The Seder Plate

Haggadah Section: Introduction

The Passover Seder Plate is the centerpiece of the Passover meal and is the heart of the Passover Seder. The foods that are placed on the Seder Plate are integral to the telling of the Passover story. There are six different foods on the Passover Seder plate and each serves the purpose of retelling the story of Exodus..

MATZAH

Matzah  is one of the most iconic elements of Passover. During the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews fled so quickly that there was no time to waste waiting for bread to ris. Instead, they ate unleavened matzah in their desperate escape from slavery. What was once an act of necessity is now celebrated in triumphant, everlasting joy. Jews choose to eat matzah in honor of their ancestors, and to celebrate their freedom. This special bread is included on the Seder plate, or next to it.

BITTER HERBS

Maror  and  Chazeret  are bitter herbs, such as romaine lettuce, endives, or horseradish, which are eaten to remind the participants of the bitter and frightening journey of Exodus.

CHAROSET

Charoset  is a sweet-tasting mixture of apples, cinnamon, wine, and nuts. Charoset is symbolic of the mortar that the Jewish slaves used when being forced to build Egyptian storehouses. T

KARPAS

Karpas  is a vegetable, often celery or potatoes, which is dipped into salted water or vinegar. The plain, bitter taste of this food also reinforces the brutal life of the Jewish slaves, which was frought with scarcity and pain. The participants at the Passover Seder meal taste the pain of their ancestors. The vegetable serves a secondary purpose - the promise that spring is on its way. Like many of the elements of the Passover dinner, the dual nature of the dish both reminds us of the past struggles of our ancestors, and celebrates their successful journey to freedom.

ZEROAH

Zeroah  is the second-to-last dish on the Passover Seder Plate. Zeroah is the only meat included on the dish. Usually, zeroah is a shank bone of meat or poultry. In ancient Jeruselum, the Jews celebrated the first night of Passover by sacrificing a lamb in the Temple, roasting it, and consuming it on the eve of the Exodus. The lamb was known as the Pesach offering. After the temple was destroyed, the zeroah became part of the Seder Plate to invoke the offering of Pesach. For vegetarians, the Pesach sacrifice can be represented by a beet.

BEITZAH

Beitzah  is an egg which has been roasted to symbolize another ancient Jerusalem sacrifice - the Korban Chagigah. The Chagigah was a meat sacrifice, yet on the Seder Plate it is represented by an egg for two reasons. The egg is symbolic of mourning and represents sadness after the Temple's destruction and in knowing that no sacrifices could be offered there. Another meaning behind the Beitzah is that it celebrates Spring, renewal, and rejuvenation.

AN ORANGE - A NEW ADDITION TO THE PASSOVER SEDER PLATE

The origin of the orange comes from an interesting, though unverified story, that the orange earned its way onto the Seder plate after a stuffy rabbi said, "A woman belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on the Seder plate!"  

The symbolic foods of the Passover Seder Plate each have an interesting and layered meaning. They come together to create an atmosphere which reflects upon, sympathizes, and celebrates the tragedies and triumphs of our Jewish ancestors and the Exodus from Egypt.

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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.

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