Passover Seder: Reasons based on Talmudic Liturgy or Custom of dipping finger in wine?

I understand that portions of the Passover Seder are remnants of the Temple procedure; that elaborations are Talmudic; and that IIRC, somewhere it is written that “customs” of one locality under some set of conditions have the force of liturgical requirements (I don’t what status of requirements–there are many).

Given that, my question is this: at the mention of the 3 acronyms of the ten plagues, and the recital of all ten, I always followed my father’s tradition of dipping a pinkie in the wine glass and placing a drop on the plate. He didn’t know why, he just did it because he saw his father do it.

Now I lead the Seder, and at each drop of wine–I don’t know if I heard this or read this–I explain to everyone at the table that we do this to symbolize the suffering and death of the Egyptians: that we should not rejoice at the death of others, but that the suffering of the Egyptians could have been forestalled before each plague (essentially the Biblical view) if only Pharaoh had let the people go, etc.

Do others do this? And if so, what is the source of the custom/liturgy?

Wow, a Jewish question not brought up on Friday or Shabbat!

Yes, we do this also. My Haggada (the book with the Seder service and explanations) is full of wine stains on this page. I don’t have my Haggada out yet, but I can try to look up the sources later.

As always – two Jews, three traditions.

Taking wine out of the cup for the plagues probably dates back to the Talmud. It’s given as a stage direction in every Haggada I’ve used. The main customs are to use a small spoon or a finger for taking away a drop of wine.

Zev, please pick up the white courtesy phone for a message.

Yes, we do this as well, to lessen our joy of freedom as it came by the suffering of others.

In addition, I was taught (and teach) to not lick your pinky that you used to dip but to wipe it off, for the same reason.

We’re not a germaphobic family by any stretch–but are we alone in using toothpicks?

Ah, the season is coming up. Winestains, old matzoh crumbs, and Maxwell House Haggadas!
To the OP, I always thought of it in the way IveryTowerDenizen, or in more modern terms, it’s akin to pouring one out for my homies. In this case, though, it’s pouring one out for those that suffered the plagues; it’s done to remind us that we’re celebrating freedom, not their suffering (furthermore, we’re recognizing that suffering).

And matzo brei for breakfast, macaroons (mmm… macaroons!) and godawful desserts.

I concur with those who said that the wine drops are there to remind us that our freedom came at the cost of Egyptian suffering. My family’s tradition is that we make sure the drops of wine hit the tablecloth. The only reasons I can think of for doing this are that a) we’ve always done it this way, and b) the wine can’t be consumed because it’s been absorbed into the tablecloth, so there is absolutely no way that pleasure can be derived from it.

Question: Is there a proscription on the use of standard all-purpose white flour during Pesach? I can’t remember if there is or not.

Absolutely. Flour is hametz in its raw form. Use matzah meal instead.

sigh That’s what I was afraid of.

I thought it might fun to talk Passover, in general

Posters thus far have explained the idea that we remove some wine in order to lessen our rejoicing, to illustrate that we’d be happier if our freedom could have been gotten without the death of the Egyptians.

But no one has addressed why so many use a finger for this. Some simply pour it, and some use a spoon, but it does seem that the most prevalent custom is to use the pinky or forefinger for this, either of which is to remind us of what Pharaoh’s panicked magicians told him about the source of the plagues: “It is the finger of God!!!” (Exodus 8:15)

And for those that use the Maxwell House haggada - it’s been updated this year.

Theoretically (and practically too, until modern times) plain ground and milled wheat is not hametz (a/k/a chometz, leavened) until water touches it. The proof is that if it was hametz, we couldn’t make matza out of it! In modern times, however, commercial flour is washed in the manufacture, and cannot be used on Passover. The flour used for matza is specially ground and processed to keep it dry right up until it is ready to be made into matza dough and baked.

Many are unaware that although Ashkenazic Jews (those of Northern European origin) are accustomed to very thin cracker-like matza, many Sefardic Jews (or Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origin) make a thicker and softer matza, very similar to pita or laffa bread. And because it doesn’t stay fresh as long as the crackers do, they will prepare it and bake it even during Passover, using the special matza flour.

Thanks Keeve for the fuller answer.

I have no idea why I blanked on the fact that matzah, being bread, HAS to start from ground grain aka “flour.”

Ashkenazi tradition only? Calling all Sfardim on GQ…
Thanks to everyone who has responded so far.
I just realized I have a Breslov (Hassidic) Seder buried away somewhere. I’ll see its commentary and get back to you.

My wife’s family does it too, and they’re as Sephardic as the Rambam (they’re also atheists, but that doesn’t stop them from holding a proper Seder).

Like my family, they also finish the ceremony by partaking in the Ritual of the Sucking of the Pinky.

Yes, matzah is permitted to start from flour, but nothing else. Matzah has to be ground back into flour (hence, matzah meal) as substitute flour from which other things can be made.

Matzot themselves can be started with flour and water but allowed to soak for 18 (19?) minutes max. But you’re out of luck once holiday begins (is this true?)

Interestingly, we actively avoid sucking the pinky.

The generally accepted definition is that flour and water will become chametz (leavened) in 18 minutes, but in practice it goes a lot faster than that – usually less than 10 minutes from when the water hits the flour until the finished matza is out of the oven and cooling off.

Technically, matzah can be made during Passover, but it is rarely done. Before Passover, if mistakes happen and some of the dough ends up becoming chametz, just get rid of it and no problem. But once the holiday has started, we can’t even possess chametz, so it’s just too risky. The main exception is those Sefardic Jews who use the thicker soft matza, which doesn’t last more than a few days, so they have no choice but to make more during the holiday.

We do it with our pinky because the pinky alludes to the pasuk (sentence?) “ki etzba elokim hi” - the plagues and exodus was only God’s “pinky”
Chok Yosef 473:34
Also, Tammei Minhagim 538