Passover is the holiday that reminds the Jewish people that once "we" were slaves in Egypt. Passover tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt and about Moses, who (acting as God's messenger) led the Jews to freedom. From that moment, Jews developed a sense of being a "people." We went into Egypt as a few families, and left Egypt as a nation.
A Passover Seder is a service and a meal that is woven into one. Seders are tradiitionally held on the first and second nights of Passover. Seder means "order", and we tell the story in the same order, every year.
The Seder is a reanactment of our liberation. The Hagaddah (the special book that is read at the Seder) reminds us to consider the story as if we were there, and it was our freedom that was won during the Exodus. It is also the way that we turn the story of Passover into an experience for our children and ourselves.
The Seder table is set with specific, ritual items, each symbolizing a part of the story, each with different interpretations:
- Charoset: symbolizes the mortar with which the Hebrew slaves in Egypt created and used to build various buildings and cities for the Pharaoh (the King of Egypt). Biblical commentators also saw an indirect reference in the word Charoset to the Hebrew word Charsis or CHeres, meaning "clay" in Hebrew. Charoset is typically made with sweet tasting foods (i.e., apples, honey, raisins, dates, apricots, oranges, etc.).
- Maror: a bitter herb, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery.
- Salt Water: to remind us of the tears shed by those enslaved.
- Parsley: We dip parsley into salt water. The parsley reminds us that spring is here and new life will grow. The salt water reminds us of the tears of the Jewish slaves.
- Roasted (hard boiled) egg: as a symbol of new life.
- Shank Bone: can symbolize the outstretched arm that God used in delivering the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. It is either a roasted lamb shank bone or if one is not available, a roasted chicken shank bone or roasted chicken neck. A shank bone or a humerus bone is a long bone in either the arm or the forelimb that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. Vegetarians use a beet instead of a bone.
- Matzoh: reminds us that when the Jews left Egypt they had no time to bake their bread. They took the raw dough on their journey and baked it in the hot desert sun into hard crackers called matzoh.
- Hagaddah: the special book that tells the story of Passover
(from "Drops of Honey", a Torahaura production, written by Idie Benjamin and Dales Sides Cooperman)
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