1) The poskim stress the importance of starting the Seder as soon as possible upon returning home from Shul after nightfall. (It should not begin before nightfall, however.) The reason that we wish to begin the Seder promptly is in order that the children should still be awake and in order to eat the Afikomen in the proper time. Indeed, it is a mitzvah to run home from Shul in order to quickly begin the Seder, even though normally one may not run on Shabbos and Yom Tov. (see Netai Gavriel Pesach 2:60)
2) It is for this reason that the Seder table (including the wine, Kiddush cups, Matzah, Marror, Charoses etc.) should be prepared before Yom Tov in order to facilitate commencing the Seder immediately upon returning home from Shul after nightfall. (S.A. 472:1) (In a later halacha we will iy”h discuss when to assemble and bring the Ka’arah to the table)
3) When feasible, all the preparations should be done by adult Jews and not by non-Jews or Jewish minors. (see M.B. end of 477) It should be noted that the Chasam Sofer would set the table himself before leaving to Shul. (Minhagei Chasam Sofer 10:11) Indeed, many tzadikim would perform the preparations themselves and not rely on others to perform the mitzvah. (See Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 page 274)
4) The Mishnah Berurah (472:6) writes, “Although during the entire year it is best to minimize use at the table of elegant vessels (i.e. exquisite silver) in order to recall the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, on the Seder nights it is a mitzvah to set the table with the finest vessels, in the manner of free men and royalty.”
5) As a sign of our freedom, when a person dines on many of the items on this night he is required to eat and drink in a reclining position (heseiba), in the manner of free men and royalty. The preferred position for reclining is that while seated near the table, he leans to the left, with a pillow or cushion to support his head. (M.B. 472:7) Therefore, pillows and cushions should be prepared by each seat before Yom Tov. (see Haggadah Shel Pesach Minchas Chein page 61) It is preferred that the pillow be prepared by someone other than the master of the house. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l Hebrew)
6) The Shulchan Aruch (472:15) writes that one should distribute candies and nuts to the children before the Seder in order to keep them awake. In the Rav Chaim Kanievsky Haggada is states that Rav Chaim would distribute the candies and nuts in adherence to the view of the Shulchan Aruch. However, many do not adhere to this Halacha. (For a justification of the common practice see Minhag Yisroel Torah)
7) There is a custom for men to wear a kittel (white robe) at the Seder. There are two primary reasons for this custom: A) The kittel resembles the ministering angels, who are clothed in pure white. According to this reason, the kittel symbolizes angel-like freedom from sin and it would generate feelings of happiness. (See Hilchos Pesach Rav Shimon Eider and Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 chapter 64) B) The kittel resembles shrouds. Since at the Seder we conduct ourselves like free men and royalty, we are afraid that a person may tend to become haughty. Therefore, the kittel reminds him of the day of his death. (Taz 472:3)
8) The custom of Sefardim and Chabad Chassidim is not to wear a kittel at the Seder. (See Haggadah Shel Pesach Chabad and Netai Gavriel ibid.)
9) The custom is not to enter the bathroom while wearing a kittel, since it is considered a garment set aside for prayer (on Yom Kippur), entering the bathroom with the kittel is not an honorable act. Therefore, if one needs the bathroom during the Seder he should remove the kittel before entering the bathroom. (Beer Heitiv 21:3)
10) Many, including Square Chassidim, do not wear a kittel during the first year of marriage, or shana rishonah. (See Maharam Shick O.C. 28, Katzeh Hamateh on Mateh Efraim 619:11 and Netai Gavriel Pesach page 318) This is also the view of Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a. (Sefer Yismach Lev Nisuin)
11) Others maintain that it is preferred to wear the kittel during the shana rishonah. Vizhnitz, Nadvorna, Sanzer, and Munkatch Chassidim wear the kittel during the shana rishonah. (See Netai Gavriel ibid.) This is also the view of Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l and Harav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg zt”l. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Harav Shlomo Zalman and Yismach Lev)
12) We cited above two reasons to wear the Kittel (1. To symbolize angel-like freedom from sin. 2. To remind us of death so that one will not become haughty) There is a great debate amongst the authorities whether a mourner wears a kittel. The Taz (472:3) favors the second rationale for wearing a kittel (so that one will not become haughty) and therefore he writes that a mourner should wear a kittel. This is also the view of the Baal Hatania (472:4), Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Siddur), Harav Yekutiel Halbestam zt”l (Divrei Yetziv 208) and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Haggadah).
