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My Sedar: far from normal. Let’s just say I have a father who loves to hear himself sing in Hebrew. Chag Sameach!

Tonight is the first night of Passover. An important Jewish holiday celebrated worldwide, Passover commemorates the long-ago deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage. The service honoring the event is called the Seder, which means ‘order.’ Families and friends gather around the dining table and read from a special prayer-book called the Haggadah. The ceremony invokes questions, songs,  and calls for a lot of wine. For the hosts and home cooks, Passover presents complicated food restriction.

When Egypt’s pharaoh finally agreed after much convincing (and 10 plagues) to let Moses’ enslaved people go, the Jews left their homes so quickly — pursued by the pharaoh, who by then had changed his mind — that they didn’t have time to prepare bread for the journey. Instead, they ate an unleavened mixture of flour and water that, when baked, turned flat and hard: Matzah. During the eight days of traveling this is one of the foods the Jews ate, and as remembrance we eat it too. Bread and other food made with leavened grain-is forbidden by Jewish Law. When I lived in Israel, it was easy to keep the tradition because food that was made with leavened grain was not sold- anywhere. Shelves on the supermarkets are covered, and bakeries are shut down.

The Seder plate traditionally has small bowls / plates of the food items used and referenced to in the reading of the Haggadah

Maror Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, represent the bitterness of slavery. Grated horseradish root or jarred horseradish can be used, and is typically eaten on a piece of matzo.

Chazeret Often only one bitter herb (horseradish) is used on Passover, but there are two places on the seder plate. In the US people typically use romaine lettuce as the second bitter herb.

Charoset A sweet mixture of roughly chopped apples, walnuts, cinnamon and red wine, charoset represents the mortar that was used to construct the store houses by the Jewish people when they were slaves in ancient Egypt.

Karpas Here, parsley or another green vegetable symbolizes the coming of spring. In the Ashkenazi tradition it is dipped in salt water, which represents the tears of the Jewish people when they were slaves.

Z’roa The lamb shank bone is the one part of the Seder plate that is not eaten during the dinner. Instead, it serves as a visual reminder of the special Passover sacrificial lamb offered at the temple in Jerusalem before its destruction.

Beitzah Often eaten with salt water, hard-boiled eggs are a symbol of life. It is also said to represent the second offerings presented at the temple in Jerusalem, sorrow at its destruction, and the hope that it will be rebuilt.

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