We burn them and say a blessing after searching for (and hopefully finding) the last hidden crumbs. This can be done until morning, five hours after sunrise.

BOILS: The sixth of the ten plagues. Ulcers covered the bodies of the people.

CHAROSET: One of the props of the Seder. It is a mixture of apples, wine, walnuts and symbolises mortar, slavery, hardship. Very tasty and the most popular of the Seder symbols. It is not surprising that a large quantity is consumed since saltwater and horseradish cannot compete with their delicacy. Sephardic (Spanish, Jewish communities of Eastern origin) cuisine makes it a little differently, with honey and dates. It is also delicious.

COUNTING OF THE OMER: From the second day of Passover until the feast of Sabbath, the Omer Count takes place. The omer is a unit of measurement and represents the offering presented from the new grain harvest. The Torah commands us to count seven weeks from the presentation of the omer. This is why it is called an omer count. We do not know the exact reason; it is probably related to the harvest.

DARKNESS: On the ninth of the ten plagues, three days of darkness fell on Egypt.

DAYENU: One of the favourite songs of Seder Eve, it's about how many miracles our God has done for us. One would have been too many, but he has done many miracles. Everyone sings at least the chorus with loud applause.

DEATH OF FIRSTBORN SON: The tenth of the ten plagues. All the firstborns of Egypt died, both men and animals. The firstborn child of Pharaoh. The firstborn child of Pharaoh.

DUMPLING: Matzah is used to make the dumplings that we eat a lot of on Seder Eve. It makes the feast special.

ECHAD MI YODEAH: Who knows what one is? One of the traditional songs we sing at the end of Seder Eve links basic Jewish concepts to the number 13.

EGG: One of the symbols of the Seder Plate. It is attributed to many meanings. The Seder is a free people's meal, and the rabbis say that a free people's meal begins with an appetiser. They saw this in the free people they met, the Romans, the Greeks. Ab ovo, the meal starts with the egg. Another explanation is mourning. In every joy, there must be sorrow, for the third sanctuary is not yet standing. And the symbol of mourning is the egg. Finally, it is also explained that eggs are like Judaism; the hotter they are boiled in water, the harder they become.

EGYPT: The place where Joseph became second only to Pharaoh in saving from famine and where Jacob and his sons moved. But the new Pharaoh no longer remembered Joseph and reduced the children of Israel to slavery. Their fate was terrible. Egypt is a geographical place and has been a symbol of slavery for the Jews. Its Hebrew name is Mitzraim, which means "narrow place."

EVIL: See Rasha.

FOUR: The number four comes up very often in connection with the feast: we have four names, we drink four glasses of wine because the Eternal saved us with four different phrases, the Haggadah speaks of four children, the story begins with four questions.

FREEDOM: One of, if not the most essential concepts of the Passover. Physical freedom was followed by spiritual freedom. We escaped slavery and arrived at liberty, then embraced the laws that provided the framework for our lives.

FREUD: How did he come to be here? Do you want to talk about him?

FROGS: The second plague. Out of ten. Everything was full of frogs.

GOSHEN: This was the area of Egypt where the Jews lived. It was in Lower Egypt, at the eastern mouth of the Nile.

HAD GADJA: A traditional song sung at the end of the Seder, it can be understood as a children's story (like the carrot tale), but it also has a profound symbolic message.

HAGGADAH: The booklet or manual from which we follow the steps on Seder Eve, reading the quotations. The Haggadah explains the symbols, tells the story, describes the blessings and the songs. There are so many; over the centuries, Jewish creativity has produced hundreds of beautifully illustrated Haggadahs. Even today, most communities make their own Haggadahs. It is also customary to update them.

HALLEL: Part of the Seder, the glorious thanksgiving we say.

HILEL: Head of Talmudic academy, famous for his constant disputes with another Talmudic academy leader, Shamai. Hilel is associated with the sandwich of the step of koreich. It is eaten before dinner, with horseradish and haricot cheese between two matzahs.

JACOB: Israel, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. His sons became the 12 tribes.

