The Seder Simanim

The Haggadah is divided into a fixed series of distinct sections. To help those holding the Seder to remember the order, “simanim” – signs or mnemonics – were devised to indicate the order of proceedings.

Resource Ages: 6-8, 9-11


(Translation and explanations in Background for Teacher)

קַדֵּשׁ; וּרְחַץ; כַּרְפַּס; יַחַץ; מגִּיד; רַחְצָה; מוֹצִיא מַצָּה; מָרוֹר; כּוֹרֵךְ; שֻׁלְחָן עוֹרֵךְ; צָפוּן; בָּרֵךְ; הַלֵּל; נִרְצָה.

Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • How do family traditions play an important role in our lives?
  • How do Jewish practices reflect Jewish values?
  •  How does the idea that Jews everywhere celebrate the same holidays and pray the same prayers connect me to the Jewish community?

Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions

  • Why is the Seder important?
  • How does a structured ceremony enrich the celebration and add meaning?
  • How does the systemic organization of the Seder help us remember it?
  • How can I make the Seder more meaningful for me and my family?

Background for Teacher

The annual Seder comprises various sections, including ritual acts, foods, the reading of passages from the Haggadah, and so on. During the period of the Rishonim (11th century), “Simanim” were devised to remind people of the order of the evening and the different actions...

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The annual Seder comprises various sections, including ritual acts, foods, the reading of passages from the Haggadah, and so on. During the period of the Rishonim (11th century), “Simanim” were devised to remind people of the order of the evening and the different actions to be performed. “Simanim” literally means “signs,” but the word here refers to mnemonics or memory jogs – a word or two summing up each section. The Simanim are mentioned at the beginning of the Seder. Over time, melodies were attached to the Simanim to aid the memory process. Some people sing the list of Simanim at the beginning of the Seder, or when moving from one section to the next (singing the list up to the new section they have just reached). The Simanim rhyme -an additional aid to memory. Before the invention of printing, many of those attending the Seder would not have their own Haggadah, so the Simanim were particularly helpful in maintaining the order of ceremony. In modern times, a standardized list of 15 Simanim is universally accepted:

Kadesh – Sanctify: making kiddush over wine – the first of the Four Cups

U-rechatz – Wash: Washing of hands (without saying a blessing)

Karpas – Appetizer; Eating a green vegetable dipped in saltwater.

Yachatz – Break: Dividing the middle Matzah of the three into two parts, and hiding the Afikoman part to be found later.

Maggid – Tell: The main part of the Haggadah – telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Rachatzah – Wash: Washing the hands again, this time with the accompanying blessing.

Motzi Matzah – Blessing over Matzah: Blessing before eating Matzah and the usual blessing for bread (since Matzah is a form of bread).

Maror – Bitter Herbs: Eating the bitter herbs.

Korekh – Wrap: Eating Maror and Matzah together.

Shulchan Orekh – Set the Table: the festive meal.

Tzafun – Hidden: Finding the Afikoman.

Barekh – Bless: Reciting the festive Hallel service.

Nirtzeh – closing songs.

Optional Hooks
In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study
  • Give pairs of children cards with pictures of the various Seder Simanim (you could give each pair of children just half the cards). One person in each pair arranges the items in random order, and the other one has to memorize this order. The student setting the order writes down the order and then  mixes the items up again. The student who needs to remember the order has to try to arrange them again in the right order. When the class comes back together, ask the students to share the methods they used to remember the order of the items. After learning about the Simanim (through the discussion and activities below) check whether the students can remember the order of the stages of Seder Night. Did the song, the rhyme, and the meaning behind the Simanim help them to remember?
  • Listen to a version of the Simanim set to music (see the Further Study section for other melodies).

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.

  1. The meaning of the word Seder is order. The Seder ceremony organizes and orders the various actions and ceremonies that take place on this night. Do you like order? Why/why not?
    For older students: What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a specific order to the different parts of the Seder? Would you prefer to have a Seder without a predetermined order? Explain your answer.
  2. What contribution do the Simanim make? Try to suggest more than one answer.
  3. Do you use memory tricks or mnemonics? In what circumstances?
  4. What additional means can help us remember the order of the Seder?
  • The students can compose their own tune for the Simanim or “borrow” a tune from another song. They can also add hand movements representing each one of the Simanim.
  • Use the Simanim cards to revise the study content. The students need to arrange the cards in the correct order as quickly as possible.
  • Think about some additional Simanim that could be added to the list based on your memories of things that happen on Seder Night in your family. For example, a Siman for the time when your little brother goes to bed; when you are allowed to look for the Afikoman, etc.).
  • Have the students prepare signs or cards for the different Simanim that they can use on Seder Night. Alternatively, they could make placemats with the Simanim to use on Seder Night and to remember the order of the different parts of the Seder. Older students can write the name of the Siman on the placement and explain what each one means. In the center of the placemat the students can add their own drawings and additional Simanim based on what usually happens in their homes on Seder Night.
  • If you are holding a class Seder, illustrate the singing of the Simanim together when you start to read to Haggadah. Sing the song again each time you reach a new section, singing only up the section of the Seder that you have reached.
  • Teach melodies for the list of Simanim. For younger students, it may be best to choose one tune that will help them remember the order of the different stages of the Seder. Older students can listen to several tunes and choose the one they want to learn and use on Seder Night. You can also suggest that the students look online to find additional melodies.

Suggestions for melodies and video clips:

Rap melody – clip produced by the Orot Channel

Traditional Ashkenazi melodyand the same melody with accompanying graphics

Traditional Tunisian melody

Modern melody – video by iTaLam with the words and illustrations

Contemporary Israeli melody