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I know many families have both a first night seder and a second night seder with a separate set of guests. How flexible is this? If a family has travel constraints, could they just have a 5th night seder, while following the other laws for the whole period?

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    The seder is a meal on the first night. Outside of Israel, there was historical doubt about the timing of the first night so 2 nights were observed, so two seders were required, but only because of the possibility that each night was the actual first night. – rosends Mar 22 at 16:32
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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. We hope you stick around and explore all we have to offer. – LN6595 Mar 22 at 16:33
  • BTW, check out the Shulchan Aruch 472 which discusses the reclining and the four cups of wine and forward to see the laws and the fact that they are part of the first night's observance. As to days of the week when the first night can happen, look up Lo Adu Rosh v'lo badu regel. dailyhalacha.com/m/halacha.aspx?id=1143 – rosends Mar 22 at 17:05
  • What does the separate families/guests on each night have to do with the question of when a seder can occur? When you say, "How flexible is this", do you mean the separate guests or the nights? – Rafael Mar 22 at 17:15
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    The separate guests was just commented on to give flavour to what I've seen. It's really the different night that was pertinent – Steven Noble Mar 22 at 17:17
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Halacha requires that one have a seder with certain elements on the evening of Pesach, meaning the first night (and second in the diaspora). An article from Aish HaTorah lists the mitzvot that are obligatory then:

There are actually seven different mitzvot that we perform at the Seder. Two are from the Torah:

1) telling the Exodus story 2) eating matzah

The other mitzvot are rabbinical:

3) eating Marror (bitter herbs)

4) eating the Afikomen (an extra piece of matzah for dessert as a reminder of the Passover offering)

5) saying Hallel (Psalms of praise)

6) drinking the Four Cups of wine

7) demonstrating acts of freedom and aristocracy ― e.g. sitting with a pillow cushion and leaning as we eat and drink, and beginning the meal "with a dip."

A guide from Star-K includes more details (with citations) of the halacha, including timing. All of this takes as given that you will hold the seder on that night; the timing details are about how early or late you can do things, not about deferring to another day.

Now, there's nothing that says your seder needs to be a big, elaborate thing. I've heard of people who couldn't go to a larger family gathering who just made a small one at home with just a couple people. If your family can't gather until later, don't skip the obligations of the first night(s) -- do something then, and if you want to do something else later, you can.

However, if you're holding a seder-like gathering other than on the first night(s), you need to be careful to avoid making blessings in vain. The fifth night of Pesach isn't yom tov, so making kiddush then would be inappropriate. Similarly, some of the other b'rachot refer to obligations that you will not actually have on that night. Consult your rabbi for what specific changes you need to make. But since the main point of the seder is to tell the story, you can still have a meaningful gathering even if it's not actually a seder.

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