JOSEPH: The son of our forefather Jacob, the favourite child. His brothers' jealousy of their brother's reverie and favouritism prompts them to sell him and tell their father that he was torn apart by a wolf. Joseph is sent to Egypt, where he unravels the Pharaoh's dream at one point in his adventurous life and proposes a solution. He becomes the second man in Egypt after Pharaoh. The famine in Canaan causes his brothers to come to Egypt and ask him for food. They do not recognise him; he teaches them a lesson and reveals his identity. They reconciled, and Jacob and his sons went to Egypt. So begins the story of the children of Israel in Egypt.

KARPAS: One of the props of the Seder Plate, usually parsley or lettuce leaves. We dip it in saltwater to remember the bitterness. It's also the name of one of the steps of the Seder Eve when we dip it.

KIDDUSH: A step of the Seder Eve. We say Kiddush on wine; that is, we sanctify it. We drink four glasses of wine during the evening; this is the first.

KOREICH: One of the steps of the Seder Eve is to eat the sandwich traditionally attributed to Hilel, which consists of haricot cheese and horseradish between two matzahs.

KOSHER FOR PESACH: On Passover, we may only eat kosher food according to the holiday, i.e., that have not been in contact with leaven. Therefore, we use separate pots or clean the everyday pots according to the proper rules. Many people buy only sealed Pesach kosher products.

LABAN: Jacob's father-in-law. The Haggadah says that "he wanted to destroy everything". What is "everything"? And how is that even possible? He wanted his grandchildren to be raised in his spirit. If they were not to receive the traditional, monotheistic Jacobite upbringing that is Abraham's legacy but was to be "progressive", Labanic Aramaic, based on the pagan Mesopotamian tradition, and thus follow his way of life and lifestyle.

LEANING: One of the four questions (Ma Nistana) asks why we eat leaning today. The Seder is the meal of the free people, and the free people, as the rabbis knew them, ate half lying down, leaning on their backs. It is customary to lean to the left at Seder and fill each other's glasses.

LEAVENED / UNLEAVENED: The commandment in the Torah is, "And the fifteenth day of this month is the feast of the unleavened bread of the LORD. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. " (Vayikra 23:6) What is matzah, or unleavened bread? Matzah is a thin, crusty bread made from a mixture of wheat flour and water. That's it and nothing more. To make the dough kosher, it must be mixed and baked in precisely 18 minutes. This is because the rabbis have determined that the fermentation processes necessary for the bread to rise do not start during this time. Before Pesach, all leavened food must be cleaned up and removed from the apartment or house. After that, the last crumbs must be found (see Bdikat Chametz) and burnt (see Biur Chametz). After this, only leaven is to be eaten from the dishes made kosher for Pesach.

LICE: The third of the ten plagues.

LOCUSTS: The eighth of the ten plagues. Locusts covered everything.

MA NISHTANA: How is it different? How is this night (Seder night) different from all the other nights of the year? Ma Nistana is the four questions traditionally asked and sung by the youngest child.

How is this evening different from all the others?

  • We may eat leaven and sourdough on other evenings, but tonight we eat only unleavened food.

  • On other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, today we eat bitter.

  • Other nights we don't dip. Tonight, we dip twice.

  • Other evenings we sit upright and lean, tonight only leaning.

That starts the story. There are communities where everyone sings together.

MAGGID: A step in the Seder Eve. It means telling and answering the four questions. At this time, we tell the story of our deliverance from Egypt.

MAROR: The bitter grass, or horseradish. One of the Seder Plate props, the third most essential props of the Seder meal, and matzah and chicken necks/legs. In remembrance of this, we eat matzah.

MATZAH: That is, unleavened bread. When the children of Israel had to hurry out of Egypt, they didn't have time to break bread. In remembrance of this, we eat matzah. Matzah is a thin, crusty bread made from a mixture of wheat flour and water. That's it and nothing more. The dough must be mixed and baked in precisely 18 minutes to make it kosher. This is because the rabbis have determined that the fermentation processes necessary for the bread to rise do not start at this time.

MIDWIVES: The two midwives who do not obey Pharaoh's command are Shifra and Puah. In the Torah, they are described as Hebrew midwives, and there is a dispute among the rabbis as to whether they were Jews or midwives of the Hebrews.

MIMUNA: Mimuna is a Moroccan holiday celebrated by many in Israel. The idea is to eat a lot of delicious leavened cakes after the Passover feast and go out and receive guests.

