One of the most important and awaited festivals of the Jews, Passover is celebrated with great pomp and show by the Jewish community all over the world. Merriment and cheerfulness come across as the principle features of this religious festivity. One more thing that is of utmost importance during Passover is the Seder plate. It is a special plate that consists of six symbolic foods used by Jews during the Passover Seder. Each of the six items reflects a special significance to the story of the exodus from Egypt, which is the spotlight of this ritual meal. Read on to get detailed information about food items on the Pesach Seder plate.
Passover Seder Plate
Maror & Chazeret
One of the foremost items that have an important place in Seder plate is bitter herbs, called maror. The essential symbolism of herbs is the bitterness and harshness of the slavery, which the Jews underwent in Egypt. While some of the Jews mix freshly grated horseradish with cooked beets and sugar to make a condiment called chrein for the maror, there are others who use curly parsley dipped in vinegar or salted water to symbolize the bitterness of slavery. As for chazeret, it is actually a name given to romaine lettuce, whose roots are bitter in taste. Horseradish or romaine lettuce, any one of the two, is eaten in fulfillment of the mitzvah of eating bitter herbs during the Seder.
Charoset is the name given to asweet, brown, pebbly mixture, which represents the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt. The word charoset has been derived from the Hebrew word “cheres”, meaning clay. The drink serves a subsidiary to the maror. Before consuming maror, diners dip it into the charoset. This is mainly done to remember how hard their ancestors worked in Egypt. The charoset is traditionally made from chopped nuts, grated apples, cinnamon, and sweet red wine. A variation of the charoset is the addition of dates and honey to the traditional recipe.
The term karpas is usually referred to a vegetable, mainlyparsley, celery or boiled potato, which is dipped in salt water (which mirrors the tears of the Jewish slaves in Egypt) and then consumed. While the vegetable symbolizes the coming of spring, the salt water or vinegar mainly, reflect the pain felt by the Jews, who could only eat simple foods during their slavery in Egypt. The other notion that people believe in is that the dipping of the karpas symbolizes Josef's tunic being dipped into blood by his brothers. Karpas is usually eaten early in the Seder.
Zeroah, Hebrew term for the word 'bone', is a piece of roasted or boiled meat or poultry, preferably a shankbone. It represents the korban Pesach (the ancient Passover sacrifice), when the slaves had sacrificed a lamb in the Temple in Jerusalem, roasted it and later consumed it as part of their meal on the first Seder night, on the eve of the Exodus. Since the destruction of the Temple, Zeroah has served as a reminder of the Pesach sacrifice. While people belonging to the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions do not eat or handle the bone during the Seder, vegetarians use beet as a substitute for the bone, quoting Pesachim 114b as a justification.
Symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night, Beitzah is actually a hard-boiled egg. Though both the Pesach sacrifice and the chagigah were meat offerings, chagigah is venerated by eggs as they are the first thing served to mourners after a funeral. This mainly signifies the destruction of the Temple and the inability to offer any kind of sacrifices in honor of the Pesach holiday. While mostly beitzah is not used in any way during the formal part of the seder, some people eat it with saltwater as the first course of the meal, as it serves as the visual reminder of the chagigah.