As we discussed in the previous post, the 4 promises of the Exodus are extremely important to the Jewish tradition as well as by inference to the Christian tradition. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So who He was is who He is and who He will be. Now, we can only take lessons from the Israelites and their Exodus experience with God as we are not an enslaved people (literally), rather we all have mental, emotional, psychological, political, relational or even spiritual enslavements in our lives.
To better understand the next post we must go back to the original Passover meal, or Seder as it’s called in depth on this post. Highly symbolic and highly ritualized, the Seder is the beginning of the reminder of the covenant between God and his chosen people. Let’s look at the Seder in more detail now.
Wikipedia, backed up by my peeks at other sources of course, lays it out the simplest way.
The six traditional items on the Seder Plate are as follows:
(1) Maror and chazeret — Bitter herbs symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery the Hebrews endured in Egypt. In Ashkenazi tradition, either horseradish or romaine lettuce may be eaten in the fulfillment of the mitzvah of eating bitter herbs during the Seder.
Ashkenazim originate from the Jews who settled along the Rhine River, in Western Germany and Northern France. There they became a distinct diaspora community with a unique way of life that adapted traditions from Babylon, The Land of Israel, and the Western Mediterranean to their new environment. The Ashkenazi religious rite developed in cities such as Mainz, Worms, and Troyes. The eminent French Rishon Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki (Rashi) would have a significant impact on the Jewish religion.
In the late Middle Ages, the majority of the Ashkenazi population shifted steadily eastward,moving out of the Holy Roman Empire into the Pale of Settlement (comprising parts of present-day Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine). In the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries, those Jews who remained in or returned to the German lands experienced a cultural reorientation; under the influence of the Haskalah and the struggle for emancipation, as well as the intellectual and cultural ferment in urban centers, they gradually abandoned the use of Yiddish, while developing new forms of Jewish religious life and cultural identity.
Sephardic Jews often use curly parsley, green onion, or celery leaves.
Sephardi Jews, also known as Sephardic Jews or simply Sephardim, (Hebrew: סְפָרַדִּים, Modern Hebrew: Sfaraddim, Tiberian: Səp̄āraddîm; also יְהוּדֵי סְפָרַד Y’hudey Spharad, lit. “The Jews of Spain”), are a Jewish ethnic division whose ethnogenesis and emergence as a distinct community of Jews coalesced on the Iberian Peninsula around the year 1000. They established communities throughout Spain and Portugal, where they traditionally resided, evolving what would become their distinctive characteristics and diasporic identity, which they took with them in their exile from Iberia beginning in the late 15th century to North Africa, Anatolia, the Levant, the Balkans, the Baltics, Central, Southern and Northern Europe, as well as the Americas, and all other places of their exiled settlement, either alongside pre-existing co-religionists, or alone as the first Jews in new frontiers.
And we see traditions of each of these groups of Jews incorporating various little modifications to their faith practices to bend and flex to their surrounding culture without completely losing their Jewishness.
(2) Charoset — A sweet, brown mixture representing the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves to build the storehouses or pyramids of Egypt. In Ashkenazi Jewish homes, Charoset is traditionally made from chopped nuts, grated apples, cinnamon, and sweet red wine
(3) Karpas — A vegetable other than bitter herbs, which is dipped into salt water at the beginning of the Seder. Parsley, celery or boiled potato is usually used. The dipping of a simple vegetable into salt water, and the resulting dripping of water off of said vegetables visually represents tears and is a symbolic reminder of the pain felt by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Usually in a Shabbat or holiday meal, the first thing to be eaten after the kiddush over wine is bread. At the Seder table, however, the first thing to be eaten after the kiddush is a vegetable. This leads immediately to the recital of the famous question, Ma Nishtana — “Why is this night different from all other nights?” It also symbolizes the spring time, because Jews celebrate Passover in the spring.
(4) Zeroa — Also transliterated Z’roa, it is special as it is the only element of meat on the Seder Plate. A roasted lamb or goat shankbone, and when not available then substituted by a chicken wing, or chicken neck; symbolizing the original korban Pesach (Passover sacrifice), which later on was a lamb that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, then roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. Since the destruction of the Temple, the z’roa serves as a visual reminder of the Pesach sacrifice; it is not eaten or handled during the Seder.
(5) Beitzah — A roasted hard-boiled egg, symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. Although both the Pesach sacrifice and the chagigah were meat offerings, the chagigah is commemorated by an egg, a symbol of mourning (as eggs are the first thing served to mourners after a funeral), evoking the idea of mourning over the destruction of the Temple and our inability to offer any kind of sacrifices in honor of the Pesach holiday. Since the destruction of the Temple, the beitzah serves as a visual reminder of the chagigah; it is not used during the formal part of the seder, but some people eat a regular hard-boiled egg dipped in saltwater as the first course of the meal.
Table set for the seder with a seder plate, salt water, matza, kosher wine and a copy of the Haggadah for each guest. The Haggadah (Hebrew: הַגָּדָה, “telling”; plural: Haggadot) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder. Reading the Haggadah at the Seder table is a fulfillment of the Scriptural commandment to each Jew to “tell your son” of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus in the Torah (“And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” Ex. 13:8).
The sixth symbolic item on the Seder table is a plate of three whole matzot (unleavened bread), which are stacked and separated from each other by cloths or napkins. The middle matzah will be broken and half of it put aside for the afikoman. Afikoman (Hebrew: אֲפִיקוֹמָן, based on Greek epikomon [ἐπὶ κῶμον] or epikomion [ἐπικώμιον], meaning “that which comes after” or “dessert”) is a half-piece of matzo which is broken in two during the early stages of the Passover Seder and set aside to be eaten as a dessert after the meal. The top and other half of the middle matzot will be used for the hamotzi (blessing over bread), and the bottom matzah will be used for the korech (Hillel sandwich).
A bowl of salt water, which is used for the first “dipping” of the Seder, is not traditionally part of the Seder Plate, but is placed on the table beside it. However, it sometimes is used as one of the six items, omitting chazeret.
One more item which is used is the fruit of the vine, or wine. It is lifted up and blessed and drunk at 4 distinct times during the Seder in remembrance of the 4 promises of God to the Israelites in Exdodus.