MIRIAM: Moses' sister followed the little basket along the river. She led the women in songs of praise after crossing the Red Sea with her song and music. She is also known as the prophetess. It is customary to place a cup on the table next to the cup of Eliyahu/Elias, Miriam, in honour of all women who have helped to perpetuate Judaism.

MOSES: the protagonist of the Egyptian Exodus (after the Eternal), who leads the Jews out of Egypt. His name means "pulled out of the water". His mother, Jocheved, having circumvented Pharaoh's decree, puts him in a small basket on the Nile, where Miriam, Moses' sister, follows her little brother from the shore. The Pharaoh's daughter finds him while bathing and pulls him out (hence the name). She takes him, but Miriam offers to call a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. Pharaoh's daughter agrees, Miriam calls her mother. She stays with him until the separation and then takes him to the palace. Moses is brought up here, and when he grows up, he realises what is happening to his people. Guided by a sense of justice, he protects one of his Hebrew brothers and kills an Egyptian. He must flee. He hides in Midian, and while shepherding him, the Eternal appears to him in a burning bush and calls on him to lead his people, the children of Israel, out of slavery. Moses appears only once in the Haggadah. The rabbis say it is because the protagonist is the Eternal.

MOTZI: As a step of the Seder, we say a blessing on unleavened bread and eat a piece.

MOUNT SINAI: This is the mountain where the Jews arrived when they left Egypt. This is where they became a nation by receiving the Law, the Ten Commandments. Here, the covenant was made between the Eternal and the Jewish people. According to tradition, we were all there at Mount Sinai.

NILE: The main river of Egypt, the Hebrews lived at its eastern mouth in Goshen. The waters of the Nile became blood in the first plague. It was on the Nile that Jochebed placed the newborn baby Moses.

NIRTZAH: The last step of the Seder, the conclusion, when we traditionally sing "Besana Haba BeYerushalaim", means next year in Jerusalem.

NISAN: The Hebrew month in which we celebrate the feast of Pesach. According to biblical tradition, it is the first month of the year.

PESTILENCE OF LIVESTOCK: the fifth of the ten plagues, in which a terrible plague strikes the livestock.

PHARAOH: The Egyptian ruler who slowly and insidiously enslaved the children of Israel. When Moses and Aaron asked him to let the Hebrews go, he would not. He hardened his heart until the tenth plague when the Eternal killed all the firstborns of Egypt. He then let the Jews go but soon pursued them. There is a dispute among historians as to which Pharaoh was the one during whose reign the exodus took place. One of the most popular theories is that Ramses II was the first.

PITOM: We built a storage city here, for example.

PROPHET ELIJAH: Also known as Elias. He visits all Seders and circumcisions according to tradition. So we prepare a cup for him on Seder Eve and open the door to visit us.

PYRAMIDS: In everyday language, we say that the Jews built the pyramids in Egypt. The Torah tells us that we built cities of storage, and we mostly made bricks and buildings used for storage.

RABBIS: In the Haggadah, we read of many rabbis who stayed up all night discussing the Egyptian Exodus.

RACHTZAH: One of the steps of the Seder is the ritual washing of hands before dinner. There was already a hand washing, but we didn't say a blessing then. We say it at the step of Rachtzah.

RADISH: one of the props of the Seder dish, radishes are used instead of or alongside horseradish as a symbol of bitterness.

RAMSES: Many people have been looking for the answer to which Egyptian pharaoh's period the exodus takes place. The best-known explanation is that during the reign of Ramses II and his son, what our people call the Exodus took place.

RASA: It means evil. The second of the four children described in the Haggadah is the evil one. He asks: What is this service to you? He looks at the story as an outsider, as if it were not his memory; he does not want to; he opposes it. He must be told it to begin to feel it as his own.

RED SEA: At one point in the Exodus story from Egypt, the Jews reach the Red (or Shas) Sea. In front of them is the sea; behind them, the Egyptians are pursuing them—the Eternal commands Moses, the leader of the desperate Jews, to lift his rod. The sea parted, and the Jews crossed with dry feet. Behind them, the foams crash again, killing the Egyptian chariots in pursuit.

