The Seder Plate

The placement and symbolism of the items on the seder plate.

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On the Table

In addition to the items on the seder plate, the seder table should also have three pieces of matzah wrapped or covered in a cloth and a container of salt water or vinegar in which to dip the karpas. Some seder plates have a compartment for matzah underneath, or include space for salt water among the other symbols. In most cases, though, matzah and salt water or vinegar sit near, but not on, the seder plate.

Many contemporary Jews add additional items to the seder plate to symbolize modern liberation struggles. The most common new item is an orange, which honors the role of women and/or gays and lesbians in Jewish life. The orange symbolizes the fruitfulness that these previously marginalized communities bring to Jewish life. Some Jews place an olive on the seder plate to signal hope for eventual peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

One way to encourage participation in the seder is to ask each guest to bring one item that, for him or her, represents liberation. Participants might bring family heirlooms that remind them of their family's immigration story, newspaper stories about current liberation struggles, or other symbolic objects. Each guest should place this item near the seder plate and, at an appropriate time in the seder, explain its significance.

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Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. She previously served as the Rabbi-in-Residence for the Jewish Funds for Justice.