The Seder Plate (Ka'arah) includes most of the ingredients that go
into the making of the Seder. Its three matzahs and the six other items are
arranged in a formation dictated by their mystical significance and relationship
vis-a-vis each other.
Here's how you set it up:
On top of a large plate, tray or cloth place three whole
matzahs, one on top
of the other. It's best to use round, hand-baked shmurah matzah. (We'll be using middle matzah in steps 4, 5, 7, 8, and 12 of our 15-step Seder, the top matzah in steps 7 and 8, and the bottom matzah in steps 7 and 10.)
Cover the matzahs with a
cloth or tray. On top, position the following six items as pictured above right:
1) "Zeroa" - a roasted chicken bone with most of the meat removed. This
will represent the Passover offering. It will not be eaten.
2) "Beitzah" - a hard-boiled egg, representing the festival offering.
3) "Maror" - grated horseradish (just the horseradish -- not the red stuff that has vinegar and beets added) and/or romaine lettuce, for use as the "bitter herbs" (step #9).
4) "Charoset" - a paste made of apples, pears, nuts and wine. We'll be
dipping the bitter herbs in this (steps 9 and 10).
5) "Karpas" - a bit of vegetable, such an onion or potato (used in step #3).
6) "Chazeret" -- more bitter herbs, for use in the matzah-maror sandwich (step #10).
We'll also need a wine cup or goblet for each participant, and plenty of wine (four cups each).
And a dish of salt water (in which to dip the Karpas).
Ok, we're ready to start our 15-step Seder. We'll talk more about the function and significance of these items as we proceed.
Matzah is unleavened bread.
It's made from flour (from one of the "five types of grain" -- wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt) and water only -- absolutely nothing else -- that are swiftly combined, kneaded and baked before the dough has a chance to ferment and begin to rise. It looks something like a large, round flat cracker. It tastes simply delicious.
Matzah may be flat, but it has many faces: it is the "bread of affliction" and the
"bread of poverty" which our forefather's ate as slaves in Egypt. It's the "bread of proclamation" over which we tell the story of the Exodus. It's the "bread of humility" that represents our self-abnegating commitment to G-d, and the "bread of faith" that embodies our simple faith, trust and devotion to Him. It's the "bread of
healing" with which we imbibe spiritual wholeness and wellness into our beings.
Shemurah matzah ("guarded matzah") is made from grain that is guarded from the time
it was harvested lest it come in contact with even the merest hint of
water and moisture. It is also baked by hand, with the specific intention and awareness that it will be used as a vehicle of connection to G-d -- to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah on the seder night. (No machine can do that, can it?)