The Jewish Passover

Seder Meal

The Seder Meal of the Jewish Passover

The Passover Seder ritual feast marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. It is conducted on the 14th day of Nissan which corresponds to late March or April on the Gregorian Calander. It is to celebrate the Israelites escaping slavery from Egypt.

Passover is also called The Festival of Freedom and is a celebration of freedom, not just in Biblical times, but its importance to the individual today and throughout history.

The story of the Passover

The Children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for 210 years. God promised he would release them from slavery, but not before Pharaoh had refused their release and God had visited ten plagues on Egypt to demonstrate his power.

The 10 plagues were:

The plague of blood

The plague of frogs

The plague of lice

The plague of flies

The plague of livestock

The plague of boils

The plague of hail

The plague of darkness

The plague of the first born

What is eaten in the Jewish Passover?

  • Matzo (unleavened bread) which is eaten symbolically three times during the meal.
  • A bone of a lamb to represent paschal sacrifice. When the Temple at Jerusalem was the centre of Jewish life, Jews would go there at Pilgrim Festivals to sacrifice a lamb or goat.
  • An egg, also to represent sacrifice, but which also has another symbolism. Food usually becomes soft and digestible when cooked, but eggs become harder. So the egg symbolises the Jews' determination not to abandon their beliefs under oppression by the Egyptians.
  • Greenery (usually lettuce) to represent new life.
  • Salt water to represent a slave's tears.
  • Four cups of wine to recall the four times God promised freedom to the Israelites, and to symbolise liberty and joy.
  • Charoset (a paste made of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine) to represent the mortar used by the Israelites to build the palaces of Egypt.
  • An extra cup of wine is placed on the table and the door is left open for Elijah. Jews believe that the prophet Elijah will reappear to announce the coming of the Messiah and will do so at Pesach.

Seder meal

The highlight of Passover observance takes place on the first two nights, when friends and family gather together for ritual seder meals.

Seder means 'order' and the ceremonies are arranged in a specific order. Special plates and cutlery are used which are kept exclusively for Passover.