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When were the Passover Seder customs in their present form formalized?

As a terminus post quem I think we can surely take 70 CE when the Second Temple was destroyed since parts of the Seder wistfully invoke the memory of the Temple rituals.

However, I'm pretty sure the ritual took some time to codify, by analogy with the Mishnah and later religious law books.

  • We know the passing of the cup and bread was part of a Passover meal in about AD30, but we don't know what the standard wording was at the time. – Ian Ringrose Apr 27 '16 at 13:53
  • "Next Year in Jerusalem" at the end is lickly to have been added after the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem. (But they have been expelled at least two times.) – Ian Ringrose Apr 27 '16 at 13:54
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    @IanRingrose Can you please cite your source? – Felix Goldberg Apr 27 '16 at 16:55
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This is a tricky question to answer! Based solely on textual evidence, the core component of the Passover seder - the haggadah - is not written out in full until the siddur of Rav Saadiah Gaon in the 10th century, and it certainly undergoes some modification since then. Other ancient versions of the haggadah can be found in the Machzor Vitry (11th century, Rhineland) and Maimonides' Mishne Torah (12th century, Egypt), amongst other places.

These haggadot are based upon the written traditions recorded in the Talmud, but are also indicative of evolving practical customs - such customs being impossible to date. The printed Talmudic material is all found in Tractate Pesachim, and comprises a commentary on that tractate in the Mishna. (The Mishnaic material achieved its final form at the beginning of the 3rd century.)

If you are interested, the relevant material is found in the tenth chapter of Pesachim in the Mishna. I have not checked the following translation, so cannot vouch for it, but here is that entire chapter as a PDF. If you would like to see this material as codified by Maimonides, it can be found in his Laws of Leavened and Unleavened Bread (Hilkhot Chametz uMatzah), chapter 8. This is a reliable translation. The following chapter, chapter 9, contains his version of the haggadah.

You might notice that I still haven't actually answered your question! Some time between the compilation of the Mishna and the formation of Rav Saadiah Gaon's siddur, we have the composition of the haggadah as we know it. It is comprised of a patchwork of different rabbinic sources - a type of midrash, in its genre. So far as the rest of the ritual is concerned, some of that is clearly pre-mishnaic (since it is recorded in the Mishna), while some of it is Talmudic. Some parts of the seder - such as the singing of certain songs - are later still. (The Aramaic song, Chad Gadya, is actually based on a German folk song, for example, and is clearly written at such a time as Aramaic was not spoken.)

If you would like to read more, I would recommend the introduction to Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi's Haggadah and History.

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Respectfully, I doubt that your question can be easily answered. Alas, my reply does not fit into a comment, so here you go.

The Jewish tradition is alive in Jewish homes; it keeps evolving as we speak. Grab a Chabad edition of Haggadah Shel Pesach and you will find there many additions and elaborations by various Hassidic authorities over the last 2 centuries.

If you limit your question to the 15 items recited in the beginning (Berach ... Nirtza), then chances are some of them are relatively recent (few centuries), since they have no ritual meaning other than to arise curiosity in kids and inspire them to ask questions (BTW, the 4 questions were 3 questions 1000 years ago).

The Maggid part is almost verbatim from the Gemorah, so it is about 1500 years old.

PS. You might have more luck on Mi Yodea.

  • Very interesting - where can I read more about the 4 questions starting out as 3? Plus, I'm mostly curious about the 4 cups - do you have more information on them? – Felix Goldberg Apr 27 '16 at 6:38
  • 3 questions: livelyseders.com/id79.html – sds Apr 27 '16 at 11:36

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