I am leading the Seder for my family, many whom are older people and young children who must be on a strict schedule. I.e., they have to eat by a certain time and must be asleep by a certain time, etc.

What are the minimal required parts of the Hagadah that must be said / done for halachic purposes / requirements? Here's what I assume:

  • 4 cups of wine
  • saying something about the yetzi'at mitzrayim - could be from the Hagadah or could this be even a d'var Torah?
  • Eating matzah (motzi matzah)
  • Eating maror
  • the meal / se'udah
  • bentching

In compiling the list, I am looking at the bare minimum required to fulfill sipur yetzi'at mitzrayim - telling the story of the Exodus, and the other "tangible" items / mitzvoth such as matzah & maror.

Note that I have eliminated intentionally a few items:

  • Karpas and washing hands beforehand (I think these are minhagim)
  • Rav Gamliel's statement of Pesach Matzah Maror. It is unclear to me how he derives that it is an absolute requirement to say these.
  • Afikoman & Yachatz (I don't know the source stating that afikoman is required. If no afikoman, then why would you need yachatz?)
  • Korech (even the phrasing in the hagadah seems to indicate that this is a minhag)
  • Hallel (is this required to fulfill the mitzvah of sippur yetzi'at mitzrayim?)
  • 10
    What is your standard for "halachic purposes/requirements"? For example, does Rabban Gamliel himself not count as a halachic source? Is anything that's not directly part of sippur yetzi-at mitzrayim (e.g. Hallel, according to your assumption) not halachic?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 13:56
  • 10
    The traditional corpus of Halacha is not limited to rules derived directly from Scripture or to requirements directly related to the particular commandment of sippur yetzi-at mitzrayim.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 14:04
  • 7
    You have intentionally omitted Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Korekh, Tzafun and Hallel because you think they are minhagim????? Did you ask a Rabbi who approved that?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 15:22
  • 9
    "is this required to fulfill the mitzvah of sippur yetzi'at mitzrayim?" No, but it's required to fulfill the Mitzva of reciting Hallel. How could you do the 4 cups of wine without it, anyway?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 15:24
  • 8
    " It is unclear to me how he derives that it is an absolute requirement to say these." Why should that affect the binding nature of his conclusion? You can ask about his source separately if you want.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 15:36

4 Answers 4


A relevant post from Halacha-a-Day, http://halocho.blogspot.com/

Posted: 25 Mar 2015 01:01 AM PDT Seder night consists of food and talk.


  • On Seder night there's a Mitzva in the Torah to eat a piece of Korban Pessach on Matza with Marror (bitter herbs). Until the Bet Hamikdash (temple) is rebuilt we only have the Matza and Marror.

The minimum Torah requirement is to eat a Kezayit (an olive's worth) of Matza, which is approximately one-third of a square machine-Matza.

At a typical Seder it's customary to eat 2 Kezeitim for Motzi-Matza, a 3rd for the Hillel-sandwich and a fourth for the Afikomen.

  • On Seder night there's also a Rabbinic requirement to drink 4 cups of wine.

All the above - besides for the Marror - must be eaten while leaning on ones left side.


The rest of the Seder consists of reading the entire Haggada. However, there's no Mitzva per se, to read the Haggada.

There's a Mitzva in the Torah to tell one's children the story of the Exodus from Egypt in Question-Answer format on Seder night.

To the above I would add saying kiddush and having a festive meal.

Finally, the greatest challenge to finishing early is starting after dark. I do not know a solution to that challenge.

Update: What we tried two years ago with good success with some young kids (3-6 yo) with little Judaic background was having the young kids sit in a circle on the living room floor and one of the Moms told the story of Pesach. As a result, the kids were quieted down and knew what to expect. It also used up some time as we waited for it to get dark.

Last year, My 9 yo grandson came over early in the day. In preparation for the evening, we took a sack and went around the house putting things in it of the type we would take if we were leaving the house never to return. Later, as we sat around the seder table waiting for it to get dark, he took out the items from the sack, one by one, and described what they were and why he would take them.

Addendum: An Aish website says:
"If need be, you can say only the most important sections, and say them in English. These are:

(a) “Mah Nishtanah” – The Four Questions.

(b) “Avadim hayinu” – The paragraph “We were slaves in Egypt.”

