With Passover beginning this week, we thought it would be nice to provide a little background on food typically found at a Passover Seder.
Matzah- Matza is the substitute for bread during the Jewish holiday of Passover, when eating chametz (bread and leavened products) is not allowed. Eating matza on the night of the seder is considered a positive mitzvah, i.e., a commandment. In the context of the Passover seder meal, certain restrictions additional to the chametz prohibitions are to be met for the matza to be considered "mitzva matza", that is, matza that meets the requirements of the positive commandment to eat matza at the seder.
Maror and Chazeret- These bitter herbs represent the bitter life the Jews led as slaves in Egypt. They're eaten twice during the Seder-once by themselves and once with matzah. Horseradish is often used for maror and romaine lettuce for chazeret.
Charoset- This represents the bricks and mortar the Jews used to make Egyptian building, so it should be made to look like mortar. Traditional recipes mix grated apples, nuts, cinnamon, and a little red wine.
Zeroa- The roasted bone, often a lamb shank or chicken bone, represents the arm of God that convinced the Egyptians to free the slaves. It also represents the Paschal lamb that was used as a special sacrifice in the days of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
Beitzah- The hard boiled or roasted egg represents the second sacrifice that was offered on the eve of Passover at the Temple. It serves as a symbol of mourning, and reminds us of the sadness caused by destruction of the Holy Temple. The round shape also represents the circle of life.
Karpas- This is a vegetable other than the bitter herbs that represents the arrival of spring. It is dipped in saltwater and eaten.
Salt water- This represents the sweat and tears of the Jewish slaves. It's not actually placed on the seder plate, but is always served near it.
Wine- Four cups of wine are consumed during the Seder (grape juice is a fine substitute). There are four glasses to to remind us of the four references to Redemption mentioned in the Book of Exodus:
I will bring you out if Egypt.
I will deliver you from bondage.
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.
I will take you to me for a people.
It is traditional for each person's cup to be filled by the person sitting next to them.