Getting Ready for Passover — Preparing Your Seder Plate
Passover is one of the most symbolic of the Jewish holidays and the Seder plate is the centerpiece of our table. The Seder features the story of Exodus and at the heart of the Seder table is the Seder Plate. This centerpiece can be modern with clean lines, traditional and ornate, or simply a napkin; the items on the plate and their symbolism are truly what are important.
The Seder Plate is comprised of five to six traditional items, all which represent an important part of the story: karpas, shank bone, hard boiled egg, charoset, and maror. Sometimes, a second green vegetable (often lettuce) is also included. When we discuss these items at the Passover table, it is helpful to understand why we incorporate these items and what they mean to us. We hope this article helps bring these items to life at your Seder table!
Karpas, or a green vegetable (usually parsley or lettuce) is on the Seder plate along with a small bowl of salt water. This symbolizes a new life, the coming of spring. The vegetable is dipped into salt water and eaten to remind us of the tears shed by the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt. Karpas reminds us to focus on what we want to create in the new spring season, and is an ultimate reminder of everything that is possible in our lives.
The shank bone on the plate is symbolic of the lamb’s blood the Jews painted on their doorposts during the 10th plague; the one that killed the first born Egyptian son in each family. The lamb’s blood identified the Jews during this plague and protected their children. It also may remind us of our ancestors, who were shepherds. We remember the sacrificial lamb as a symbol of freedom, and embrace a spirit of gratitude for the blessings we encounter in our lives.
A hard-boiled egg is very simply a symbol of life. As Passover occurs in the spring, nature is blooming. We are reminded that it is our Jewish responsibility to foster love for Judaism in our children, so we continue the regeneration of our people. Eggs also represent fertility – we should keep a spirit of fertility in our minds and bodies, always generating new things, new ideas, and new accomplishments for ourselves.
Charoset is a sweet combination of apples, nuts, wine and spices. This thick mixture represents the bricks and mortar the Israelites used while they were building the pyramids for the Egyptians. Its sweet taste is representative of our freedom today and that of our ancestors. We mix charoset with maror (bitterness) to experience the blend of sweetness and bitterness that truly makes life so delicious.
Maror, or bitter herbs, are eaten to remind us of the difficult time the Hebrews had as slaves and the suffering of our ancestors over time. Often the bitter herb on the Seder plate is horseradish. Bitterness is a fact of life, but we sweeten it with charoset, as we also are able to experience sweetness in life, despite life’s challenging moments.