What goes on the seder plate?

Answered by
Rabbi Daniel B. Syme

The Seder plate holds ritual foods used throughout the Passover SederSederסֵדֶר"Order;" ritual dinner that includes the retelling of the story of the Israelite's Exodus from Egypt; plural: s'darim.. Each item on a Seder plate is a symbol of the Exodus story and helps participants at the seder retell the story each year. These items are:

  1. BeitzahBeitzahבֵּיצָהLiterally, “egg.” It is an item on the Passover seder plate that represents the Passover sacrifice from biblical times. And, it symbolizes the spring season. : The roasted egg is symbolic of the festival sacrifice made in biblical times. It is also a symbol of spring, the season in which Passover is always celebrated.
  2. Marormarorמָרוֹר"Bitter;" the bitter herb or vegetable (i.e., horseradish) eaten during the seder to symbolize the bitter plight of the enslaved Israelites. : Bitter herbs (usually horseradish) symbolize the bitterness of Egyptian slavery. The maror is often dipped in charoset to reduce its sharpness. Maror is used in the seder because of the commandment (in Numbers 9:11) to eat the paschal lamb "with unleavened bread and bitter herbs."
  3. ChazeretChazeretחֲזֶרֶתAnother vegetable, often romaine lettuce, that appears on the Passover seder plate. Chazeret is used in addition to maror as a bitter herb. : Lettuce is often used in addition to the maror as a bitter herb. The authorities are divided on the requirement of chazeret, so not all communities use it. Since the commandment (in Numbers 9:11) to eat the paschal lamb "with unleavened bread and bitter herbs" uses the plural ("bitter herbs") most seder plates have a place for chazeret.
  4. Zeroa: The shank bone is symbolic of the Paschal lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in biblical times. Some communities use a chicken neck as a substitute. Vegetarian households may use beets.
  5. CharosetcharosetחֲרֹסֶתA mixture of fruits, nuts, spices and wine eaten as part of the Passover seder. Its color and consistency reminds us of the bricks and mortar used by the Israelite slaves. : This mixture (often apple, nuts, and spices ground together and mixed with wine) are symbolic of the mortar used by Hebrew slaves to build Egyptian structures. There are several variations in the recipe for charoset; the MishnahMishnahמִשְׁנָהLiterally “repetition.” Mishnah is a Jewish legal code edited by Rabbi Judah HaNasi in Palestine in 220 C.E. It is the first Jewish legal literature after the codification of the Hebrew scriptures around 90 C.E. Also called “Torah Shebal Peh,” “Oral Torah” or “Oral Law.” describes a mixture of fruits, nuts, and vinegar.
  6. KarpaskarpasכַּרְפַּסA green herb or vegetable (parsley, celery, watercress) used as part of the Passover seder to symbolize spring and rebirth. : Parsley is dipped into saltwater during the seder. The saltwater serves as a reminder of the tears shed during Egyptian slavery; the dipping of a vegetable as an appetizer is said to reflect the influence of Greek culture.
  7. Optional social justice additions: Passover offers a variety of opportunities to infuse our holiday celebrations with social justice themes, including a number of modern additions to consider adding to your seder plate. See "7 Modern Additions to the Seder Plate" to learn more. 

Tradition does not dictate the shape or size of the seder plate. Many families purchase one of the beautifully artistic seder plates made in Israel, but it may be round, square, plain, or ornate.

Learn more about the items that go on the seder plate, and check out these vegetarian/vegan alternatives