Rabbi Gamliel tells us that if we do not consider the items on the seder plate and discuss their meaning, then we have not fulfilled the mitzvah of pesach.
Zeroa - shank bone, and a beet.
The shank bone represents two things. One, the sacrifice of lambs to God, made in the days of the temple. Two, the lamb's blood that the Israelites painted on their doors, to make sure that the angel of death passed over their homes. Tonight we also have a beet, blood red in color, and taken from our earth. When we look at this shank bone and this beet, we see one symbol of sacrifice and death, and one symbol of vital blood and the living earth.
Beitzah - egg
The egg traditionally stands for the rebirth of the earth. It's spring, and the promise of life lies around every corner, and in every garden and field. But the capacity for life does not have to be tied to the creation of it. Tonight we use it as a reminder that a biological ability to procreate is not an obligation to do so, and that reproductive justice is tied up in queer and trans justice.
Maror - bitter herbs
The bitter herbs are a visceral reminder of the bitterness of the closet. Of the pain of hearing someone misgender us. Of the hurt we feel when one of our loved ones comes home crying. Of the horror that we feel when we watch the news. We eat the bitter herbs to remind us that even in the comfort of this seder, we feel the pain of being part of a marginalized group.
The orange on the seder plate has several apocryphal tales tied to its creation. The following feels significant to mention:
In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel, a well-known Jewish feminist scholar, was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (which was intended to convey the idea that there’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate).
Heschel felt that to put bread on the seder plate would be to accept that Jewish lesbians and gay men violate Judaism like chametz violates Passover.
So at her next seder, she chose an orange as a symbol of inclusion of gays and lesbians and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community. She offered the orange as a symbol of the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.
In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out — a gesture of spitting out, repudiating the homophobia of Judaism. (by Tamara Cohen, taken from RitualWell.com)
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