13) However, the Magen Avraham maintains that according to both explanations of a kittel’s significance, a mourner at the Seder should not wear one. Certainly, if wearing the kittel symbolizes angel-like freedom from sin, it would generate simcha and is inappropriate for a mourner. But even if the kittel is meant to induce humility, it is unnecessary for a mourner to wear it since he is already saddened. This is also the view of the Bach. Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Haggadah Kol Dodi) writes, “Magen Avraham’s reasoning is sound, and his ruling is therefore definitive; especially since the Gra, according to the Haggada of Rabbi Yechiel Heller, holds that the rationale for wearing a kittel is that we resemble the ministering angels.” The Mishnah Berurah writes that the custom is not to wear the kittel, however, those that choose to wear one should not be rebuked. For normative Halacha, a rav should be consulted.
14) The Ka’arah is a plate, specifically made for the Seder, which has spaces for the items that must be displayed on the Seder table: the shankbone, the roasted egg, the maror (bitter herbs), the charoses and, according to most opinions, also the karpas. (Tosafos Pesachim 115b)
15) The Ka’arah is placed before the master of the house. (S.A. 473:4) Other members of the household do not require individual Ka’aros, but will obtain there Seder foods from the master of the house. (M.B. 17) The custom of Square and Biyana Chassidim is that all men from the age of thirteen and onward obtain their own Ka’aros. (Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 page 328) Similarly, the custom of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Haggadah page 77) and the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (Haggadah Chabad page 28) was that all the men receive their own Ka’arah. [Many have the custom that all the men have their own matzos before them, but not their own ka’aros, for reasons beyond the scope of this halacha.]
16) The custom of Chabad, Tchernobal and Leluv Chassidim is to place the Ka’arah to the left of the head of the household, with his Kiddush cup to the right. (Netai Gavriel ibid. page 330 and Darchei Chaim V’Shalom 588)
17) There are different customs as to when should the Ka’arah be assembled (when should the food be placed on the Ka’arah) and brought to the table. A) Some have the custom to assemble it and bring it to the table before Yom Tov. This is the view of the Chayei Adam (130:1), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (118:10), Mateh Moshe (cited in Likutei Maharich page 12), Shelah Hakadosh, Rav Yaakov Koppel zt”l (Tos. Chaim on Chayei Adam), the Chasam Sofer and Rav Y. Dushinsky zt”l. (Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 page 329) B) Others have the custom to assemble and bring it to the table after donning the kittel, before Kiddush. This is the view of the Pri Megadim (486:1), Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Haggadah Kol Dodi page 29), Chabad Chassidim (Haggadah Chabad page 28) and is the custom of those in Yerushalayim. C) Others have the custom to assemble and bring it after Kiddush. This seems to be the view of the Shulchan Aruch. D) While the Gra holds that one should bring the Ka’arah to the table after eating the Karpas (vegetable dipped in salt water). One should conduct himself according to his custom.
18) One is required to immerse metal and glass utensils that are purchased or otherwise acquired from a non-Jew in a mikva prior to their first use. This mitzva is referred to as Tevilas Keilim, the immersion of utensils. The Ka’arah also needs to be immersed in a Mikveh prior to its first use, since it comes in contact with the Seder food.
19) It is preferable to obtain the nicest Ka’arah possible. Many use a silver Ka’arah.
20) The view of Rav Elazar Ben Tzadok (Pesachim 114a) is that charoses constitutes a mitzvah. The Gemara presents two explanations of Rav Elazar ben Tzadok’s opinion. One explanation is that the thick texture and cloudy color of the Charoses serve to recall the mortar that the Jewish slaves used for making bricks in Egypt. A second explanation is that the Charoses serves to remind us of the “Tapuchim” in Egypt. Rashi and Rashbam explain that the Jewish women in Egypt would painlessly and quietly give birth beneath the apple trees so that the Egyptians would not discover that a Jewish male was born. We follow the view of Rav Elazar Ben Tzadok.
21) The Rishonim (Tosafos, Tur etc.) write that Charoses is made from fruits mentioned in Tanach symbolizing the Jewish people (apples, figs, dates, walnuts, almonds and pomegranates, with some adding grapes and pears). The Ari z”l would eat Charoses comprised of grapes, figs, dates, nuts, apples, pomegranates and pears. The Ari z”l did mention that the common custom amongst Ashkenazim was to make Charoses comprised of nuts, apples and pears.(See Kol Bo and Kaf Hachaim 473:99)
22) As noted above, we explained that one of the reasons that we eat charoses is that the Charoses serves to remind us of the “Tapuchim” in Egypt. Rashi and Rashbam explain that the Jewish women in Egypt would painlessly and quietly give birth beneath the apple trees so that the Egyptians would not discover that a Jewish male was born.
