Passover starts tonight, which means tonight we have our first seder. The Passover seder (a word that means order or arrangement in Hebrew) is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. During the seder and throughout the holiday of Passover, we commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people by G-d from slavery in Egypt and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses.
At the head of the table at the seder is the beautiful seder plate. Before the Seder we arrange the seder plate by placing three whole matzot (unleavened bread) in a cover or special compartment under the plate. Then we arrange six items on top, each one reminding us of the Passover Story:
Zeroah: A Roasted Bone
This reminds us of the Pesach offering we used to bring in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Beitzah: A hard-boiled Egg
This reminds us of the festival offering which was brought to the Holy Temple on Pesach.
Maror: Horseradish Root
These bitter herbs symbolize the harsh suffering and bitter times we endured when we were slaves in Egypt.
Charoset: A mixture of chopped apple, walnuts and red wine. Ground up together, Charoset resembles bricks and mortar, reminding us how hard we were forced to work when we were slaves in Egypt.
Karpas: This can be a small slice of onion, boiled potato or sprigs of parsley. We dip the Karpas into salt water at the beginning of the Seder, representing the salty tears we cried when we were slaves.
Chazeret: Romaine Lettuce
This is the second portion of bitter herbs which we eat during the Seder. This is eaten in a Matzah sandwich together with Maror.
Some people are including the following new additions to their seder plates:
Many families and congregations have begun adding an orange to the Seder plate as a way of acknowledging the role of people who feel marginalized within the Jewish community.
With this new custom, we recognize that women have always been – and continue to be – integral to the continued survival of the Jewish community.
In 1991, Israel launched Operation Solomon, a covert plan to bring Ethiopian Jews to the Holy Land. When these famished, Jews arrived in Israel, many were so hungry and ill that they were unable to digest substantial food. Israeli doctors fed these new immigrants simple boiled potatoes and rice until their systems could take more food. To commemorate this at your seder, eat small red potatoes alongside the karpas (parsley).
Fair Trade Chocolate or Cocoa Beans
These can be included on the seder plate to remind us that although we escaped from slavery in Egypt, forced labor is still very much an issue today.
No matter what you have on your seder plate, for those who celebrate, we hope you have a Happy Passover!