(c) “Mitchilah ovdei avodah zarah” (“At first we were idol-worshippers”) through “V’hi she’amdah” (“This is what stood up for our fathers and us”). (Preferably, one should continue with the verses and their elaboration, continuing until the listing of the plagues, but at least until “va’omair lach b’damayich chayi” (“And I said to you, with your blood you shall live”).)

(d) The listing of the 10 plagues.

(e) The three paragraphs Pesach, Matzah and Marror, continuing until the wine is drunk.

(Above based on R. Yitzchak Berkovits.)"

Based on a suggestion from a moderator that the information on the AISH webpage does not directly answer the question, I found this list of the mizvot of the Seder on an OU website:

"There are five basic obligations (mitzvos) performed by each Jew, in the course of the Seder conducted according to the traditional Haggadah:

1. Eating Matzahs
2. Drinking four cups of wine (Arba Kosos)
3. Eating bitter herbs (Maror)
4. Relating the story of the Exodus (Haggadah or Magid)
5. Reciting Psalms of Praise (Hallel)"

Source: https://www.ou.org/holidays/ritual-guide-passover-seder/

Interestly, ten years later (2024) the OU Passover Guide has a somewhat different list:
Torah Mitzvot

  1. Retell the story
  2. Eat matzah

Rabbinic Mitzvot

  1. 4 cups of wine
  2. Eat bitter herbs
  3. Hallel
  4. Eat the afikoman
  5. Lean

    Numbers 4 and 5 are the additions that are not in the 2014 list.

    Source: https://res.cloudinary.com/ouwp/images/v1710774395/Kosher/Passover/PG2024_LowRes_Feb29/PG2024_LowRes_Feb29.pdf page 16
  • 1
    Very nice answer. Thanks ;-) Agreed with the start after dark concept - to a point. In my shul, we have a "reverse" problem. Many of the congregants are elderly and their family and company they invite for Seder are likewise. So, because they DO try to start after dark (sometimes a bit TOO early), we can't rely on these core people to make our minyan, and often on Pesach night, we have no minyan ;-(
    – DanF
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 17:43
  • @DanF Late comment, but there's a shul near me that davens maariv at shkiah on both nights of Yom Tov, even when the first day is Shabbos. (They don't say Hallel in shul on Pesach night.) My family's first seder starts exactly at tzeis. On the second night we're organized enough to set up quickly, so we usually start within 5 minutes after tzeis. Ask your rabbi, but it's probably preferable to daven at shkiah or even plag than to not get a minyan at all.
    – Heshy
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 17:51
  • I don't see anything here about hallel? Surely that's required too
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 3:11
  • @DoubleAA Seder night is not one of the 18 (or 21, in diaspora) times we are commanded to recite Hallel. (See Arakhin.10a near the bottom of the page, sefaria.org/Arakhin.10a?lang=bi .)
    – Yehuda W
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 15:26
  • 1
    @YehudaW There's also no bracha on honoring one's parents. Hallel Seder night is without a doubt obligatory. Please fix this misleading post.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 16:10

From the 2016 OU Guide to Pesach

"There are two Torah obligations and five rabbinical obligations performed during the Seder.


  1. Relating the story of the Exodus (Maggid - reading from the Haggadah)
  2. Eating matzah


  1. Drinking four cups of wine (arboh kosot)
  2. Eating bitter herbs (maror)
  3. Reciting Psalms of praise (Hallel)
  4. Eating the afikomen (an extra piece of matzah for dessert as a reminder of the Passover offering)
  5. Demonstrating acts of freedom (such as sitting with a pillow cushion, and leaning to the left."
  • 2
    Isn't Birkat HaMazon a Torah Mitzva?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 3:37
  • @DoubleAA. Also not listed is hand washing over bread. What do you make of that?
    – Yehuda W
    Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 1:46
  • @YehudaW washing hands before motzi is probably so ingrained that they didn't think to mention it.
    – dfeuer
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 14:29

A sampling of Halachos from Rambam, Hilchos Chametz u’Matzah, chapter 7.


וְצָרִיךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת שִׁנּוּי בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּרְאוּ הַבָּנִים וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ וְיֹאמְרוּ מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת עַד שֶׁיָּשִׁיב לָהֶם וְיֹאמַר לָהֶם כָּךְ וְכָךְ אֵרַע וְכָךְ וְכָךְ הָיָה. [...] אֵין לוֹ בֵּן אִשְׁתּוֹ שׁוֹאַלְתּוֹ. אֵין לוֹ אִשָּׁה שׁוֹאֲלִין זֶה אֶת זֶה מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה. וַאֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ כֻּלָּן חֲכָמִים. הָיָה לְבַדּוֹ שׁוֹאֵל לְעַצְמוֹ מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה:

He needs to make a distinction on this night so that the children will see, ask, and say, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” And he will say to them, “Such and such happened, and such and such was.” [...] If he doesn’t have a son, his wife asks him. If he doesn’t have a wife, [those in attendance] ask each other, “Why is this night different?” even if they are all sages. If he is alone, he asks himself, “Why is this night different?”

