Preparing the Seder plate is not just putting the required foods on the plate. It takes advanced preparation and cooking. In order to prepare all the seder foods on time, you’ll need other members of the household to help out. Every item on the Seder plate abounds in meaning and allusion. So I’m going to go through them below and help you see why they are included, how they are prepared and what its roles are in the Seder meal.
The plate is placed on top of the covering of the three matzot and is placed in front of the head of the household. The Seder plate has six items on it, arranged in a special order.
The Shank Bone
The shank bone (a piece of roasted meat) represents the lamb that was the Paschal sacrifice on the eve of the exodus from Egypt. Since the temple was destroyed in the month of Elul, year 3830 (August 70 AD), the Paschal sacrifice is no longer offered. Many communities today have the custom to use a roasted chicken neck or similar.
To prepare: Roast the meat on all sides over an open fire on the stove. Some have the custom of removing most of the meat off the bone.
During the Seder: The meat of the shank bone is not eaten. After the meal it is refrigerated, and used a second time on the Seder plate the following night.
Hard boiled egg
The egg represents the offering brought in to the Temple.
To prepare: Boil one egg per Seder plate, and boil a few more in case they are needed during the meal.
During the Seder: One egg is placed on each plate. As soon as the actual meal is about to begin, remove the egg from the Seder plate and use during the meal.
Bitter herbs (maror) are a reminder of the bitterness of the slavery the Jews experienced in Egypt. The most common choices for this are horseradish root, romaine lettuce, and endive.
To prepare: This must be done before the holiday begins. Peel the raw horseradish roots, and rinse them off well. Dry the roots thoroughly since they will be eaten with the matzah later on. Not a single drop of water should be left on the horseradish – this will prevent chametz when later used with the matzah. Grate the horseradish with a hand grater or electric grinder. (Cover the face with a cloth to cover the nose and mouth. Breathing in the strong, bitter odor will cause quite a lot of tearing up and coughing.)
The lettuce or endive leaves must be washed, carefully checked for insects, and again, thoroughly dried. As an alternative, the stalks can be used as they are easier to clean. Put a few of the cleaned dried leaves of romaine lettuce on the Seder plate and then put the horseradish on top.
Role in the Seder: After the recital of most of the haggadah comes the ritual handwashing. Then matzah is eaten, followed by maror, followed in turn by a sandwich of matzah and maror.
This is a mixture of apples, nuts and wine to resemble the mortar and brick made by the Jews when they toiled for Pharaoh.
Preparation: Shell walnuts and peel apples and chop finely. Mix together and add a small amount of wine.
Role in the Seder: The morar is dipped in this (then shaken off) before eating.
This non-bitter vegetable alludes to the backbreaking work of the Jews as slaves.
Preparation: Peel an onion or boiled potato. Cut off a slice and place on Seder plate. Next to the Seder plate, place a small bowl of salted water.
Role in the Seder: After recital of kiddush, the family goes to the sink and washes hands, but without saying the usual blessing. Then the head of the household cuts a small piece of the vegetable, dips it in saltwater, and gives each person at the table a very small piece (less than 17 grams – or ½ ounce) over which they say the appropriate blessing.