The Symbols of the Passover (Pesach) Seder Plate

At the head of the table is the beautiful Seder Plate. In Hebrew, we call the plate a “ka’arah."

Before the Seder, we set the Seder Plate by placing three whole Matzot under a covering beneath the plate, then we arrange six items on the plate, each one reminding us of the Passover story:

Zeroah: The Zeroah, a roasted bone, reminds us of the offering the ancient Jews used to make in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The shank bone represents the Pesach, the lamb sacrifice, made in the days of the Temple for the Passover holiday. In fact, the holiday is called Pesach, from the Hebrew word meaning “to pass over,” because God "passed over" the houses of the Jews in Egypt when visiting plagues upon their oppressors. The Israelites were instructed to smear the blood of a lamb across the door of their homes so God would not afflict them with plagues delivered to the Egyptians.

Beitzah: A beitzah is a hard-boiled egg. It reminds us of the festival offering which was brought to the Holy Temple on Pesach and the rebirth of the Earth at Springtime.

Maror: The maror (bitter herbs) provide a visceral reminder of the harsh suffering and bitterness of slavery, the life of hard labor our ancestors endured in Egypt.

Charoset: Charoset is a mixture of chopped apple, walnuts and red wine. Ground up together, it represents the mortar that laid between the stones of the pyramids the Hebrews built, and reminds us of how hard we were forced to work when we were slaves in Egypt. It also reminds us of the sweetness of that freedom.

Karpas: This non-bitter vegetable can be a sprig of parsley, a small slice of onion or even a slice of boiled potato. We dip the karpas, representing nature and its annual regeneration, into salt water, representing the salty tears the Jews cried when they were slaves.

Chazeret: Chazeret is a leafy green, like a piece of lettuce, and is the second portion of bitter herbs which we eat during the Seder. The lettuce symbolizes the bitter enslavement of our fathers in Egypt: The leaves of romaine lettuce are not bitter, but the stem, when left to grow in the ground, turns hard and bitter. So it was with the Jews enslavement in ancient Egypt: At first the deceitful approach of Pharaoh was soft and sensible, and the work was done voluntarily and even for pay. Gradually, it evolved into forced and cruel labor. This bitter herb is eaten in a matzoh sandwich (korech) with maror.

haggadah Section: Introduction
Source: Adapted from Beth Winters