The Passover seder is used to tell the story of our Exodus. The main way that we do that is through the use of symbolic food on the seder plate.
Maror – The bitter herb. This symbolizes the harshness of the lives of the Jews in Egypt.
Charoset – A delicious mix of sweet wine, apples, cinnamon and nuts that resembles the mortar used as bricks of the many buildings the Jewish slaves built in Egypt.
Karpas – A green vegetable, usually parsley, is a reminder of the green sprouting up all around us during spring and is used to dip into the saltwater.
Zeroah – A roasted lamb or shank bone symbolizing the sacrifice made at the great temple on Passover (The Paschal Lamb).
Beitzah – The egg symbolizes a different holiday offering that was brought to the temple. Since eggs are the first item offered to a mourner after a funeral, some say it also evokes a sense of mourning for the destruction of the temple. Others see the egg as a sign of rebirth and spring.
Orange – This is a newer addition to the seder plate. There are multiple stories recounting why we add the orange, but all contain a Rabbi telling a woman that "a woman belongs on the bimah [in a leadership position in the congregation, or reading from the Torah] as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate." While the symbol of the orange started as a symbol for inclusion of women, it has also come to symbolize inclusion of people with disabilities, intermarried couples, and the LGBTQ Community.
Bananana - Tonight we place a banana on our seder table and tell the story of Aylan and Galip two boys caught up in the Syrian Refugee Crisis. In the summer of 2015, the world was awakened and shattered by the images of a little boy whose body lay lifeless amidst the gentle surf of a Turkish beach. His name was Aylan Kurdi (age 3), he drowned along with his older brother, Galip (age 5), and their mother, Rihan, on their own exodus to freedom’s distant shore. Aylan and Galip’s father, Abdullah, survived the harrowing journey – though how does a parent survive the death of their children? In teaching the world about his sons, he shared that they both loved bananas, a luxury in their native war-torn Syria. Every day after work, Abdullah, like mothers and fathers everywhere, would bring home a banana for his sons to share, a sweet little treat, a sign of his enduring love for them.
May children everywhere, who are caught up in this modern day exodus, be guarded and protected along their journey to safety, shielded by the love of their parents, watched over by G-d full of mercy and compassion.
Originally from Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Temple Sholom Vancouver, British Columbia
For more information on the refugee crisis, please visit rac.org/refugees.
Matzah is the unleavened bread we eat to remember that when the Jews fled Egypt, they didn’t even have time to let the dough rise on their bread. We commemorate this by removing all bread and bread products from our home during Passover.
The fifth ceremonial cup of wine poured during the Seder. It is left untouched in honor of Elijah, who, according to tradition, will arrive one day as an unknown guest to herald the advent of the Messiah. During the Seder dinner, biblical verses are read while the door is briefly opened to welcome Elijah. In this way the Seder dinner not only commemorates the historical redemption from Egyptian bondage of the Jewish people but also calls to mind their future redemption when Elijah and the Messiah shall appear.
Another relatively new Passover tradition is that of Miriam’s cup. The cup is filled with water and placed next to Elijah’s cup. Miriam was the sister of Moses and a prophetess in her own right. After the exodus when the Israelites are wandering through the desert, just as G-d gave them Manna to eat, legend says that a well of water followed Miriam and it was called ‘Miriam’s Well’. The tradition of Miriam’s cup is meant to honor Miriam’s role in the story of the Jewish people and the spirit of all women, who nurture their families just as Miriam helped sustain the Israelites.
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