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.
What Each Item Represents
Matzah–the bread of affliction that was eaten by the slaves 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.
While it is not necessary to use a special plate for the seder plate, many families have passed one down through the generations, or have made or purchased one themselves. These seder plates often have designated spots for each of the symbolic items.
Pronounced: SAY-der, Origin: Hebrew, literally “order”; usually used to describe the ceremonial meal and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover. (In Israel, Jews have a seder only on the first night of Passover.)