23) It should be noted that Tosafos (Taanis 29b) explains that the Biblical word “Tapuach” refers to a citrus fruit, like an esrog or an orange. This view of Tosafos was also cited by Harav Yosef Dov Soloveichick zt”l. (Nefesh Harav 209) It is for this reason that Rav Hershel Schachter shlit”a (in a shiur) maintains that if one wants to be accurate, he should use oranges (or other citrus fruits) for the charoses. Harav Avraham Blumenkrantz zt”l adds that in many Sefardic homes apples are not used at all for the Charoses. And that those who do use apples for the Charoses should also include some citrus fruit or juice. However, this does not seem to be the common custom.
24) The Gemara in Pesachim continues and teaches that we should add spices to the Charoses to remind us of the straw in Egypt. The Rama (473:5) writes that the custom is to add cinnamon and ginger. The Baal Hatania explains that these spices resemble straw because even after they are grated and ground they are in strandlike form, similar to straw.
25) Although the common custom is to use powdered cinnamon and ground ginger, it would seem that using powdered cinnamon and ground ginger would not be a proper fulfillment of this custom, as they are no longer strandlike. Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Hagaddah Kol Dodi page 66) writes, “Semi-ground, long-shaped spices such as cinnamon and ginger should alos be added, since they symbolize the straw that the Israelites had to work with. As of this writing, unground cinnamon or ginger is not widely available in America, so people season the charoses with ground cinnamon. But this is needless because ground spices do not symbolize straw. I am surprised that we neglect to enhance our mitzvah performance by obtaining this ingredient. In Mishnaic times the peddlers of Jerusalem would call out, ‘Come and get your spices for the mitzvah!’ (Pesachim 116a). As of this writing, however, these spices in their unground form have become available and can be used for charoses.”
26) As cited in the previous halachos, the fruit is chopped up and ground in a thick mixture, in order to resemble the mortar that the Jewish slaves made in Egypt. However, if it were to remain thick one would not be able to dip the Marror in the Charoses. It is for that reason that we add red wine to the Charoses in order to thin it out. The red wine content of the charoses also serves to recall the first of the ten plagues – the plague of blood. (Chayei Adam 130:4)
27) The Chayei Adam and Chok Yaakov write that one should bring the Charoses to the table while it is thick and right before one is ready to dip in it the Marror one adds the wine.
28) When Pesach falls on Shabbos the wine should be added before Shabbos. If one forgot to add the wine before Shabbos, the wine may be added on Shabbos in an abnormal way. Therefore, the wine should first be placed into the vessel and then the Charoses is added. He should not mix it with a spoon or other utensil, but should mix it by using his finger or by shaking the vessel. (Chayei Adam ibid.)
29) On the eve of Pesach in the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem, two sacrifices (Korban Pesach and Korban Chagigah) were offered and their meat roasted and eaten at the Seder meal. After the destruction of the Temple, the Sages instituted the practice of placing two kinds of cooked foods on the Seder plate, one to commemorate the meat of the Pesach offering and one to commemorate the meat of the Chagigah offering. (See Pesachim 114b)
30) The custom has developed to use a shankbone to symbolize the Korban Pesach and an egg to symbolize the Korban Chagigah. (S.A. 473:5)
31) The reason that the shankbone is used is that, aside from recalling the Korban Pesach, it also corresponds to the human arm, symbolizing the “outstreched arm” of Hashem. (M.B. 27)
32) Above we mentioned that the custom is to place a shankbone on the Seder plate to commemorate the Korban Pesach. Although the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries write that the custom is to use a shankbone, many Chassidim actually use parts of a chicken in stead. The custom of Belz Chassidim is to use the drumstick of a chicken. The custom of Ropshitz, Sanz, Amshinav, Spinka, Satmar and Sigat Chassidim it to use a chicken wing. And the custom of Chabad, Karlin and Ziditchov Chassidim is to use a chicken neck. (Netai Gavriel Pesach vol. 2 69:1) I believe that the reason that these chassidim chose to use a chicken and not the standard shankbone is in order to avoid any similarity to the korban pesach, which may not be sacrificed outside of the Beis Hamikdosh. (See Haggadah Chabad)
33) If one does not have a shankbone he should take any other meat, even not on the bone. (M.B. 27)
34) A bone without meat does not constitute as a dish. Therefore, one must make sure that there is meat on the bone. (Ran on Pesachim 114b) The custom of Chabad Chassidim is to remove most of the meat and only leave over a small amount of meat. This is again in order to avoid any similarity to the Korban Pesach.
