We’ve had a couple of posts covering Passover Seder details… but it doesn’t hurt to get a reminder now and again, does it? To read the past posts, along with a clever rhyme to remember them by – click here: Passover Rhyme Part I and Passover Rhyme Part II.
SETTING THE PASSOVER TABLE
Preparing for the ritual part of the Seder and setting the table is an integral part of Passover. Even though the choices of colors, dishes and some of the foods used on the Seder plate, there are certain halachic (legal) requirements.
The basic requirements are a Seder plate with the requisite symbolic foods, a bowl with salt water, three pieces of matzoh, enough Kosher wine for everyone at the table to have four full cups plus an extra one for Eliyahu, and enough Haggadahs (the book we read from during the ritual part of the meal) for everyone at the table.
Your choice of Seder plates can range from ones that cost hundreds of dollars, to something handmade by your child. No matter what your choice, you should prepare the plate far enough ahead of time to insure you have all the correct ingredients for the beginning of the ritual meal.
The container for the three pieces of matzoh can also be luxurious or simple. Some people have crystal plates. Others simply wrap their matzoh in a few napkins.
Most families enjoy having a table set more formally than usual, to make the holiday feel special and to show the children at the table that this night is, indeed, different from all others.
THE SEDER PLATE
The ingredients of the Seder plate are made up of six items:
· Shankbone (Zeroah)
· Egg (Baytzah)
· 2 types of Bitter Herbs (Maror and Chazeret)
· Vegetable (Karpas)
These items are, literally, food for thought. They each have their own symbolic meaning pertaining to the holiday, and aid as visual prompts and thought-provoking reminders of the history and allegories passed on during the reading of the Haggadah.
Zeroah, the shankbone, is a roasted bone. Many people use chicken neckbones. It represents the special Paschal sacrifice whose blood was used to mark the doorposts of the Jews when the Egyptians' first-born died by the hand of Almighty G-d. The holiday's English name, Pass-over, refers to this event.
To prepare the shankbone, either dry roast it in the oven or flame roast it on a grill or over your gas burner. The bone is not eaten. Save it for the second Seder and then discard it.
Baytzah, the hard-boiled egg) symbolizes the regular festival sacrifice offering during the times before the sequential destructions of the two Great Temples in Jerusalem. After the Temples were destroyed, no more sacrifices could be offered. The egg reminds us of this loss and, to this day, is the traditional food for mourners.
Maror is the first of two bitter herbs on the plate. They represent the bitter life of the Jews during their enslavement in Egypt.
Most families choose to use horseradish for this purpose. However, by law, the horseradish must be completely dry when used with the matzoh. Because of this, to be halachically correct, the horseradish should be freshly cut or grated by hand and then dried carefully, so no moisture comes in contact with the matzoh. Also, the bitter herb needs to be strong enough to evoke some tears. In spite of this, many less stringently observant families choose to use bottled horseradish, which still serves the purpose of a symbolic reminder of those days.
Chazeret is the other bitter herb, usually romaine lettuce, well washed and thoroughly dried. It is used in conjunction with eating the maror and making the matzoh and maror sandwich.
Charoset represents the mortar the Jews used to build the storehouses and other structures for the Egyptians. Ashkenazi Jews use a mixture of apples, walnuts, matzoh meal, and wine. Sephardi Jews often substitute figs or dates for the apples.
Karpas is a non-bitter root vegetable, traditionally boiled potato, though some families use onion or parsley (though, technically, parsley isn't a root vegetable).
Karpas represents the backbreaking work performed during the Jews' time as slaves in Egypt. The Hebrew letters in Karpas can be rearranged to spell out the words perach, meaning backbreaking work, and samech (60), representing the 60 x 10,000 Jewish males over 20 years of age who worked as the slaves.
Of equal importance are the three pieces of Matzoh, or unleavened bread, bundled together on a plate or in a special sleeve specifically for this purpose. There are several explanations for why there are three.
The first is the most practical one. We break the middle matzoh and put away half for the afikomen (dessert). In order the say the festival Hamotzi prayer, or blessing over the bread, we need two whole ones. Three is the magic number.
It's said the three matzohs also represent the three castes of Jews: the Kohanim (high priests), Levites, and Israelites.
Finally, more cryptically, they commemorate Genesis 18:6, where Abraham told Sarah to use three measures of flour to bake as matzoh when they were visited by three angels.
This week’s posts will include some great recipes from the EtsyChai Team – be sure to come back and check them out!