Meditations on the Seder Plate

Lines, Circles, & Infinity.

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The egg is associated with (gevurah) restraint and restriction, a time of loss, when there is a concealment of apparent kindness. In the middle, at the third point of the triangle, (maror) bitter herbs are arranged reflecting the attribute of tiferet (mercy and compassion). Becoming aware of our own spiritual condition may arouse a bitterness within and provoke divine compassion. Besides, when we, through external stimuli feel pain we awaken our own ability to be empathetic to others who are truly in pain.

Next we arrange the lower triangle, reflecting the outer emotional sefirot. On the lower right column we place the haroset, which is a mixture of various fruits that are crushed into a liquid like form. The haroset corresponds to the sefira of netzah, as the haroset is comprised of fruits of trees, growing tall and mighty, mirroring the energy of confidence and perseverance. Across, on the lower left column we arrange the karpas, a vegetable, either an onion or potato.

The karpas reflects the idea of hod (humility), as vegetables, in contrast to fruit, grow within or in close proximity to the earth. In fact, in the word karpas one can find the words caf (palm) and ras (poor), the hand of the poor open to receive in its humility. In the lower middle column the hazeret is placed. The hazeret is the bitter herbs that will be eventually used in the Hillel sandwich. Hazeret reflects the sefira of yesod, the connecting force, that which binds together, as the hazeret is sensitive and will unify the entire internal structure of the seder, bringing together freedom and exile, affliction and salvation, unifying the matzah--the bread of liberation--with the maror, which represents our suffering and pain.

All the above is placed on the actual plate, which is malchut, the vessel and container of all the points of light.

Having arranged the items in their appropriate locations, securing that ‘order’ is in place, we can now be on our journey towards radical infinite freedom, attaining this awesome power by revealing the infinity which is beyond histalshelus, beyond ‘worlds’, beyond the worlds of actualization, formation or creation, and allowing for the manifestation of, in the words of the Haggadah, “ I, and not an angel…I, and not a seraph…I, and not a messenger, but I Hashem.”

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Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Rabbi DovBer Pinson is the Rosh Yeshiva of the IYYUN Yeshiva, a Yeshiva for adults. He is also the founder of the IYYUN Center, a center for Jewish enrichment in Brooklyn, New York, and and is the author of more than ten books on Kabbalah and spirituality.