The amazing customs of Lel-Haseder

  (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

The Torah passages and Israel's holidays are full of important messages that are relevant and empower our day-to-day lives. Rabbi Shai Tahan, head of the Sha'arei Ezra community and head of the Arzi HaLebanon teaching house, opens the gates for us to understand these messages, from their source, in a clear way. This week: The amazing customs of Lel-Haseder.

Lel-Haseder is the center of the Pesach feast, where virtually every family in the entire Jewish nation gets together around their respective holiday tables, to celebrate the big day. Although every one reads the same Haggadah and eats the same Matza, the customs of every community are very different. Let’s explore some of those very interesting customs.

Persian Jews have a custom to each take a bunch of scallions, and when they reach the point in the Haggadah speaking of what would have been had Hashem not taken us out of Mitzrayim, and start singing the ‘Ma-Nishtana’ the beating starts, as each raises his scallion and starts hitting the one sitting near him.

The Moroccan custom is to take the Seder plate and turn it around each person’s head, just like one does with the chickens of Kaparot before Yom Kippur.

Tunisians leave out some Charoset, and at the end of reading the Haggadah, they smear some on the doorpost by the Mezuzah.

Yemenites still have the kids say the ‘Ma-Nishtana’ in the Yemeni language, with a special reward for those who do a very good job….a boiled egg.

Those who came from Iraq have a special way to secure the Afikoman from anyone who might try to “steal” it, the head of the household appoints one of his kids as a guard over the Afikoman and warns him, that in the event the Afikoman is lost, stolen or eaten–he would have to pay a hefty fine; and for making sure it is not stolen he will receive a gift.

Bukharians have a similar custom, with a caveat–the head of the household takes a towel and hits the younger ones who succeeded in “stealing” the Afikoman, until they return it, usually in return for a nice gift. 

Syrian Jews, after reaching the point of splitting the Afikoman-Matza, they place that piece in a nice cloth bag and each person around the table takes turn performing the following ceremony: they place it over the left shoulder and say that this resembles the burden that was carried by the people upon coming out of Egypt. They are then asked: “Where did you come from?” and they respond “From Mitzrayim”, then they are asked “Where are you heading to?” and before responding, the person removes the bag from the left shoulder and places it on his right shoulder and then he says “To Yerushalayim!” and everyone around the table calls out that next year, we should all be in Yerushalayim with the coming of the Mashiach. May this happen very soon with Hashem’s help.

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel