The following symbolic foods should be placed near the leader of the Seder so that they can be used during the Seder.
On the Seder plate (use either a special one for this purpose or a regular dinner plate), include:
- zro’ah (Shank bone) symbolizes the lamb that was sacrificed in ancient days
- beitzah (Roasted Egg) represents the Passover offering of ancient days as well as the wholeness and continuing cycle of life
- maror (Bitter herbs, horseradish or romaine lettuce) reminds us of the bitter lives of the Hebrew slaves
- Charoset (the mixture of apples, nuts, sweet wine, cinnamon and sugar in the Ashkenazic fashion or dates, nuts and sweet wine in the Sephardic tradition), reminds us of the bricks and mortar made by the Hebrew slaves
- karpas (Greens) symbolizes the springtime of the year when Passover takes place
Also place on the table:
- Three matzot (pl. of matzah), on a plate with a cloth or napkin cover
- Salt water, a reminder of the tears shed by the Hebrew slaves
- Cup of Elijah—Kos Eliyahu
You may want to assemble a mini-Seder plate for each participant that includes the items they will need to participate in the Seder. Place a small amount of each of the following items on a decorative paper plate or regular small plate:
- Bitter herbs
Additionally, small bowls of salt water may be placed around the table(s) for dipping the karpas along with plates of matzah for participants to share.Before Setting the Seder Table:
Tips for Success & Meaning
Above all else, before your guests arrive be sure everyone has agreed on the length of the pre-dinner Seder. Decide when you want the chicken or the brisket, turkey and side dishes to be cooked and ready to serve. Count back from that fixed time around 45 minutes. Begin your Seder then. That way no one has to complain the Seder is too long or that the meal is ruined. If you want to create memories forever, let them be positive Jewish memories - not memories that trivialize your Seder.
1. Get yourself a good Haggadah. Invest in buying enough for all those present. It's a one time investment that can lead to wonderful years of Seders. Also, don't use the cheapest Haggadah that falls into your lap or comes from Aunt Sadie. Traditional Haggadahs are based on various midrashim that can lengthen and confuse the service unless you are very careful. I suggest using the CCAR (Reform) Haggadah (with omissions and adaptations for children). Our Temple Gift Shop has other Haggadahs that may also be of interest.
2. Go over the Haggadah a few days before the Seder. Plan what you will and won't read. Mark the parts you want others to read with yellow "stickies."
3. Follow some of these ideas:
a) Look through the rest of this website. There is material for children, adults, and every group of people who assemble for a Seder. Lots of variety. Lots of choice.
b) So that people won't get hungry during your Seder, don't only prepare karpas/parsley. Make a veggie platter available for everyone.
c) When my children were very small, I prepared a series of cardboard posters with the name of each part of the Seder and a picture of it. I gave the pictures out at different parts of the Seder and asked the child holding the particular part to raise his sign high. On other occasions, I held onto the signs and as we went through each part of the service, I taped the sign on the wall or on a piece of furniture. Later, I had some kids put them out of order and I then had other kids try to order them correctly.
d) If lots of children are present at your Seder, pause after the Four Questions and the Four Children to play a game. Have pencils work in pairs. Use a puzzle or have people draw something of their own. This website has lots of puzzles and games. Use them to get everyone involved.
e) How about this? After the Four Questions ask everyone present to think of their own question. The questions can be about Passover or Judaism or God or faith or just about any worthy topic. The leader might give an example and then listen as others give their questions. After all the questions are given, see who wants to answer them. (Hint: Let everyone speak. No question is a bad question. Children AND adults should participate. Let the kids see adults truly involved in a significant discussion. It will make an impression.)
f) One place to simplify and speed up matters is the MAGGID. That's the telling of the story. You could skip this material in your adult Haggadah and have someone tell the story in his or her own words or have someone read a preprinted simplified, direct telling of the story.
g) Here's one of my favorite activities. Get some information on everyone at your Seder. Especially information on how their families got to America and wherever people now live. Then create your own Dayenu. eg. If Grandpa Sam's parents had left Poland for England. Dayenu. If Grandpa had been born in London and not come over to Boston. Dayenu. If Grandpa had come to Boston and not met Grandma while roller skating. Dayenu. If Grandpa and Grandma had met each other roller skating and not married and had Dad. Dayenu. etc. etc. People will love this!!
There are a thousand ways to personalize the Seder. Just think, be creative, and loose. And, by the way, have the people present at your Seder sign the inside cover of the leader's Haggadah. If you do this annually over a number of years, you will develop a wonderful record of your family and friends.