(Technically, Mah Nishtanah isn’t strictly required. What is required is that the general question be asked, even if not in those words: what’s the big deal about tonight? Cf. Pesachim 116a.)


וְצָרִיךְ לְהַתְחִיל בִּגְנוּת וּלְסַיֵּם בְּשֶׁבַח. כֵּיצַד. מַתְחִיל וּמְסַפֵּר שֶׁבַּתְּחִלָּה הָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בִּימֵי תֶּרַח וּמִלְּפָנָיו כּוֹפְרִים וְטוֹעִין אַחַר הַהֶבֶל וְרוֹדְפִין אַחַר עֲבוֹדַת אֱלִילִים. וּמְסַיֵּם בְּדַת הָאֱמֶת שֶׁקֵּרְבָנוּ הַמָּקוֹם לוֹ וְהִבְדִּילָנוּ מֵהָאֻמּוֹת וְקֵרְבָנוּ לְיִחוּדוֹ. וְכֵן מַתְחִיל וּמוֹדִיעַ שֶׁעֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרַיִם וְכָל הָרָעָה שֶׁגְּמָלָנוּ וּמְסַיֵּם בַּנִּסִּים וּבַנִּפְלָאוֹת שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ לָנוּ וּבְחֵרוּתֵנוּ. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּדְרשׁ מֵ(דברים כו ה) "אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי" עַד שֶׁיִּגְמֹר כָּל הַפָּרָשָׁה. וְכָל הַמּוֹסִיף וּמַאֲרִיךְ בִּדְרַשׁ פָּרָשָׁה זוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח:

He must begin with disgrace and conclude with praise. How so? He begins and tells over that originally our forefathers, in the days of Terach and earlier, were deniers, straying after vanity and chasing after idolatry. He concludes with the truth that Hashem has brought us close to him and separated us from the nations, bringing us close to his uniqueness. Likewise, he begins and acknowledges that we were slaves to Paroh in Mitzraim, and all the evil which he gave us, and he concludes with the miracles and wonders which were done for us and in our freedom. He expounds from “An Aramean destroyed my father” until he finishes the entire passage. Whoever adds and extends in expounding this passage, he is praiseworthy.


כָּל מִי שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ בְּלֵיל חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר לֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. פֶּסַח מַצָּה וּמָרוֹר. פֶּסַח עַל שׁוּם שֶׁפָּסַח הַמָּקוֹם עַל בָּתֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יב כז) "וַאֲמַרְתֶּם זֶבַח פֶּסַח הוּא לַה'" וְגוֹ'. מָרוֹר עַל שׁוּם שֶׁמֵּרְרוּ הַמִּצְרִיִּים אֶת חַיֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם. מַצָּה עַל שָׁם שֶׁנִּגְאֲלוּ. וּדְבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ כֻּלָּן נִקְרָאִין הַגָּדָה:

Whoever doesn’t say these things on the night of the fifteenth has not fulfilled his obligation. These are they: Pesach, Matzah, and Marror. Pesach is because Hashem passed over the houses of our fathers in Mitzraim, as it says, “And you will say, ‘it is a Pesach sacrifice to Hashem, etc.’” Marror is because the Mitzri’im embittered the lives of our fathers in Mitzraim. Matzah is because we were redeemed. All of these things are called “Haggadah.”

(When the Rambam writes “all” of these things, it’s unclear to me whether he refers to Pesach, Matzah, and Marror, or to everything listed above, from §3.)


בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לְהַרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא בְּעַצְמוֹ יָצָא עַתָּה מִשִּׁעְבּוּד מִצְרַיִם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ו כג) "וְאוֹתָנוּ הוֹצִיא מִשָּׁם" וְגוֹ'.

In every generation, a person is obligated to show himself as if he personally left, now, from the enslavement in Mitzraim, as it says, “And He took us from there.”

