Three melodies for the Order of the Seder
March 14, 2012
In honor of Pesach being just around the corner, I wanted to share a few Pesach melodies. Specifically, here are three different melodies one can use for singing the order of the seder. You probably know already that the word "seder" means order, from the Hebrew לסדר / l'sader, "to arrange." And there's a set order to the proceedings: fifteen steps from beginning to end.
Why fifteen? Fifteen were the steps up to the Temple, once upon a time, which were understood to correspond to 15 songs of ascent found in psalms. The Hebrew number fifteen can be spelled either as ט''ו / 9+6 or as י''ה / 10+5 -- and that latter spelling also spells "Yah," a name of God. The folks at Aish.com note that "The Sages say that Passover occurs on the 15th of Nissan (the Jewish month), to teach us that just as the moon waxes for 15 days, so too our growth must be in 15 gradual steps. Think of these as 15 pieces of the Passover puzzle." To me, the fifteen steps of the seder are like gates through which we pass on the evening's spiritual journey: from kadesh, kicking things off by reciting the kiddush and thereby sanctifying time, all the way to nirtzah, the seder's conclusion.
In recent years I've borrowed a custom I learned from Hazzan Jack Kessler and Rabbi Marcia Prager at the seder they led at Elat Chayyim some years ago. In my seder, as we reach each of these gates, we sing through the 15 steps (start to finish), and then sing the melody again, as far as whererever we are on the journey. So the first time we do it, we sing all fifteen steps, and then just sing the first one. The second time, it's all fifteen and then the first two. Then all fifteen and the first three. And so on. It can be hard to remember to stop singing, especially as the evening's four glasses of wine are consumed, so hilarity sometimes ensues!
Anyway, the melody I use for that practice is this one. I don't know its origin, but here you go:
The second melody I want to offer is the one I learned as a child. This is the one I used to sing at seder with my family when I was a kid. Alas, I don't know its provenance either, but I like it:
Order of the seder - from my childhood
And the third melody I have to offer is the melody for the hymn "Sanctuary." (I've shared it here before -- for a post on Brich Rachamana.) Here's how the order of the seder can be sung to that tune:
Order of the seder - to Sanctuary
If any of these melodies speak to you, please feel free to take them and use them in your seder this year. (And if you use a different melody for this part of the seder, feel free to record it and leave a link here, or point to it on YouTube if you can find it there -- I'm always interested in different ways of singing familiar words...)