SALTWATER: One of the symbols of the Seder, it represents the tears shed because of the bitterness of slavery.

SAVE YOU-REDEEM YOU: Two of the four phrases used by the Eternal in the Torah to describe how he will deliver his people out of bondage. That is why we drink four glasses of wine during the Seder.

SEDER PLATE: The plate starts Seder Eve and is filled with symbols. On it are matzahs, eggs, maror (bitter grass), karpas (parsley), charoset (a mixture of wine and walnut and apple), the symbol of mortar, chicken necks/legs (the symbol of the Pesach sacrifice), saltwater. Beautifully decorated plates are used, and wonderful family heirlooms have been preserved, brought to the Seder evenings by generations. A perfectly plain white plate will do, but Judaism believes that the value of keeping the commandment can be enhanced by using ornate objects. This is the Hidur Micvah.

SEDER: It means order. The ritual meal starts the Passover feast. This meal has a precise order to be observed, found in the Haggadah. There is one Seder night in Israel, but in the Diaspora, there are two nights.

SIMPLE: The third of four children in the Haggadah. His question is simple: what is this? So he must be told the story of the Exodus from Egypt in a simple, easy-to-understand way.

SLAVERY: We were enslaved; we became free. This is one of the main mottos of the Feast of Passover.

SPRING: See Aviv.

STRETCHED ARM: The Eternal said, "I am the Lord, and I will deliver you from the Egyptian forced labour, and I will save you from the slavery done to them; I will redeem you with stretched out arms and severe judgments." The ten plagues became a severe judgment. The outstretched arm is one explanation for the chicken necks/legs leg on the Seder Plate.

SULCHAN ORECH: The festive meal, one of the steps of the Seder, literally means a table set. It is usually a rich, many-course meal, beginning with a starter and ending with the afikoman (dessert). However, it is customary to eat a cake before the matzah after dinner.

TAM: The third of the four children, the simple, see simple.

TEN PLAGUES: Pharaoh refused to let the Jews go, hardening his heart again and again. The Eternal therefore sent plagues on the Egyptians. The ten plagues are also mentioned in the Haggadah, and it is customary to sip from the cup with the little one after each plague is named, for our joy cannot be complete, for those who suffered the plagues were also God's creatures.

THE ONE WHO CAN'T ASK ANY QUESTIONS: the fourth of the four children mentioned in the Haggadah can't even ask questions and so must be told the story of the Egyptian Exodus without question.

THUNDERSTORM OF HAIL AND FIRE: The seventh of the ten strikes. The hailstorm came, vast chunks of ice beat up the crops.

TURNING WATER TO BLOOD: The first plague. All water turned to blood.

TZAFUN: This is the step of the Seder Eve where we search for and hopefully find the afikoman, the hidden piece of matzah that serves as a dessert. In Seder, the afikoman is one of the things that is meant to keep children awake. Here, seriousness is mixed with cheerfulness.

URCHATZ: One of the steps of the Test of the Heart. Hand washing. This is the first of two hand-washing, at which time no blessing is said. Sometimes only the host washes his hands. Nowadays it is recommended for everyone. (Covid19)

VEHI SEAMADA: A song and step of the Seder Eve. It tells of how we have had enemies, and all have fought against us many times in history, but the Eternal has always saved us.

WILD ANIMALS OR FLIES: The fourth plague.

WINE: With this, we dedicate the feast. We'll have four glasses of it on Seder night.

WISE: The Haggadah, the manual we follow through the Seder, tells of four children, the first of whom is wise. The wise child inquires, already has some knowledge, is interested, has many questions.

YACHATZ: The act of Seder Eve when we take the middlemost of the three matzahs and break it in two. One half is hidden/ made available for theft. This will be the afikoman, the last course.

ZIPORAH: Moses' wife, daughter of the Midianite priest Jethro. Moses meets her when he flees Egypt after killing the Egyptian slave driver.

ZROA: One of the requisites of the Seder is the chicken necks or chicken legs. It is the symbol of the Passover sacrificial lamb on the Seder platter, the only one not consumed. Before the Jews fled Egypt, they consumed a lamb at the command of the Eternal. Later, it was replaced in the liturgy by the ceremonial prayer of sacrifice.