The Simanim Of The Seder

The Seder ritual contains fifteen observances, or stages, which have been summarized with the following fifteen simanim (symbols):

1- Kaddesh (קדש)- Sanctify the day with the recitation of Kiddush.
2- Urchatz (ורחץ)- Wash the hands before eating Karpas.
3- Karpas (כרפס)- Eat a vegatable dipped in salt water or vinegar.
4- Yachatz (יחץ)- Break the middle Matzah. Put away the larger half for Afikomen.
5- Maggid (מגיד)- Narrate the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
6- Rachtzah (רחצה)- Wash the hands prior to the meal.
7- Motzi (מוציא)- Recite the bracha of Hamotzi Lechem Min Haaretz over the Matzah (as a food).
8- Matzah (מצה)- Recite the blessing over Matzah (as a mitzvah) and eat the Matzah.
9- Marror (מרור)- Recite the blessing and eat the bitter herbs.
10- Korech (כורך)- Eat the sandwich of Matzah and bitter herbs.
11- Shulchan Orech (שלחן עורך)- The table is prepared with the festive meal.
12- Tzafun (צפון)- Eat the Afikomen which has been hidden all during the Seder.
13- Berach (ברך)- Recite Birchas Hamazon, the blessing after the meal.
14- Hallel (הלל)- Recite the Hallel.
15- Nirtzah (נרצה)- Pray that Hashem accept our observance and speedily send the Mashiach.

Section 1: Related Halachos-
1. These simanim are not a new invention. Rather, they can be found in the works of the Rishonim, including the Machzor Vitri (65) in the name of Rashi.

2. There are numerous reasons given for these simanim. A) The simple explanation is that these summaries were created is to help remind us of the order of the Seder and to ensure that no step is skipped. B) In addition, it is always important to prepare oneself before performing any mitzvah. For example the Mishnah in Masechet Berachot (45a) states that three who have eaten a bread meal together must perform a “Zimun” before reciting Birkat Hamazon. The Meiri writes that the reason why three individuals who ate together must perform the Zimun is in order for them to arouse themselves to recite Birkas Hamazon with the proper concentration. It is for this very reason that the fifteen simanim were created. By reciting these words and meditating on their meaning one can properly prepare himself for each important step of the Seder process. (See Seder Haaruch chapter 48 and Haggadah Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l page 92)

3. The Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah (9:6) writes that there are many mystical concepts included in these simanim. And one should therefore recite aloud each siman before performing the corresponding step in the Seder with as much concentration as one can. Before reciting kiddush one says the word “Kaddesh” and before washins his hands he recites “Urchatz” etc. Indeed, the custom of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (ibid. page 93) was to recite each siman before performing the corresponding act in accordance with the view of the Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah.

4. Some have the custom to recite all fifteen simanim before beginning the Seder and then to recite each siman before performing each stage of the Seder. This was the practice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l. All the simanim however were recited quietly.

5. One cannot recite the simanim of “Motzi” and “Matzah” prior to their performance since one may not speak after washing his hands during Rachtzah. The proper time to recite them is prior to washing his hands. Therefore prior to washing his hands he should recite “Rachtzah Motzi Matzah.” (Seder Haaruch 75:7)

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