The Meaning of Passover Symbols

Haggadah Section: Introduction


1. Three Matzot placed separately in the sections of the special matzah cover, or in the folds of an ordinary napkin: Two of these symbolize the two loaves of bread over which a benediction is pronounced on Sabbaths and festivals. The third matzah emphasizes the unique role of the matzah in the Pesach ritual. The matzah is a symbol of the affliction of slaves in Egypt and a reminder of the haste of departure. An allegorical explanation teaches that the three matzot represent the three groups into which Judaism is divided:  Kohen, Levi, Yisrael; if we are ever to survive, we must always be united. At many  Sedarim, we add supplementary symbolic matzot for different oppressed Jewish communities and individuals to be remembered at Passover when we celebrate our freedom and they are still denied their freedom.  You should also discuss non-Jewish communities and individuals who still await their own physical, spiritual and political freedom.

2. A Roasted Shankbone (Zeroah) commemorates the paschal sacrifice which our ancestors brought to the Temple on Pesach in ancient times. Vegetarians often substitute a beet (with its red juices) rather than use real bones.

3. Bitter Herbs (Maror) symbolize the bitterness of Israel's bondage in Egypt. Horseradish is usually used or a bitter lettuce.

4. A Roasted Egg (Beitzah) symbolizes the HAGGIGAH or "Festival sacrifice" which was always brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on festive occasions and which on Pesach supplemented the paschal lamb.

5. Charoset symbolizes the mortar the Israelites used building the "treasure cities for Pharaoh". Charoset is a mixture of grated apples, chopped nuts, cinnamon and a little wine, and there are many different recipes reflecting different places and cultures where Jews have celebrated Passover.

6. Parsley, Lettuce, Watercress (Karpas), or any other green herb and a dish of salt water into which it is to be dipped before being eaten: These greens symbolize the coming of Spring and suggest the perpetual renewal of life. Hence, they represent the ever-sustaining hope of human redemption. The message to us is that we must always be optimistic.

7. Four Cups of Wine to be offered during the Seder service: one at Kiddush, one following the recital of the first part of the Hallel, one after Grace and one at the conclusion of the Seder. These four cups symbolize the four-fold promise of redemption which, according to the Bible, God pledged to Israel: "I will bring you forth," (Exodus 6:6): "I will deliver you," (ibid). "I will redeem you," (ibid) and "I will take you," (Exodus 6:7).

8. Salt Water: used as a simple spice for vegetables (karpas). Some say it represents tears shed in Egypt, and others suggest that it reminds us of the Red Sea through which God led the Israelites. It may also represent the tears shed by God when He had no choice but to punish the Egyptians for their oppression of the Israelites.

9.  Cup of Elijah (Kos  Eliyahu): Elijah has always been associated with the coming of the Messiah. Pesach, the holiday of freedom, is an ideal time to usher in the messianic age, and so we invite Elijah to be present with us. Also, in Exodus 6:8 the Bible states, "I will bring you to the land..." Throughout the ages the Jews looked forward to this promised return to the Holy Land. In Jewish literature, Elijah was always a protective presence when a community or individual was threatened; and his presence at the Seder was very welcome throughout Jewish history in Europe when this was an especially dangerous season for Jews.

Foundation for Family Education, Inc.

Inspired to create
your own Haggadah?

Make your own Haggadah and share with other Seder lovers around the world

Have an idea
for a clip?

People like you bring their creativity to when they share their ideas in a clip

Support Us
with your donation

Help us build moments of meaning and connection through
home-based Jewish rituals.


contributor image
Esther Kustanowitz
4 Haggadahs44 Clips
contributor image
JQ International
1 Haggadah40 Clips
contributor image
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
5 Haggadahs109 Clips
contributor image
1 Haggadah13 Clips
contributor image
1 Haggadah78 Clips
contributor image
Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
1 Haggadah36 Clips
contributor image
American Jewish World Service
1 Haggadah44 Clips
contributor image
3 Haggadahs57 Clips
contributor image
Repair the World
12 Clips
contributor image
5 Haggadahs48 Clips
contributor image
Be'chol Lashon
2 Haggadahs27 Clips
contributor image
PJ Library
1 Haggadah17 Clips
contributor image
Jewish World Watch
3 Haggadahs42 Clips
contributor image
Secular Synagogue
10 Clips
contributor image
1 Haggadah9 Clips
contributor image
The Blue Dove Foundation
20 Clips
contributor image
24 Clips
contributor image
Jewish Emergent Network
1 Haggadah22 Clips

Passover Guide

Hosting your first Passover Seder? Not sure what food to serve? Curious to
know more about the holiday? Explore our Passover 101 Guide for answers
to all of your questions.

Haggadot by Recustom, is a free resource for all backgrounds and experiences. Consider making a donation to help support the continuation of this free platform.

Copyright © 2024 Custom and Craft Jewish Rituals Inc, dba Recustom, dba
All Rights Reserved. 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. EIN: 82-4765805.