Pesach, matzoh, and maror have symbolic meaning for us. They are so important and so meaningful that no Seder is really complete unless they are fully explained.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS PESACH?
This roasted shank bone is the symbol of the Pesach lamb. Each year at Passover, the Israelites would gather at the Temple to commemorate the Exodus from slavery. Each family would bring a lamb as an offering, to remember the time when our ancestors were spared the fate of the Egyptians. The Pesach was a reminder that God passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt. Originally, one of the four questions asked at the Seder was not, “Why do we recline?” but “Why do we eat only roasted meat?” After the Temple was destroyed, sacrifices were abandoned and so was the question about eating only roasted meat at the Seder.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS MATZOH?
Matzoh is a symbol of the simple bread of poverty. The matzoh reminds us of the great haste in which the Israelites fled from Egypt. As we read in the Torah: “They baked unleavened cakes of the dough since they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay.”
In ancient times, the Israelites ate simple foods. For one week each year the matzoh becomes the symbol of those days when people had little, reminding us that our lives are about much more than the material things we have or own.
We are commanded to eat matzoh on the first night of Passover and to rid ourselves of chometz — all bread and leavened food products made from fermented wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt — for the entire holiday. Though we are prohibited from eating these fermented grains during Passover, we are also commanded to eat Matzoh — flour and water baked so quickly that it does not ferment or rise — at the Seder.
The flat, unleavened matzoh represents humility. Matzoh is not “enriched” with oil, sugar, honey or other things. Only by acknowledging our own shortcomings and looking to a higher wisdom, can we free ourselves from the arrogance and self-centeredness within our own hearts.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS MAROR?
We eat the maror, or bitter herbs, to remind ourselves that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our people. As we read: “And they made their lives bit- ter with hard labor at mortar and brick and in all sorts of drudgery in the field; and they ruthlessly imposed all the tasks upon them.”
Even today, oppression remains in the world, and we are meant to taste its bitterness recalling these words : “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in Egypt. When strangers reside with you in your land, you shall not wrong them...You shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. You shall rejoice before God with your son and daughter...and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow in your midst. Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt.”
As we eat the bitter herbs, we are reminded to remove any bitterness from our own lives, for bitterness will kill even sooner than death. If we become used to bitterness in our lives, it is very hard to ever leave it behind.
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