This doesn’t indicate that one is obligated to say this Mishnah, but it does indicate that one must show himself (Rambam has a different reading of the Mishnah than we do, apparently) as if he personally left. As such, it’s certainly prudent to say this Mishnah, to emphasize this point.


וְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד בֵּין אֲנָשִׁים בֵּין נָשִׁים חַיָּב לִשְׁתּוֹת בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה אַרְבָּעָה כּוֹסוֹת שֶׁל יַיִן. אֵין פּוֹחֲתִין לוֹ מֵהֶם.

Everyone, both men and women, are obligated to drink four cups of wine on this night, no fewer than that.


כָּל כּוֹס וְכוֹס מֵאַרְבָּעָה כּוֹסוֹת הַלָּלוּ מְבָרֵךְ עָלָיו בְּרָכָה בִּפְנֵי עַצְמָהּ. וְכוֹס רִאשׁוֹן אוֹמֵר עָלָיו קִדּוּשׁ הַיּוֹם. כּוֹס שֵׁנִי קוֹרֵא עָלָיו אֶת הַהַגָּדָה. כּוֹס שְׁלִישִׁי מְבָרֵךְ עָלָיו בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן. כּוֹס רְבִיעִי גּוֹמֵר עָלָיו אֶת הַהַלֵּל וּמְבָרֵךְ עָלָיו בִּרְכַּת הַשִּׁיר.

On each of these four cups, we make an individual blessing on it. On the first cup, he says Kiddush. On the second cup, he reads the Haggadah. On the third cup, he bentches. On the fourth cup, he finishes Hallel and recites Yehalelucha.

The identity of Birchas HaShir is disputed in the Gemara (Pesachim 118a), whether this refers to Yehalelucha or Nishmas. In practice, we say both in Hallel; however, in 8:10, the Rambam explicitly identifies it as Yehalelucha.

What about the rest of the Seder? In chapter 8, the Rambam gives the basic rundown of the Seder. Some notable parts:


וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְבָרֵךְ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם וְנוֹטֵל יָדָיו. [...] מַתְחִיל וּמְבָרֵךְ בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה וְלוֹקֵחַ יָרָק וּמְטַבֵּל אוֹתוֹ בַּחֲרֹסֶת וְאוֹכֵל כְּזַיִת הוּא וְכָל הַמְסֻבִּין עִמּוֹ כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד אֵין אוֹכֵל פָּחוֹת מִכְּזַיִת. וְאַחַר כָּךְ עוֹקְרִין הַשֻּׁלְחָן מִלִּפְנֵי קוֹרֵא הַהַגָּדָה לְבַדּוֹ. וּמוֹזְגִין הַכּוֹס הַשֵּׁנִי וְכָאן הַבֵּן שׁוֹאֵל. וְאוֹמֵר הַקּוֹרֵא מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִלּוּ פַּעַם אַחַת וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְּעָמִים. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בְּשַׂר צָלִי שָׁלוּק וּמְבֻשָּׁל וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ צָלִי. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מְרוֹרִים. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין בֵּין מְסֻבִּין וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין:

After [Kiddush], he makes an Al Netilas Yadayim and washes his hands. [...] He begins and makes a Borei Pri Ha’adamah, and he takes a vegetable and dips it into Charoses and eats a Kezayis - he and all those seated with him. Nobody may eat less than a Kezayis. Afterwards, we remove the table only from the one who recites the Haggadah; we pour the second cup, and here the son asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights? [...]”

The Rambam is clearly implying that Urchatz and Karpas are performed in order that the children ask; while this is not his suggestion in 7:3 regarding how to do this, it’s for that reason that it’s done. This is borne out by Pesachim 116a as well:

מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות שבכל הלילות אנו מטבילין פעם אחת הלילה הזה שתי פעמים: מתקיף לה רבא אטו כל יומא לא סגיא דלא מטבלא חדא זימנא אלא אמר רבא הכי קתני שבכל הלילות אין אנו חייבין לטבל אפילו פעם אחת הלילה הזה שתי פעמים מתקיף לה רב ספרא חיובא לדרדקי

”Why is this night different from all other nights? For on all nights we dip once, but tonight we dip twice.” Rava challenges this: “Do you think every day a person manages to dip once?!” Rather, Rava said, “This is how it should be taught: ‘For on all nights we are not obligated to dip once, but tonight, we dip twice.’” Rav Safra challenged this: “Is there an obligation for the children?!”

