Food brings us together, to tell stories, to recount histories, and to connect with one another over sustenance. This is especially true of a traditional Seder dinner. The Passover Seder is the Jewish ritual meal that marks the beginning of the Passover Festival with the re-telling of the story of the exodus. The Seder tradition, like most religious customs, varies between denominations and can even differ from family to family— but one constant is the Seder plate. The Seder plate contains six symbolic foods used during the Seder:
- Maror and Chazeret: Two types of bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Ancient Egypt. For maror, many people use freshly grated horseradish or whole horseradish root. Chazeret is typically lettuce, whose roots are bitter-tasting.
- Charoset: A sweet, brown, pebbly paste of fruits and nuts, representing the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt.
- Karpas: A mild green, usually parsley, symbolizing the new growth of spring, which is often dipped into salt water or vinegar, symbolizing tears.
- Zeroa: A roasted lamb bone, symbolizing the lamb offered in the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Beitzah: A hard boiled egg, symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.
The seventh symbolic item used during the meal—a stack of three matzot—is placed on its own plate and symbolizes the unleavened bread that didn’t have time to rise in the haste of the exodus.
Many people will be having their Seder tonight, but for anyone having their Seder tomorrow, Saturday, stop by the Co-op! Our shelves are stocked with matzo and we have beautiful fresh white horseradish root as well as prepared horseradish for Maror and lettuces for Chazeret. We have apples, honey, and walnuts for Charoset, parsley for Karpas, and eggs for Beitzah. While we don’t have lamb shank for Zeroa, we do have beets—often substituted for Zeroa in vegetarian Seders. Stop by Thirst Wine Merchants (members who join The Greene Hill Food Co-op in April receive 15% off any purchase), pick up some kosher libations, and Chag Sameach, or, have a joyous festival.
Seder Plate image from YumSugar.