What Is the Purpose of Each Food on the Seder Plate?

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A traditional Passover seder plate will include several symbolic foods that are part of the holiday ritual; these foods include a roasted lamb shank bone, three separate leafy green vegetables, a roasted egg and a salad of apples and nuts known as charoset. The three leafy green vegetables are known as karpas, maror and chazaret, which typically consist of parsley or another leafy green spring vegetable, horseradish and romaine lettuce, respectively. Maror and chazaret are known as "bitter herbs."

These bitter herbs symbolize the bitter harshness of the slavery that Jewish people experienced in Egypt as a result of the Pharaoh's oppression. Each of the foods on this seder plate have a similar symbolic weight relating to the Passover story of Jewish enslavement, their holy release from bondage and the subsequent escape. For example, the charoset salad represents the materials that Jewish slaves in Egypt had to use to make bricks, and the lamb shank represents the sacrifice the escaping slaves made prior to their successful flight from Egypt. Vegetarians may replace the shank with another symbolic item such as a beet. A Passover table will also usually have space for salt water, which represents the Hebrew slaves' tears, and a stack of matzah, a literal representation of the unleavened bread the slaves baked prior to their escape.