Since Karpas is only meant for the children to ask, it seems strange to refer to it as an obligation. What we see from here is that while Karpas specifically isn’t mandatory, something to the effect of getting the children to ask is.

I should also note that the Rambam did not seem to hold of Yachatz or Ha Lachma Anya, as he jumps from Karpas straight to Mah Nishtanah.

It should go without saying that Matzah and Marror are obligatory (the latter Rabbinically nowadays, but still obligatory), but the Rambam discusses them in 7:12-13 and 8:6-8. At the end of §8, he writes:

וְחוֹזֵר וְכוֹרֵךְ מַצָּה וּמָרוֹר וּמְטַבֵּל בַּחֲרֹסֶת וְאוֹכְלָן בְּלֹא בְּרָכָה זֵכֶר לַמִּקְדָּשׁ:

He goes back and wraps Matzah and Marror and dips it in Charoses and eats them without a Beracha, as a remembrance of the Mikdash.

It’s unclear to me from this whether the Rambam holds Korech is an absolute obligation or not.


וְאַחַר כָּךְ נִמְשָׁךְ בַּסְּעֻדָּה וְאוֹכֵל כָּל מַה שֶּׁהוּא רוֹצֶה לֶאֱכל וְשׁוֹתֶה כָּל מַה שֶּׁהוּא רוֹצֶה לִשְׁתּוֹת. וּבָאַחֲרוֹנָה אוֹכֵל מִבְּשַׂר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִלּוּ כְּזַיִת וְאֵינוֹ טוֹעֵם אַחֲרָיו כְּלָל. וּבַזְּמַן הַזֶּה אוֹכֵל כְּזַיִת מַצָּה וְאֵינוֹ טוֹעֵם אַחֲרֶיהָ כְּלוּם. כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הֶפְסֵק סְעֻדָּתוֹ וְטַעַם בְּשַׂר הַפֶּסַח אוֹ הַמַּצָּה בְּפִיו שֶׁאֲכִילָתָן הִיא הַמִּצְוָה:

Afterwards, he drags out the meal and eats whatever he wants to eat and drinks whatever he wants to drink. At the end, he eats from the meat of the Pesach, even a Kezayis, and he doesn’t taste anything after it. Nowadays, he eats a Kezayis of Matzah, and he doesn’t taste anything after it. This is so that there be a distinction from the meal, as the taste of the meat of the Pesach or the Matzah in his mouth that he ate them is the Mitzvah.

In summary, then, the Rambam holds that the following are mandatory:

  • Kadeish
  • Urchatz and Karpas, or some equivalent so that the children will ask
  • Maggid
    • Mah Nishtanah or some equivalent for questions
    • Avadim Hayinu
    • Mitechilah
    • Arami Oved Avi; not necessarily the Sifra, as we do, but at least some exposition on it, the longer, the better. The ten plagues are included in our exposition on Arami Oved Avi, as an explanation of the final verse in the passage.
    • Pesach, Matzah, and Marror
    • Not necessarily B’chol dor v’Dor, but certainly the spirit of it
    • The second cup and its Berachos
  • Rachtzah and Motzi Matzah
  • Marror
  • Maybe Korech?
  • Shulchan Orech
  • Tzafun
  • Barech
    • Third cup
  • Hallel
    • Fourth cup

The Rambam does quote Ha Lachma Anya, the story in Bnei Brak, the four sons, and the passage of B’chol dor v’Dor in his text of Maggid; however, as per the above, these are not obligatory. Further, Yachatz, Nirtzah, hiding the Afikoman, and Dayeinu are not discussed at all in these sections.


It is written in Chapter 10.5 Mishneh Pesachim, "Rabban Gamliel used to say: "Whoever has not explained three things at the Pesach Seder has not fulfilled his obligation. They are: the Pesach [offering], the matzah, and the maror. The Pesach is offered because the Omnipresent One passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt. The Matzah is eaten because our ancestors were redeemed in Egypt. The Maror is eaten because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt." He concludes his statement with, "So let us say before Him: Halleluyah! Pesach Machzor - Artscroll.

  • 1
    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. That those three are required doesn't mean that they're the only things that are required. Rabban Gamliel didn't say that this is sufficient, just necessary. Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 14:44
  • no doubt those are only the minimum but as Hillel said, now go and study :) since the Mishneh quotes more of Rabban Gamliel in reference to Hallel... Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 17:45

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