(a) Time:

It has been a tradition in the household of the respective Rebbeim, handed down from generation to generation, to begin the First Seder immediately after Maariv and not to dwell on it at length, so that the Afikoman will be eaten before midnight. The Second Seder, by contrast, begins later in the evening, and the Rebbe speaks at length — expounding the Haggadah, sharing Torah insights, and arousing his listeners in their Divine service.1

(b) The Seder Plate (Ke’arah):

The Matzos: In the Rebbe’s household the [three] matzos are placed not on a plate but on a cloth, except for the matzos of the Rebbe, which are placed on a silver tray.2 It is customary to choose concave matzos, suggesting the shape of a vessel which can serve as a fit receptacle [for the downward flow of Divine light]. The matzos are separated from each other by napkins.

The Bone (Zeroa): We use part of the neckbone of a fowl, and make a point of not eating any of its meat — in order to avoid any similarity to the Paschal sacrifice [which cannot be offered in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash]. For this reason the Previous Rebbe would remove almost all the meat from the bones of the zeroa.

The Egg (Beitzah): The egg is cooked until hard. It is eaten, in commemoration of the Chagigah, even when erev Pesach falls on Shabbos, despite the fact that in Temple times this festival sacrifice was not offered when these days coincided.

Charoses: For some years now ginger and cinnamon have not been included, for fear of some admixture of chametz during their processing. The ingredients used are apples, pears, nuts [and red wine].

Karpas: Our custom is to use [raw] onion (or [boiled] potato).

The Bitter Herbs (Maror and Chazeres): We use both chazeres (romaine lettuce) and horseradish for both maror and korech.

(c) Kiddush and Havdalah:

It is our custom to stand while reciting [the evening] Kiddush on Pesach and likewise on the eve of Shabbos and of all festivals.

For customs involving the Kiddush cup as practiced in the Rebbe’s household, see p. 55, above.

Even when a festival falls on a weekday, the text of Kiddush reads ומועדי (with the prefixed ו), just as on Shabbos the preceding word reads ושבת.

On Pesach one drinks the entire contents of the cup of wine (Bach, sec. 472) without pause (Magen Avraham, loc. cit.). This is the custom in the Rebbe’s household, and it applies equally to the remaining three cups.

The custom in the Rebbe’s household when a festival falls at the conclusion of Shabbos is not to place the lights next to each other for Havdalah, nor to join them at their wicks, nor to look at one’s fingernails. When reciting the blessing בורא מאורי האש one merely looks at each of the candles.

(d) Text and Procedure:

The Kittel: It is not our custom to wear a kittel (white robe) for the Seder, nor to be particular about which direction one faces.

Eating the Karpas: The karpas is eaten without reclining. The Rebbe Shlita notes that at the table of the Previous Rebbe he did not observe that the remaining pieces of karpas were replaced on the Seder plate; thus from this point on only five items remain.

Yachatz: The [middle] matzah is broken while still covered in its napkin.

Afikoman: The Rebbe Rashab (and it goes without saying that his son, the Previous Rebbe, did likewise) used to break the Afikoman into five pieces. When it once happened to break into six pieces, he placed one aside.

Some have a custom whereby children snatch the Afikoman [and then ransom it in exchange for a gift], but this is not done in the Rebbe’s household.

Maggid (Recitation of the Haggadah): In the Rebbe’s household the tray is not raised, but the matzos are partly uncovered.

הא לחמא: The former word is vocalized with a tzeirei.

לשנה הבאה...הבאה: In the first הבאה the Rebbe Rashab would stress the second syllable, whereas in the second הבאה he would stress the third syllable.3

Mah Nishtanah: Our custom is to preface this passage with the following in Yiddish: “Father, I’m going to ask you four questions.” This is said even if the father is no longer living. The passage is then read and translated in paraphrase, as follows:

מה נשתנה...הלילות" — ‘Why is this night of Pesach different than any other night of the year?’ The first question is: שבכל הלילות אין אנו...שתי פעמים (the א of אנו being vocalized with a kamatz) — ‘On all other nights of the year we do not dip...we do so twice: the first time we dip karpas in saltwater, and the second time we dip maror in charoses!’ The second question is:....”

After the youngest present had finished reciting the Mah Nishtanah as above, the Previous Rebbe would repeat it in an undertone, complete with its introduction and Yiddish translation.

“The cup is now raised” [before Vehi SheAmdah]: The custom of the Rebbe’s household is that the matzah is covered first, and only then is the cup raised, in keeping with the instruction at the end of this paragraph, that “the cup is replaced and the matzah uncovered.” This procedure applies also to the paragraph that begins with לפיכך.

דצ"ך אד"ש באח"ב: One spills a little wine from the cup as each of these acronyms is read, and only thereafter is wine added to the cup.

“One holds the broken matzah in his hand and says: מצה זו...; [one takes the maror in his hand and says:] מרור זה...”: The custom in the Rebbe’s household is to hold the middle and lower matzos in their covering until the second על שום of the former paragraph. When mentioning the bitter herbs, however, it is the custom in the Rebbe’s household to rest one’s hands on the maror, as well as on the maror to be used for the korech — until the second על שום of the latter paragraph.

“One covers the matzah [and raises the cup]” [before Lefichach]: Siddur Torah Or, p. 188b, cites a gloss of the Tzemach Tzedek on this phrase: “And one holds it until the conclusion of the blessing, געל ישראל.” According to the custom of the Rebbe’s household, however, the cup is held only until one has concluded saying ונאמר לפניו הללוי-ה. It is then replaced on the table, and taken up again for the blessing that begins, ברוך...אשר גאלנו.

