The major event of Passover is the seder, a festive meal during which we retell the story of the exodus from Egypt. The story is read out of a book called a haggadah, and as the narrative proceeds we refer to several symbolic items on a seder plate, which is a large plate that holds matzah, bitter herbs, charoset (a mixture of fruit and nuts designed to look like mortar), an egg, a shank bone, salt water, and some greens. Each item on the plate is used and explained as the meal progresses.
Here is what each item represents, in brief:
Matzah–the bread of affliction that was eaten by the salves as they rushed out of Egypt
Bitter Herbs–the bitterness of life as a slave
Haroset–its sweetness represents the sweetness of freedom, and its appearance reminds us of the mortar we were forced to make for Pharaoh
Egg– the circle of life
Shank Bone– the lamb that Jews sacrificed as the special Passover offering when the Temple stood in Jerusalem
Salt water– the tears of the slaves
Greens– the initial flourishing of the Israelites during the first years in Egypt, and the coming spring
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