LEADER: We are about to begin our Seder. Usually it is the recitation of the ancient story of Israel's redemption from bondage in Egypt. This year the Seder takes on a further meaning and purpose. This year we gather to relay a chapter in the history of the Jewish people, while we are living through a new chapter of the world. We recall the dramatic and miraculous events which led to the exodus from an ancient land of slavery, finding meaning to help us navigate this new world we now live in.
LEADER: (Points to Seder Plate) We have before us the Seder Plate. It should look something like this. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like this yet use this time to put everything in order while we discuss the meaning of each piece. Because it is hard to go around “the table” we will call out each participant to read.
PARTICIPANT: First, we have three matzot (מצה), commemorating the bread which our forefathers were compelled to eat during their hasty departure from Egypt. We use three matzot to represent the three religious groupings of the Jewish people: Kohen, Levi and Yisroayl. They are placed together to indicate the unity of the Jewish people. In unity, we find our strength and power to survive.
PARTICIPANT: The Roasted Shankbone, called zeroah (זרוֹע). While it does not play an active role in the service, it reminds us of the Paschal Lamb, a special animal sacrifice which our ancestors offered on the altar of the Great Temple in Jerusalem on the Passover. Alternatively, for the vegetarians, a beet may be used. It reminds us of the blood used to mark the doorposts so that the Angel of Death passed over the Israelites' homes on their final night in Egypt.
PARTICIPANT: The Roasted Egg, (ביצה) reminds us of the second offering brought to the Temple on Passover. It was known as the "Festival Offering," for it was brought on each of the three festivals - Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The roundness of the egg also represents the cycle of life — even in the most painful of times, there is always hope for a new beginning.
PARTICIPANT: The Marror (מָרוֹר), the bitter herbs, reminds us of the bitterness of slavery, which our ancestors were compelled to endure. We force ourselves to taste pain so that we more readily value pleasure. Scholars inform us that our ancestors ate bitter herbs at the time of the spring festival. The sharpness of the taste reawakened their senses and made them feel as one with the revival of nature. Marror is the stimulus of life reminding us that struggle is better than boredom.
PARTICIPANT: The Charoset (חֲרֽוֹסֶת), is made to resemble the mortar with which our forefathers made bricks for the building of Egyptian cities. The sweetness summons us never to forget the sweet taste of freedom. As we call to mind the sweetness in the shadow of bitterness, and pleasure in the shadow of pain, may we become more aware of the experience of opposites during our lifetime. Let us appreciate that life is full only when we experience the full range of human emotion.
PARTICIPANT: The Karpas (כַּרְפַּס), a green vegetable, is used to remind us that Pesach coincides with the arrival of Spring and the gathering of the Spring harvest. In ancient times, Passover was also an agricultural festival and an occasion on which our ancestors gave thanks for the Earth's rich bounties.
PARTICIPANT: Four times, at least, in the course of this Seder, we shall partake of the wine, a symbol of joy and thanksgiving. The four cups represent the four-fold promise to the Israelites in Egypt: "I will bring you forth;" "I will deliver you;" "I will redeem you;" "I will take you."
LEADER: These are the symbols of Passover — echoes of the past and reminders for the present. As we partake of them, may we remember the events that they recall, and may we embody their spirit in our present-day endeavors.
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