Seder Plates

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Seder Plates Guide

While many Jewish holidays are traditionally observed in the synagogue, the primary observance of Passover (or “Pesach”, in Hebrew) takes place in the home with a festive meal and ritual celebration called the “Seder.” At the Seder, every participant has the chance to experience the re-telling of the story of the Exodus--the story of how G-d freed the Israelite slaves from over 400 years of servitude to the Pharaoh in Egypt. The book used to conduct the Seder is called the “Haggadah”, and it tells the Exodus story in such a way that it can be appreciated by both young and old. In fact, the telling of the story begins with a child, who asks what sounds like a simple question: Why is this night different from all other nights?

As an answer to the question, the story unfolds--with quotes from the Torah, commentary from the Talmud, songs, blessings, rituals and the Seder’s many symbols--many of which are displayed on a Seder Plate, designed especially for the occasion.

The Symbols of the Seder Plate

The Seder Plate contains at least five symbols (and often one or two more).

  • The Roasted Egg (or “Beitzah”) is a symbol of fertility and springtime. Though it does not have a blessing of its own during the Seder, the festive meal traditionally begins with the eating of hard boiled eggs.
  • The Charoset is a mixture that represents the mortar used by the Israelite slaves as they built Egyptian cities. Every family has its own special recipe for making Charoset, and of course, everyone’s is the best! Jews from different countries use different ingredients, but in many traditions, Charoset is made from chopped apples, nuts, spices, and wine.
  • The Bitter Herb (“Maror”), usually horseradish, symbolizes the bitterness of slavery. During the Seder, the Bitter Herb is often dipped in Charoset to temper its bitterness.
  • The Green Vegetable (“Karpas”), often parsley, is another symbol of Pesach as springtime holiday. During the Seder, the Karpas is dipped into Salt Water, as a symbol of the tears of the Israelite slaves. (Some Seder Plates include a place for the Salt Water and some don’t. If there is no area for it on the Seder Plate itself, Salt Water is placed separately in a bowl or bowls on the Seder Table.)
  • The Shank Bone (“Zeroa”) symbolizes the Passover sacrifice of the paschal lamb back in the days when the practice of Judaism still involved animal sacrifices.
  • Many Seder Plates also include a place for Lettuce (“Chazeret”) as an additional bitter herb. Some traditions include this symbol and some don’t, but those that do often cite the reason as the Biblical commandment to eat the paschal lamb sacrifice together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (plural), Numbers 9:11.

Seder Plates

A Seder Plate is the centerpiece of any Seder Table and can be made of silver, porcelain, ceramic, or even glass. It generally has separate sections for each of the Passover symbols, with the names of the symbols painted, engraved, or etched onto the plate itself. Some people use embroidered or embellished Seder Plate covers to even further enhance the beauty of their tables. Seder Plates can be some of the most beautiful pieces of Judaica available and are often part of a family tradition that passes from parents to children to grandchildren.

For More Information

For more information on Passover, Seder Plates, or other Judaica items, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.

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