Forgot to Recline by the Seder

Ask the Rov: I forgot to lean while drinking a cup at the seder. Must I repeat it?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

At the seder, we commemorate redemption and freedom with 4 cups of wine and matza of motzi matzakorech, and afikoman. When eating those items, we recline (heseiba) as royalty do since we are obligated to present ourselves as if we are now leaving the servitude of Egypt. The bracha over those foods, like the rest of the hagada, should be recited while sitting upright out of respect. The Alter Rebbe mentions that one who reclines the entire meal is praiseworthy, but that is not common practice.1

The reclining is done to the left side for two reasons:

(1) since one needs his right hand to eat; and (2) so food doesn’t enter the windpipe and cause one to choke. Due to this latter safety reason, lefties also recline to their left side despite the inconvenience for eating.2

In Talmudic times, it wasn’t common for the average woman to recline, and doing so wouldn’t reflect freedom; only prominent women, who customarily reclined while eating, would be obligated to do so by the seder. Today, although all women conduct themselves as “prominent,” it is not Ashkenazic custom for them to recline. This is because some hold that the obligation of heseiba only existed in earlier times when prominent people customarily recline while eating, but not in the present age. Women customarily rely on this opinion, possibly since it never applied to them.3 Yet, they must eat and drink the seder items while sitting at the table and not while standing.4

If one forgets to recline while eating these items, one must repeat that step. Yet, since the obligation to recline nowadays is a machlokes, one shouldn’t repeat it at the expense of causing another halachic issue. Thus, one should not repeat the drinking of cups 3 or 4, since drinking another cup with a bracha gives the impression of adding an extra kos. With the first kos, one should repeat it only if he had in mind to drink more and does not need to make a new bracha.5

The requirement to recline at korech is questionable since it includes both matza and maror. Although the custom is to recline, one need not repeat it if he forgot.6 For afikoman, some hold it doesn’t require heseiba, while others write that one can should re-eat it if he realized before bentching.7 The Alter Rebbe rules that one may rely on the lenient view.8

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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