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Jewish Recipes --> Jewish and Israeli Foods --> Foods found on a Seder Plate


Hebrew for the festival of Passover. The word pesach comes from a Hebrew root meaning "pass by" or "to spare." While the word "Pesach" appears in Hebrew on most seder plates, it is merely decorative. The word also refers to the Pesach (or Paschal) lamb which was sacrificed as a special offering in honor of the festival. The zeroa (shankbone) has its own place on the seder plate as a symbol of this sacrifice


The Roasted Egg is symbolic of the festival sacrifice made in biblical times. On Passover, an additional sacrifice (the Paschal lamb) was offered as well. The egg is also a traditional symbol of mourning, and has been interpreted by some as a symbolic mourning for the loss of the Temple. Since the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E., neither the festival sacrifice nor the special passover sacrifice could be offered. It is also a symbol of spring - the season in which Passover is always celebrated. In many households, it is customary to use a brown egg on the seder plate. The egg should be baked or roasted if possible.


Apple, nuts, and spices ground together and mixed with wine are symbolic of the mortar used by Hebrew slaves to build Egyptian structures. There are several variations in the recipe for charoset. The Mishna describes a mixture of fruits, nuts, and vinegar, for example. In order to enhance the symbolism of mortar, it is customary in some communities to mix in a small amount of sand. The charoset is sweet because sweetness is symbolic of God's kindness, which was able to make even slavery more bearable. According to legend, the use of apples in charoset stems from Pharaoh's decree that all male Hebrew children were to be killed at birth. Mothers would go out to the orchards to give birth, and thus save their babies (at least temporarily) from the Egyptian soldiers.
also see: Charoset


Bitter Vegetable (often lettuce) is often used in addition to the maror as a bitter herb. The authorities are divided on the requirement of chazeret, so not all communities use it. Since the commandment (in Numbers 9:11) to eat the paschal lamb "with unleavened bread and bitter herbs" uses the plural ("bitter herbs") most seder plates have a place for chazeret. Some use a green vegetable (such as lettuce - as long as lettuce is not also used for karpas), some use the green top of a bitter herb, while some use a second bitter (such as raddish) for the chazeret.


Vegetable (usually parsley) is dipped into salt water during the seder. The salt water represents the tears shed during Egyptian slavery. The dipping of a vegetable as an appetizer is said to date back to biblical times. It may now be identified with biblical descritpion of the Hebrew slaves marking their doorposts at the time of the first Passover. A bunch of hyssop was to be dipped in the blood of the paschal lamb and used to strike the lintel and the doorposts (Exodus 12:22) so that the tenth plague (death of the firstborn) would not be visited upon their households.


Bitter Herbs (usually horseradish) symbolize the bitterness of Egyptian slavery. The maror is often dipped in charoset to reduce its sharpness. Maror is used in the seder because of the commandment (in Numbers 9:11) to eat the paschal lamb "with unleavened bread and bitter herbs." Some prefer mild horseradish at the seder; others say that it doesn't serve its purpose (to remind us of the bitterness of slavery) unless it's hot enough to bring tears to the eyes.


The Shankbone is symbolic of the Paschal lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in biblical times. In some communities, it is common to use a chicken neck in place of the shankbone. Vegetarian households often use beets for the shankbone on the seder plate. The red beets symbolize the blood of the Paschal lamb, which was used to mark the lintel and doorposts of the houses during the first Passover (Exodus 12:22)