For many Jews, the Passover seder ends with the afikomen. But the broken piece of matzah simply marks the transition from the meal to the prayerful part of the seder.
“So much of what people know of a seder happens before the meal, but really so much does happen after the afikomen, or the dessert,” says Elizabeth Kurtz, author of the new book Celebrate that includes many kosher-for-Passover recipes.
Robert Kopman, author of the 30 Minute Seder, says his book is geared toward the Reform audience, which he finds doesn’t generally stick around after the afikomen.
“After the afikomen you’re finished. You eat dinner and that’s it,” says Kopman. “I have yet to meet anybody who is able to get anybody to come back to finish the seder after dinner. That’s just the reality of it. People just won’t come back.”
Here are five things that happen at the seder table after the afikomen:
Birkat hamazon, the prayer after the meal, is recited over the third glass of wine, before Hallel is sung.
Hallel, or praise, is recited from Psalms 113 to 118. Hallel is sung over the fourth cup of wine, according to Kopman. The Kiddush is recited over the first cup; the Exodus story from the Haggadah is told over the second cup.
“We eat the afikomen, of course, and then we go on to do the final parts of the seder. For us that’s Hallel, the praising,” says Kurtz.
Cup of Elijah
The fifth and final cup is called Kos shel Eliyahu haNavi, or cup of Elijah the prophet. In many traditions, the front door is opened. At some seders, a cup is set out for the prophet Miriam as well.
Counting the omer
Beginning at the second seder, sefirat ha’omer, or counting of the omer, begins. According to Leviticus 23:15, Jews are commanded to count the days from Passover to Shavuot.
Nirtzah, or conclusion, of the seder involves joyously exclaiming, “L’shana haba’a b’Yerushalayim,” which means “Next year in Jerusalem.”
“We sing these amazing songs, and we sing them as a family and so much of singing is just joyous,” says Kurtz. “We sing and we dance and we really celebrate that as Jews we were able to leave the enslavement of Egypt and live free.”
Rabbi Aaron Miller of Washington Hebrew Congregation says his favorite part of Passover is when the seder turns from the meal and Haggadah reading to the prayerful spirituality after the afikomen.
“It is not enough to read our ancestors’ story of redemption, especially as we look at the brokenness of our world and realize that healing is so far away,” says Miller. “When we pray for Elijah’s arrival to announce the world to come, we are declaring with no small measure of chutzpah that we still hold tight to our hope of redemption.”
Continues Miller, “This redemption is not some faraway wish. Peace, both for us and the world, is something we demand as the seder comes to a close. L’shana haba’a b’Yerushalayim — This very year, we pray, will be when we transform the world into what God always intended it to be.”