Haggadah Says What? The new traditions of the seder plate

Haggadah Says What? The new traditions of the seder plate

 Rabbi Danny Rich looks into texts we read on Passover and offers a modern response to their lessons

Seder table!
Seder table!

The traditional items on the seder plate – an egg, a shank bone, the karpas, charoset, maror and hazeret – all act as visual and gustatory symbols and reminders of the component parts of the Exodus story.

They represent the bitterness and harshness of slavery, the saltiness of the tears of the oppressed, and the korban Pesach the priests would have offered in the Temple.

In more modern times, Progressive Jews have used Passover as an apposite opportunity to infuse the seder with various themes, and sought to represent the diversity of their communities by making additions to the seder plate.

Perhaps the most well-known of the new items on the seder plate is the orange, initiated in the 1980s by Professor Susannah Heschel, as a way of acknowledging the role of people who feel marginalised within the Jewish community.

The orange is often accompanied by Miriam’s Cup; a cup of water, a counterpart to Elijah’s Cup, that highlights Miriam’s role in delivering the Israelites from slavery and wandering in the wilderness.

Additionally, the Fair Trade movement exists to promote economic partnerships based on equality, justice, and sustainable environmental practices.

By including fairly-traded products in our seder, we are reminded that despite our own liberation from slavery, forced labour is still very much a modern issue.

The seder is a good time to remember that not everyone has had the good fortune of escape from their own particular bondage, and that, ultimately, in the same way that we leave space at our seder table to welcome new guests so, too, can we make room on our seder plate for new concepts.

  •  Rabbi Danny Rich is senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism
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