Seder is the traditional name given to the Passover meal. This article will provide information on the traditional Jewish Pesach feast.
The most popular and important of all Jewish festivals, Passover has a significant as well as historical bearing in the life of the people of Israel. The Passover marks the grand exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt to a promised land of freedom. The festival celebrates the liberation of the Jews from bondage. Therefore, it is celebrated with a lot of mirth. Passover is a seven or eight-day festival and on the first night, or on the second, a lavish meal is prepared in every Jewish household, known as the Seder meal (meaning "order", "arrangement" in Hebrew). Seder meal is a family ritual feast. The needy and poor are also invited to dine on the finest china and silverware. During the meal, the entire family gathers along with friends to enjoy the sumptuous feast and praise the God. Passover meals continue until late at night, with the family reading the Haggadah, studying the meaning of various passages, and singing special Pesach songs.
Significance Of Passover Food
The traditional feast of Jewish Pesach consists of certain traditional dishes, mainly 'matzah' and foods containing matzah. The feast, organized annually, allows the consumption of unleavened food only and reminds us of the hasty departure of the masses. It is also a symbolic way of removing the puffiness (arrogance, pride) from our souls. Therefore, eating matzah on Passover is a widespread custom in the Jewish community. Passover feast not only celebrates the freedom of Jews, but also makes the present generation aware of their miseries in the past.
One of the main customs of the Jewish Passover meal was to stand around the table and lean over. Leaning over was symbolic of the freedom gained after freeing themselves from the talons of the pharaoh. Everything related to Passover and their food has significance, even in today's world. Read on to understand what a typical Passover Seder plate primarily consists of.
- A hard-boiled egg - The egg constantly reminded the people of the brutality of the Egyptians and how with every tyrannical phase, the Jews only got stronger. Anything kept in boiling water will melt. On the contrary, eggs harden. It also symbolized the concept of a new lease of life.
- A variety of greens - Green is the color of hope and everything related to spring. This usually consisted of parsley sprigs and celery.
- A roasted shank bone of lamb - The lamb is a grim reminder of the number of lives lost and the blood shed for saving the lives of the others.
- Bitter greens and herbs - This is essential on the Seder plate as it constantly reminds the Jews of their ill-treatment and misfortunes in the land of bondage. Horseradish is commonly kept on the plate for this segment. The greens would then be dipped in salt water and consumed.
- Matzah - The unleavened bread tells the grappling tale of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Its shows that they left in such haste that they didn't even wait for the bread to rise.
- Salt water - As uncommon as this may sound, salt water was an essential component on the Seder plate, which reminded the Jews of the number of tears wasted and shed over agony and loss of lives.
- Haroset - This consists of nuts, apple, and a wine mixture that bears resemblance to straw. This reminds the Jews of the materials and the mortar used to build the Treasure cities for the Pharaoh. The only thing that kept them going through all the cruelty was a bleak line of hope that they would be 'delivered' to the Promised Land.
- Other food such as the Korech sandwich, Matzah ball soup and fish balls are also consumed. They are special preparations made apart from the Seder plates.
As a customary practice, all men and women had to drink four cups of wine. It was to be understood that even people living in poverty had a necessity to drink wine. They could not be deprived of having that basic necessity in life.
After all the merriment, the children are seen eating the 'Afikoman'. This is the matzah that is broken down at the table in the initial moments of the Passover meal. Half of the matzah is kept for later; i.e., the dessert. The rule is not to eat anything after the Afikoman. The taste has to linger in the mouths as a pleasant reminder of sweeter things to come. Since the Passover meal is a mammoth affair, the children have an important part to play too. Sometimes, the head of the family hides the matzah and the children have to search for it, after which a gift is given to the children. This helps keep them awake through the Haggadah and the Peseach songs.
The Passover meal is a big event in the life of the Jews. Not only does it remind them of the grim times of their ancestral past, but it also eggs them to celebrate what they have in hand, and what their ancestors fought for; their freedom. A Passover meal is a milestone and gives the opportunity for the families to be happy and stand united in times of grief. It is also an occasion where they thank the lord for taking their side and for showering them with kindness and mercy. The extravagant feast celebrated on the 15th day of the 'Nisan' then wraps up with songs in the praise of God, prayers for the ancestors who suffered, and songs for a better tomorrow. All the songs and even the food in this case, are allegorical.