35) The Chaya Adam (cited by M.B. 32) writes that it is not proper to throw away the shankbone, it should be eaten on the second day of Yom Tov, by day. Indeed, in the Haggadah of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a (page 19), it states “Rav Chaim makes sure that the zeroa, the roasted bone that was placed on the Seder plate, is eaten on Yom Tov, to ensure that it will not go to waste, as that would be a disgrace for this item, which was used for a mitzvah.”
36) Many people roast the shankbone before Yom Tov and use the same shankbone for both sedarim. And in many cases the shankbone, after sitting out for two days has become repulsive. Care should be taken to avoid this (by the use of refrigeration between the two sedarim). Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Haggadah Kol Dodi) writes, “Indeed, to my mind, one does not even fulfill the mitzvah to remember the Pesach sacrifice the second night if the shankbone is not fit to eat.”
37) As noted above, the custom is to place an egg on the Seder plate in order to commemorate the Korban Chagigah. There are two reasons that we use an egg as the second cooked dish. A) The first reason is that the Aramaic word for egg (בֵיעָא) is related to the Aramaic word for desire (בָעָא)- God desired to take us out of Egypt with an outstretched arm. B) In addition, the egg is a mourners food. Therefore, an egg is used to symbolize our mourning for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh and our inability to offer the Korban Pesach and the Korban Chagigah. (S.A. 473:5 and M.B. 23)
38) The Tanaim (Pesachim 70a) disagree how the Korban Chagigah was prepared. According to the Sages the Korban can be either boiled or roasted. While according to Ben Teima the Chagigah must be roasted similar to the Korban Pesach. The Shulchan Aruch (473:4) writes that the egg, symbolizing the Korban Chagigah, can be either boiled or roasted, in accordance with the view of the Sages that both preparations were permitted for the Chagigah. This is also the view of the Ben Ish Chai (Tzav 30) and is the custom of Chabad, Karlin, Lelov, Belz and Vishnitz Chassidim. (Netai Gavriel page 340) The Rama however, notes that the common custom is to roast the egg, in order to also accommodate the view of Ben Teima. This is the common custom amongst Ashkenazim.
39) Preferably, one should not use cooked wine for the Four Cups unless this wine is superior to the other wines which are available. (M.B. 472:39)
40) Many poskim prohibit any uncooked wine that is touched by a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbos. Therefore, if there are those at the Seder who publicly desecrate Shabbos, one should use cooked wine for the ceremony. (See Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso 47:19:91 and Umekareiv Biyamin 10 for a full discussion) The poskim debate whether pasteurized wine has the status of cooked wine in Halacha. According to Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:52) pasteurized wine is considered cooked and therefore is permitted even if it was touched by a non-Jew or a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbos. However, according to Harav Elyashiv zt”l (Kovetz Teshuvos 1 page 112) and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Minchas Shlomo 25) pasteurized wine is not considered cooked in halacha in regards to being touched by a non-Jew. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 8 Y.D. 15) writes that b’dieved one can rely on the opinion of Rav Moshe zt”l.
41) It is preferred to use red wine for the Four Cups. There are numerous reasons cited by the poskim: A) It says, (Mishlei 23:31) “Look not after a wine which is red”, indicating that a red wine is desirable quality is wine. B) In addition, red wine reminds us of the shedding of innocent blood which flowed when Pharaoh slaughtered the Jews. (M.B. 472:38) C) It serves as a reminder of the blood of the Korban Pesach and the blood of circumcision. (Ohr Zarua 256) D) Lastly, it serves as a reminder of the first plague of Blood. (Aishel Avraham 472:3 cited in Chazon Ovadia Pesach page 125) Tokay wine is also considered as red for this preference. (Halachos of Pesach Rav Shimon Eider page 221)
42) The Tur, Rama, Levush and Baal Hatania rule that if the white wine is of higher quality one should drink white wine. (Tur 472:11 and Kaf Hachaim) Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Haggadah Chazon Ovadia page 124) however, writes that the custom amongst the Sefardim today is to use red wine even if the white wine is of higher quality.
