The Passover seder is one of the most eagerly awaited rituals in many Jewish homes. Talk to any Jew, in fact, and he/she is likely to have many beautiful memories of seders past as well as high hopes for seders to come. Whether you’ve never attended a seder and simply want to learn more about this religious ritual or you’re hosting a seder of your own this year, read on for everything you’ve always want to know about this festive feast.
What is the Passover Seder?
According to ReformJudaism.org, “The seder, a festive holiday meal, actually means ‘order.’ It is called this because the meal is done in a certain order which takes us from slavery to freedom. The Haggadah – which means ‘the telling’ – is the book used at the Passover seder. The Haggadah explains the foods on the seder plate, recounts the highlights of the Exodus, and includes songs, prayers, questions and vignettes.”
Many people assume that seder dinners are solemn occasions. However, seders are actually an occasion for rejoicing. Which begs the question: What, exactly, is the seder celebrating? According to American Haggadah, the Jewish seder commemorates “the liberation of the Hebrews from servitude in Egypt.”
Also inherent to the seder? The retelling of the story of Exodus — both through the narrative and the components of the meal — which Jews believe is a mitzvah commanded by scripture. Explains My Jewish Learning, “The seder permits Jews to worship God through prayer, study, and learning by taking part in what is essentially a lesson of Jewish history, literature, and religion. Participation in the seder lets one symbolically and vicariously relive the Exodus, where past and present merge.”
About the Seder Meal
Seder dinner isn’t just a ritual meal; it’s above all else a time for giving thanks. One of the best ways to set the appropriate tone during a seder dinner? With a beautiful and festive seder table. Equally if not more important? The food on that table.
Certain foods are traditionally featured together as part of the “seder plate,”, and are used to represent the Jewish people’s exodus. These include a roasted lamb shankbone, which symbolizes the Paschal lamb sacrificed at Passover in Jerusalem; roasted egg, which symbolizes the “festival offering” brought to the three Jewish festivals of Pesach, Shavuos and Succos; charoset, a fruit and nut paste symbolizing the mortar used to make the bricks which build the Egyptian cities; and the Karpas (AKA green vegetables like parsley, lettuce, or watercress), which are used to represent the spring harvest.
Perhaps the most well-known Passover food of all, however, is matzos. This cracker-like unleavened bread serves as a reminder of Jewish life under slavery. It’s also used to demonstrate the haste with which the Jews left Egypt — so fast that their bread dough didn’t have time to rise. The three matzos used during the seder symbolize the unification of three different tribes of Jews.
Wine is also an important part of the Passover seder. A wine cup is placed at the center of the table in homage to the belief that Elijah visits Jewish homes on Passover to observe the festivities. During the reading of the Haggadah, celebrants also have the opportunity to do some imbibing of their own: Four cups of wine are consumed in homage to the four promises of redemption.
Additionally, the seder includes many other traditions, including the kiddush blessing; the ritual washing and rewashing of the hands (ur’chatz and rachtzah), the breaking of the middle matzah (yachatz); and the retelling of the story of the Exodus (maggid), the recitation of the Birkat HaMazon (barech), the recitation of Psalms of praise (hallel), and a prayer to God for peace in Jerusalem and for a better world (nirtzah).
Also typically found on the seder table? Saltwater, which represents the tears of their Hebrew ancestors.
A Festive (Fuss-Free!) Feast
The non-ceremonial portion of the Passover menu, meanwhile, is far less regiment. Explains Food Network, “traditions among Ashkenazi Jews generally include gefilte fish (poached fish dumplings), matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel (somewhat like a casserole) and tzimmes, a stew of carrots and prunes, sometimes including potatoes or sweet potatoes.”
Unfortunately, many Passover hosts and hostesses quickly realize each year that there’s one almost-certain way to strip the joy away from the Passover celebration: Spending the day fussing over a mega-meal instead of sharing in the event with family members and friends. But, thanks to FoodyDirect’s extensive inventory of Passover-friendly foods from some of the country’s finest restaurants and purveyors, including Kenny & Ziggy’s Delicatessen, one of the country’s most famous and authentic Jewish delis, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Rather than stressing over finding recipes, grocery shopping, and hours of planning, prep and cooking work, simply order up all of your Passover favorites from FoodyDirect today. (Take it from Ziggy himself: “Moses led our people out of bondage, so why should you be a slave in your kitchen?”)
While Passover may not be the most important of Jewish holidays, it is absolutely one of the most beloved. And that love doesn’t end with the Jews. In fact, the appeal of the holiday prompted The Atlantic to declare it, “the Jewish festival that non-Jews love to observe.” So whether you’re Jewish or just getting in on the fun, Chag Sameach from FoodyDirect! Shop Easter and many other events today.
If you’d like to read more about the food traditions associated with Easter and Passover, click here.