Now it’s time for the traditional questions, chanted by the youngest child. Basically these ask, “Why is this night different from all others?”
Why do we eat matzohs?
Why must we have bitter herbs?
Why do we dip greens into salt water?
Why do we recline on pillows?
The leader then recites the history of the Hebrew nation, from Abraham to Moses. He tells about the slavery in Egypt, and God’s deliverance. When he lists the ten plagues, everyone spills a drop of wine into a cup — one for each plague. When the description is over, they all sing and clap a happy song, praising God. They recite Psalms 113 and 114 (the Hallel). Then they drink from the second wine-goblet (the cup of praise).
There’s more ceremonial washing and eating matzoh, bitter herbs and sweet charoseth. Now the hostess clears the table of the ceremonial items (but leaves the wine-goblets), and brings out the main dinner. This is a little like our big meals at Thanksgiving, etc. — it contains whatever fancy dishes the family enjoys.
When the meal is finished, the hostess clears the dishes. Now it’s time for the search for the aphikomen (the buried half- matzoh). This is done by the children, who make a game of it. Adults call out clues, “You’re getting close,” etc. (Of course, they all saw the host hide it, so the contest is only ritual.) The youngest is usually allowed to find it, and receives a gift.
The host breaks off olive-size pieces of matzoh from the aphikomen and distributes them to all. They each eat it, in a reverent manner. Sometimes there is a blessing, “In memory of the Passover sacrifice, eaten after one is sated.”
(This is the point during the Last Supper at which Jesus broke the bread and passed bits to His disciples; however, Jesus added the significant words given in Luke 22:19),
“This is my body which is given for you.”
The host now takes the third cup of wine, “the cup of redemption,” or “the cup of blessing,” and offers the main table grace blessing. (In Jewish tradition, the main blessing comes after the meal.) Then they all drink from the third cup.
At the Last Supper, this is the place referred to in Luke 22:20,
“Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you’.”
There is a fourth wine-goblet at the table, that hasn’t been used until now. This is called “the cup of Elijah.” There is also an empty chair, waiting for Elijah to come. This is done because of the promise contained at the end of the Old Testament, in Malachi 4:5,6 :
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Messianic expectations run very high among the Jewish people, especially at Passover time. The children of the house then make a ritual of going and looking closely at the cup, to see if Elijah has come and sipped some. One of the children goes to the door, opens it, and looks for Elijah. Everyone says, “Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the LORD!”
The host then leads in the recitation of the second part of the Hallel — Psalms 115-118, then the Great Hallel, Psalm 136. Everyone drinks from the fourth cup of wine. After one more prayer of blessing (that contains the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem”) the Passover celebration is finished.