43) The poskim discuss whether one may use grape juice for the Four Cups. Those that oppose the use of grape juice do so for the following three reasons:
- A) The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states, “Rav Yehuda says that [the wine used for the Four Cups] should have the taste and appearance of wine.” The Rashbam explains that when Rav Yehuda required that it have “the taste of wine”, he was referring to the alcoholic taste of wine. Accordingly, grape juice, which does not cause intoxication would not qualify as most preferable. B) According to some authorities, including the Mordechai and Harav Chaim Shabsai, one must drink ,”יין המשמח” wine that brings joy. The poskim explain that the property of wine that causes it to “bring joy” is the alcohol. Therefore, argues Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l one should not use grape juice for the Four Cups since it does not “bring joy”. (See Mekraei Kodesh Pesach vol. 2 page 130) C) The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states that one who drinks wine [of the time of the Gemara] without diluting it fulfills the mitzvah of drinking wine, but does not fulfill the requirement of “חירות”, the drink of free men. The opinion of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l is that one who drinks grape juice fulfills the requirement for the Four Cups, but does not fulfill the preferred requirement of חירות. (Kol Dodi 3:4)
44) Harav Shlomo Zalman Braun zt”l, however, disagrees with the assertion of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. He writes that the common custom is to drink grape juice for the Four Cups. He adds that one demonstrates freedom by drinking the wine drink that is the most pleasant to you. If one prefers grape juice over wine, then he should drink grape juice as that is what a free man would do. On the contrary, drinking wine when it is unpleasant is, in his opinion, is not a fulfillment of the preferred requirement of חירות (Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 118:1)
45) Harav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l likewise believes that one who does not enjoy wine should use grape juice for the Four Cups. (Oral ruling cited by Rabbi Menachem Genack shlit”a Mesorah 12) Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Hebrew Haggadah page 96) was also of the opinion that one may use grape juice for the Four Cups. Similarly, Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:243) relates that Rav Dov Berish Weidenfeld zt”l (the Tchebiner Rav), the Brisker Rav and the Chazon Ish all used grape juice for the Four Cups. Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a (Pesach vol. 2 Chapter 71:6) also writes that according to the Tzelemer Rav, grape juice is acceptable even l’chatchilah [as a first option]. For practical Halacha, a rav should be consulted.
46) As noted above, there is a debate amongst the poskim whether one may use grape juice for the Four Cups. The question is according to those who maintain that one should not drink grape juice what is the halacha if drinking wine will cause discomfort and drinking grape juice will not. In this case should one push himself to drink wine or may one drink grape juice. According to Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l one should drink wine (Haggadah Kol Dodi 3:8), while Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Haggadah Chazon Ovadia page 125) maintains that in this situation it is preferable to use grape juice.
47) Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlit”a (Haggadah Minchas Chein page 64) writes that if one is unable to drink wine without discomfort, he should mix the wine with grape juice, as long as the alcoholic taste of the wine can still be detected. This way one will be able to avoid any discomfort while still drinking the alcoholic drink of wine. However, as noted above, there were poskim who maintained that one may initially drink grape juice.
48) However, one who may become bedridden and ill from drinking wine, should not drink wine. He is, however, required to drink grape juice or Chamar Medinah, if it would not cause him to become bedridden. (Hilchos Pesach Rav Shimon Eider page 221)
49) One should use an elegant vessel (within his means) for the cup used for the Four Cups. (S.A. 472:2)
50) Most people use a silver cup for the Four Cups since silver is a very elegant material. The Kaf Hachaim (472:11) adds that silver is also beneficial kabbalistically.
51) Harav Nosson Gestetner zt”l (4:25) was asked whether there is any potential issue with using a gold cup for the Four Cups. The person who sent him the letter mentioned that the Zohar seems to indicate that for kabbalistic reasons one should not use a gold cup. However, Harav Gestetner zt”l elaborates that for halachic purposes there is no issue with using a gold cup. On the contrary, it is commendable to use gold as it is very elegant and valuable. Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a (Netai Gavriel page 342) reports that the Rebbes’ of Square and Satmer had the custom of using gold cups.
52) The Avnei Nezer had the custom to use a glass (or crystal) cup so that the red wine is visible. This is also the custom of Sanz and Komarna Chassidim. Interestingly, in the Haggadah of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a it says, “At the Seder, Rav Chaim does not pour the wine into a silver Kiddush cup as he does the whole year. Rather, following his father’s custom, he pours the wine into a glass, which he places in a silver cup. As a result, the wine is visible, as dictated by Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 183:4).” However, as noted above the common custom is to use a silver cup.
53) 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 vegetable 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.
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.
54) 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)
55) 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 washing 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.
56) 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.
57) Previously we mentioned that 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. 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)
58) After Urchatz we do not recite the blessing of Al Netilas Yadayim. Yet, one should still not talk from the time that he washes his hands until after eating the Karpas. (Opinion of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l in Chazon Ovadia page 236) It is for this reason that many recite the simanim “Urchatz Karpas” before washing his hands, since he should not speak after washing his hands. (Seder Haaruch page 313)