We asked Rabbi Emily Segal of Aspen Jewish Congregation to help us plan a Passover Seder. Here, she shares the symbolism behind the foods found on a traditional Seder plate. Plus, she shares a recipe for her favorite Passover indulgence.
- First, here’s a not-so-secret secret: you don’t have to make Matzah Ball Soup from scratch – “everyone just uses a box,” Rabbi Segal says. Make your favorite easy soup stock, or buy it by the quart, then follow the directions on the Matzah Ball Soup box. Chop some fresh herbs to float on each bowl as you serve it, and your Matzah Ball Soup will taste like you’ve been making it all your life, and working all day in the kitchen.
- “Matzah Crack” is a sinfully delicious toffee treat, yet it is entirely Kosher and easy to make. (Recipe below)
- Finally and most importantly, there is a symbolic meaning behind each food on the Passover Seder plate. Rabbi Segal explains:
On the Sedar Plate:
Matzah – unleavened, flat bread, made of flour and water and cooked in 18 minutes or less. Unleavened bread was traditionally eaten with sacrifices in the time of the Israelites. It is called the “bread of freedom,” referring to the Israelites’ rush out of Egypt without time even to let their bread rise, instead baking into hard crackers on their backs. It is called the “bread of humility” as it is not “puffed up” with “hot air” or ego. No leavened food is allowed during the weeklong festival of Passover and matzah is eaten not just during the Seder but every day during the holiday.
Charoset – a sweet chopped mixture, most commonly of apples, cinnamon, nuts, wine or grape juice, and sometimes dried fruit; symbolizing mortar and brick that the Israelites would have used when building structures in Egypt.
Maror and Chazeret – Bitter herbs, most often horseradish (prepared paste or fresh root) and bitter lettuce; symbolizing the bitterness of the lives of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt.
Beitzah – Roasted Egg. The hard-boiled, then roasted egg symbolizes the festival sacrifice offered when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. The round egg also symbolizes the cycle of the seasons and rebirth in springtime. Vegans traditionally substitute an avocado pit in its place.
Zeroah -Shank Bone/Beet. This represents the Paschal lamb (Passover sacrifice) of the Israelites on the night before they left Egypt. Interestingly this symbolic food is not actually eaten or handled during the Seder. Vegetarians traditionally substitute a beet in its place.
Karpas – Parsley, accompanied by salt water. Parsley symbolizes hope and renewal, green as sprouts grow in springtime. Parsley is dipped into salt water, representing the tears of the Israelites experiencing the harshness of Egyptian slavery.
Orange – A newer item on the Seder plate, some include an orange as a symbol of inclusion. While many tell a modern (incorrect) fable of a rabbi who claimed that “A woman belongs on the bimah (pulpit) like an orange belongs on a seder plate!” the origin of this ritual item is a positive symbol of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Jewish community. Much like an orange, inclusion is sweet and carries the seeds of its own rebirth.
On the Table:
Wine – symbol of joy and freedom. Wine not only fills glasses around the table but one cup is placed in the center for the prophet Elijah, who tradition claims visits each Passover Seder as an expression of hope for a messianic age of perfection to come. 4 cups of wine (or grape juice) are consumed during the seder, each with special liturgy, scriptural quotations, and themes.
Water – In a newer ritual, a cup is filled in the center of the table for Miriam, the prophetess, sister of Moses, who led the Israelite women in song and dance after crossing the Sea of Reeds. Tradition tells of a well of fresh water that followed Miriam and the Israelites throughout the wilderness until Miriam’s death, quenching the thirst of the Israelites and sustaining them through their wandering.
All are welcome
Aspen Jewish Congregation’s Passover Seder
Friday, April 19 – 6:00 PM
RSVP by April 12
And now for a sinfully delicious treat: “Matzah Crack”
5 pieces of matzah.
1 cup butter.
1 cup brown sugar.
1 bag of dark chocolate chips.
1 cup of chopped nuts.
Coarse salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel for the top.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the matzah crackers on a baking sheet. Melt butter. Brush crackers with the melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar, chocolate chips and nuts. Bake for between 7-10 minutes until chocolate chips have melted and the nuts are toasted. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with course salt. Cool. Cut into squares or break into smaller portions. And try not to eat the entire batch in one serving!