The Exodus is perhaps the most significant and fundamental tale from the Torah and the most important tradition in the Jewish faith. The Exodus tells of Moses leading the Jews out of captivity in Egypt, and the Passover Seder dinner tradition is a symbolic reenactment of this event. The story signifies the freedom of a people and their deliverance from hardship. The Passover Seder takes place on the first night of the holiday and involves an elaborate feast.
The Seder plate, a platter that is placed onto each table at the start of the meal, contains an array of symbolic components. The plate displays the bone from a lamb shank, or zeroah, in reference to the animal's sacrifice. The cycle of life is represented with a roasted egg or beitzah, and the rebirth of spring, or karpas, takes the form of a green vegetable like parsley. The conditions endured during enslavement in Egypt are represented by horseradish or another bitter herb called the mar'or. The mortar used by Jews to fasten together the stone blocks of the pyramids is reflected in a fruit and nut butter called "haroset," and the tears of every Jew forced into labor are represented in a bowl of saltwater used for dipping.
Seder dinners often begin with haroset followed by a basic matzoh ball or chicken soup. The main course consists of simple fare like baked chicken or beef brisket; gefilte fish and chopped liver are two other common options. Vegetable-based side dishes like roasted asparagus, fried potato latkes or bimelos de pesah -- fritters made with raisins and pine nuts -- are served along with the main course. Seder desserts include matzoh-based sweets and candies and an assortment of Passover cakes made without the use of flour.
Every traditional Seder requires several special elements to make it complete. For example, every place at the table has a hard-boiled egg. The tables are round except for the head table where the leader of the ceremony sits. Three pieces of matzo are kept wrapped in cloth on each table to be broken and eaten at key times throughout the ceremony. Each participant drinks from four glasses of wine at symbolic points during the dinner.
Some items should never be present during the course of a traditional Seder. No pork, shellfish and yeast or other leavening agents are included in the dinner in any form. No dairy items like butter, milk or even breads and baked goods that might contain them are served. It is essential that the entire feast remain kosher and adhere to Jewish religious tradition.
- Food Network: Passover Seder Dinner
- Orthodox Union: What Is the Passover "SEDER"?
- Shalom-Peace: Necessities for the Passover Seder Dinner
- Fine Cooking: A Traditional Passover Dinner
- The Boston Globe: Recipes for the Passover Table
- Orthodox Union: Condensed Ritual Guide to Passover Seder
- My Jewish Learning: The Exodus Effect
- Photo Credit Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images