Early Seder

I want to have a shortened version of the Passover Seder for my elderly father who needs to eat earlier and go to sleep. Can I have a Seder for him before the holiday begins? Can he eat matzah at that time?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Seder itself can only begin after nightfall. In fact, we are not allowed to eat matzah at all on the day before Passover (Rema O.C. 471:2).

If you want to begin early, the best you can do is sing some of the familiar songs from the end of the Haggadah before nightfall. But the first cup and kiddush must be done only after dark (with the appearance of 3 small stars, generally 40-50 minutes after sunset). You can begin the Seder immediately at that point. You can recite the Haggadah promptly until reaching the matzah, allowing your father to eat the matzah before going to sleep. (Sources: Abudraham Hagaddah, s.v. “Leilei HaPesach,” Minchat Yitzchak X 41:1.)

In terms of the Haggadah, your father should be able to understand the basic storyline. If need be, you can say only the most important sections, and say them in English. These are:

(a) “Mah Nishtanah” – The Four Questions.

(b) “Avadim hayinu” – The paragraph “We were slaves in Egypt.”

(c) “Mitchilah ovdei avodah zarah” (“At first we were idol-worshippers”) through “V’hi she’amdah” (“This is what stood up for our fathers and us”). (Preferably, one should continue with the verses and their elaboration, continuing until the listing of the plagues, but at least until “va’omair lach b’damayich chayi” (“And I said to you, with your blood you shall live”).)

(d) The listing of the 10 plagues.

(e) The three paragraphs Pesach, Matzah and Marror, continuing until the wine is drunk.

(Above based on R. Yitzchak Berkovits.)

Enjoy your Seder and may you and your father merit many more Passovers together! Next year in Jerusalem!

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