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The Items On The Seder Plate

The Items On The Seder Plate

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It is the prevailing Lubavitch custom to begin the first Seder directly after the evening service, and not to dwell on the text at great length, so that the afikoman will be eaten before midnight. 1 The second Seder, by contrast, begins later in the evening, and the discussion is prolonged — expounding the Haggadah, sharing Torah insights, and arousing the participants in their divine service.

Women are obligated to fulfill all the practices of the Seder night including eating matzah and maror, drinking the four cups of wine, and reciting the Haggadah. Children should also be trained in the observance of these mitzvos.
2 It is not the prevailing Lubavitch custom to wear a kittel at the Seder or to arrange one’s chair so that it faces any specific direction.

It is the prevailing Lubavitch custom to arrange the Seder plate before Kiddush. One should arrange the matzos and the plate in the following manner: Three whole matzos are placed in a cloth matzah cover; preferably, a plastic cover should be placed over the cloth. In the notes to Sefer HaMinhagim,
3 the Rebbe is quoted as stating that the matzos in their cover should be placed on a plate. At the Rebbe’s Seder table, however, he states, all those other than the Rebbe would put their matzos in their covering on the table itself. Many chassidim feel that despite their geographic distance, they are always “at the Rebbe’s table,” and they do not use a plate. The lowest one is referred to as Yisrael, the middle one as Levi, and the upper one as Kohen. A napkin should be placed between each matzah and the one above it. It is customary to choose concave matzos, suggesting that the matzos serve as a receptacle for the downward flow of Divine energy.

The items for the Seder plate are placed on the cloth covering the matzos. On the upper right is placed the zeroa, the shankbone. The prevailing Lubavitch custom is to use the neckbone of a fowl, and to make a point of removing almost all its meat to avoid any resemblance to the Paschal sacrifice.

On the upper left is the beitzah, a hard-boiled egg. Although it commemorates the Chagigah sacrifice — which was not offered when the fourteenth of Nissan fell on Shabbos — it should nevertheless be placed on the Seder plate even when the Seder is held on Saturday night.

In the center — lower than the zeroa but above the charoses — is placed the maror, the bitter herbs. It is customary to use romaine lettuce and horseradish together for both the maror and the chazeres. Before the Seder begins, and preferably before the holiday, one should check the romaine lettuce to make sure that there are no bugs or insects on it.

On the lower right is placed the charoses — a mixture of ground apples, pears and nuts to which red wine is added during the Seder. Although it is customary in many communities to include cinnamon and ginger, this is not the Lubavitch practice, for fear that chametz might have been added to these spices during their processing.

On the lower left is placed the karpas. It is customary to use raw onion or boiled potato.

In the center at the bottom is placed the chazeres, i.e., both romaine lettuce and horseradish are used, as mentioned above.

Yisrael... Levi... Kohen

The initials of these titles serve as an acronym for the word ילד, meaning “he proceeded,” indicating that one’s divine service is a continuous process of growth and development.4 Others refer to the matzos in the order Kohen, Levi, Yisrael. These initials serve as an acronym for the word כלי, meaning “vessel.”5 In Kabbalistic terms, the matzos represent vessels and the items placed upon them represent the Divine lights which suffuse these vessels (the Previous Rebbe).6

The latter explanation underlies the Chabad custom of placing the items used during the Seder directly on the matzos and not on a separate plate (the Rebbe).7


In the center is placed the maror, the bitter herbs

One might assume that the maror should be placed on the left side, for in Kabbalistic terminology, the left side is associated with the attribute of gevurah, associated with judgment and severity — the attribute which brings about our bitter exile. Nevertheless, the maror is placed in the center, for bitternessevokes mercy, the quality which characterizes the middle vector in the Kabbalistic conception of the Sefiros. When a person pours out his soul in contrite bitterness over his separation from G‑d, G‑d’s mercies are aroused (the Alter Rebbe).8

Footnotes
1.
HaYom Yom, entry 15 Nissan; Likkutei Dibburim (English trans.), Vol. III, p. 89.
2.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 472:25.
3.
(English trans.) p. 75.
4.
See Siddur HaArizal.
5.
See Pri Etz Chayim, Shaar Chag HaMatzos, ch. 6.
6.
Sefer HaSichos 5698, p. 260.
7.
Haggadah Shel Pesach Im Likkutei Taamim (the Haggadah of the Rebbe Shlita).
8.
Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim, p. 14d ff.
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