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Seder preparations

Preparations and The Seder Table

Careful advance preparation by both hosts and leaders is a significant part of the joy of the holiday and key to having a memorable celebration. Location, guests, menu and recipes (available in full detail in The Biblical Festivals book linked below), and meal preparation plans all need to be decided and arranged in advance. Leaders should read through the Haggadah (at with live links), and all participants are encouraged to read Exodus 12 and John 13-17 before the Seder.

The Seder begins at sundown with everyone seated at a beautifully set table, covered with a white tablecloth as a reminder of the bright sand of the Sinai desert and decorated in blue and gold with cheerful spring flowers and candles.

At the head of the table are arranged the special Passover elements listed below:

  • A plate of three matzot, hidden under a cover or napkin, as a reminder of the unleavened bread the people of God carried as they fled Egypt.
  • A wine goblet for use in ceremonial greetings throughout the Seder.
  • A special ceremonial wine goblet, the Cup of Elijah, covered with a napkin and set out in a prominent place in front of the leader.
  • The ceremonial Seder platter with six symbolic foods:

  1. Zeroah – The shank of a lamb, as a reminder of the Paschal lamb.
  2. Beitzah – A roasted egg, symbolic of the peace offering that accompanied the sacrifice of the lamb.
  3. Maror and Chazeret – Bitter herbs (and sometimes horseradish), calling to mind the bitterness of slavery.
  4. Haroset – a food made of apples and nuts mixed with wine and cinnamon to look like the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used.
  5. Karpas – Greens, parsley or watercress, to remind us of the promise of new life which bursts forth from God’s bounty each spring.
  6. A dish of salt water into which the greens are dipped as a reminder of the tears shed by the slaves. Often on the side with horseradish on Seder plate instead.
  • A bowl of water with a small towel for ceremonial washing.
  • A small pillow on the leader’s chair symbolic of the luxury of freedom, since slaves were not allowed to eat at their leisure while free men could dine comfortably.

Then, right at sunset after all have been seated, the ceremony begins…