One of the most striking symbols of Passover is the roasted lamb shankbone (called zeroah), which commemorates the paschal (lamb) sacrifice made the night the ancient Hebrews fled Egypt. Some say it symbolizes the outstretched arm of God (the Hebrew word zeroah can mean “arm”). Many vegetarians use a roasted beet instead. This isn’t a new idea; the great Biblical and Talmudic commentator Rashi suggested it back in the eleventh century.
Maror (bitter herb)
Any bitter herb will work, though horseradish is the most common. Bitter herbs bring tears to the eyes and recall the bitterness of slavery. The Seder refers to the slavery in Egypt, but people are called to look at their own bitter enslavements.
There’s nothing further from maror than charoset (“cha-ROH-set”), the sweet salad of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon that represents the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to make bricks.
Karpas is a green vegetable, usually parsley (though any spring green will do). Karpas symbolizes the freshness of spring. Some families still use boiled potatoes for karpas, continuing a tradition from Eastern Europe where it was difficult to obtain fresh green vegetables.
Salt water symbolizes the tears and sweat of enslavement, though paradoxically, it’s also a symbol for purity, springtime, and the sea.
The tradition of putting an orange on the seder plate in is a response to a less evolved rabbi who told a young girl that a woman belongs on a bimah as much as an orange on a Seder plate. The orange is now said to be a symbol of the fruitfulness of all Jews, whether they be gay straight, male or female. =
The roasted egg (baytsah) is a symbol in many different cultures, usually signifying springtime and renewal. Here it stands in place of one of the sacrificial offerings which was performed in the days of the Second Temple. Another popular interpretation is that the egg is like the Jewish people: the hotter you make it for them, the tougher they get.
Boiled Egg (to eat)
May we reflect on our lives this year and soften our hearts to those around us. Another year has passed since we gathered at the Seder table and we are once again reminded that life is fleeting. We are reminded to use each precious moment wisely so that no day will pass without bringing us closer to some worthy achievement as we all take a moment to be aware of how truly blessed and fortunate we are.
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