When reciting the blessing על אכילת מצה one has in mind that it refers [not only to the kazayis of matzah about to be eaten but] also to [the korech and to] the Afikoman [at the end of the meal]. Nevertheless, though one should avoid any irrelevant talk before eating the korech, it is not the custom in the Rebbe’s household to extend this stringency to the eating of the Afikoman.

“One then breaks off a kazayis from each [of the two upper matzos]”: Both are used, because some hold that the kazayis (one ounce; 25.6 grams) that one is required to eat should come from the upper matzah, while others hold that it should come from the middle one.

“One does not dip [the matzah] in salt”: This is the custom in the Rebbe’s household.4

“And they are eaten together”: I.e., [the kazeisim from the two upper matzos] are put into the mouth simultaneously. This way there will be no interval between the blessing for eating matzah and the eating of the relevant kazayis which, as explained above, comes from either the upper matzah or the second. (Tur Shulchan Aruch.)

“Maror (the bitter herb)...is dipped in charoses”: Only then does one recite the blessing, so that the mitzvah [of eating maror] should immediately follow it. It is preferable not to dip the whole kazayis of maror in charoses, so that the bitter taste will not be neutralized.

“And one recites the blessing, עך אכילת מרור”: When reciting this blessing it is our custom to bear in mind the maror of korech as well.5

“Korech (the sandwich of matzah and maror)...is dipped in charoses”: The chazeres alone is dipped, but not the matzah. Those who are most particular about keeping their matzah dry do not dip, but put some dry charoses on the chazeres, and then shake it off. This is the custom in the Rebbe’s household.

Shulchan Orech (The Festive Meal): Our custom is to eat the festive meal without reclining. On both nights one starts the meal with the egg (from the Seder plate) dipped in saltwater.

“Particular heed is to be taken to avoid wetting the matzah”:6 For this reason the matzos on the table are kept covered, so that no drop of water should fall on them, and so that no matzah crumbs should fall into any water or soup. Likewise, before pouring water, or other liquids containing water, into a cup or plate, one should check for any crumbs of matzah.

The Rebbe Rashab would never eat [shemurah] matzah together with fish or meat lest it become wet, though he did eat matzah together with wine.

When washing the hands in the middle of the meal, and so too at mayim acharonim [at the end of the meal], one does not pass one’s fingers across the lips [as one usually does]. (This applies to the first seven days of Pesach, but not to Acharon shel Pesach, the eighth day, when we make a point of wetting matzah.)

Tzafun (Eating the Afikoman): Ideally one should eat two kazeisim — one to commemorate the Paschal Lamb Offering (the Korban Pesach), and the other to commemorate the matzah that was eaten together with it. (The Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 477:3.) This is the practice of the Rebbe’s household.

If one finds this difficult, and therefore will eat only one kazayis, he should intend that it serve to commemorate which-ever of the above two subjects is ultimately the one requiring commemoration.

“One must be mindful not to drink after the Afikoman”: The unqualified expression “not to drink” in the Alter Rebbe’s Siddur implies that (a) even water is to be avoided, and that (b) this restriction applies equally to the Second Seder. This, indeed, is the accepted practice.

Hallel: It is not the custom in the Rebbe’s household to make a point of completing the recitation of Hallel before midnight (in contrast to the eating of Afikoman on the first night).

Bareich (The Grace After Meals): For the relevant customs and textual variants, see p. 43ff., above.

The Cup of Elijah: The cup is filled after Grace (except [in the Rebbe’s household] at certain times). The Previous Rebbe, following the tradition of all his forebears, made a point of filling this cup himself.

“And the door is opened”: The custom in the Rebbe’s household is that (when Pesach falls on a weekday, a lighted candelabrum is taken in hand, and) all the doors between the room where the Seder is conducted and the outside are opened. The passage beginning שפוך is then said, those sent to open the doors saying it at the front door. The Previous Rebbe, accompanied by one of his household, once went to open the door himself, and on that occasion he recited this passage at the door.

Those who were sent to open the doors are waited for, and the following passage (beginning לא לנו) is recited on their return.

There is no need to stand while saying שפוך חמתך.

The four verses beginning הודו לה': The elder of the household (or the cantor, whenever Hallel is recited in shul throughout the year) says the first verse, and all those present respond by repeating this verse and proceeding to say the second. The leader, having repeated the first verse together with his listeners, then says the second verse; those present again respond by saying the first verse, but this time they proceed with the third verse. The same procedure applies to the remaining two verses.

The four phrases beginning אנא: Each of these phrases is first said by the leader, and then repeated by all those present.

The second passage beginning with הודו לה' (the Great Hallel; i.e., Tehillim 136): [In the Great Hallel, whose verses total 26, the numerical equivalent of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d], one bears in mind the letter י [which equals ten] while reading the first ten verses, the letter ה [five] while reading the next five verses, and so forth, [as indicated in the Siddur; i.e., the letter ו (six) while reading the next six verses, and the letter ה (five) while reading the final five verses].

It is not the custom in the Rebbe’s household to recite the concluding hymns which are to be found in most Siddurim and Haggados.

After saying לשנה הבאה בירושלים (“Next year in Jerusalem!”) the Rebbe customarily pours the wine from the Cup of Elijah back into the bottle, while all those present sing א-לי אתה ואודך to the tune which is one of the ten melodies composed by the Alter Rebbe.

One does not say חסל סידור פסח (“The order of Pesach is now completed”7 ).