Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Home Beautiful: A Seder Plate, 1764

Seder Plate
Pewter, 1764
The Victoria & Albert Museum

On Tuesday, I posted a marginally frightening video of Shari Lewis and Dom DeLuise singing about “The Seder Plate.”  And, so, since we’re looking at things with stars on them today, I thought we’d take a look of a real Seder plate which didn’t involve Lambchop.

On Passover, the youngest member of a Jewish household asks four questions.  These are, in Hebrew and in English:

1.      Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh’lin amets umatsa, vehallayla hazze kullo matsa.
Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either leavened bread or matza, but on this night we eat only matza?
2.     Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh’lin sh’ar y'rakot, vehallayla hazze maror.
Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
3.     Shebb'khol hallelot en anu matbillin afillu pa‘am eat, vehallayla hazze sh'tei fe‘amim.
Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip [our food] even once, but on this night we dip them twice?
4.    Shebb'khol hallelot anu okh’lin ben yosh’vin uven m'subbin, vehallayla hazze kullanu m'subbin.
Why is it that on all other nights we dine either sitting upright or reclining, but on this night we all recline?

The Seder plate holds the six symbolic foods that are eaten during the Passover meal—those addressed in the four questions. Seder, ostensibly, means “order” in Hebrew, and the service includes the recitation of the story of the exodus from Egypt.

The symbolic foods include bitter herbs such as horseradish, as a symbol of suffering, and unleavened bread (matzo) to recall the escape from Egypt when there was not time to wait for the bread to rise.

The full list of foods is:

§  Maror and Chazeret: Two types of bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Ancient Egypt. For maror, most families employ freshly grated horseradish or whole horseradish root. Chazeret is typically symbolized as romaine lettuce, whose roots are bitter-tasting.
§  Charoset: A sweet, brown  paste of fruits and nuts, representing the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt.
§  Karpas: A vegetable other than bitter herbs.  This is usually parsley but sometimes something such as celery or cooked potato is substituted.  These are dipped into salt water (Ashkenazi custom), vinegar (Sephardi custom), or charoset at the beginning of the Seder.  The salt water represents the tears that were shed.
§  Zeroa: A roasted lamb bone, symbolizing the korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice), which was a lamb offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.  Watch out Lambchop!
§  Beitzah: A hard boiled egg, symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem.

So, let’s take a look at this plate.  It was made in 1764 by Lieb bar Yitzak of engraved pewter.  In the center of the plate is an engraved star and, within it, an image of the Passover lamb.  Around it are scenes that relate to the song ‘Only One Kid’, which is sung on Seder night.  Engraved text around the rim of the plate show where each of the six foods should be placed. 


Fran said...

U R so wonderful, young man!

Joseph Crisalli said...

Thanks, Fran-ela!