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Why is there an egg on the Seder Plate?

by Mrs. Shaina B. Lipskier

  

Library » Holidays » Passover » Seder » The Seder Plate | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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We place an egg on the Seder Plate to commemorate the Chagiga sacrifice (holiday offering,) which was offered in the Holy Temple on the 14th of Nissan, and eaten during the Seder, along with the Paschal Offering. The meat of the Chagiga constituted the entree of the Passover meal, while the Paschal Lamb served as the "dessert."1

In addition to its role on the Seder plate the egg serves another purpose at the Seder. Before the beginning of Shluchan Oreich, the meal part of the Seder, we eat the egg (unlike the shank bone which we don't), because an egg also represents our mourning of the destruction of the Holy Temple.2 (It is customary for a mourner to eat eggs during the post-funeral meal.) Sitting at the Seder table, it is impossible not to be saddened when thinking of the "good old times," when the Jews gathered in Jerusalem on this very night, and partook of the sacrifices which were offered in the Holy Temple.3

The egg is eaten as an appetizer before the meal -- immediately after the "Korech" (Matzah and bitter herbs) sandwich -- and is traditionally dipped into salt water before being eaten.

Footnotes

  • 1. Shulchan Aruch 473:4
  • 2. The two symbolisms of the egg should not be confused: it is "displayed" on the Seder Plate to commemorate the Chagigah offering. It is "eaten" before the meal as a sign of mourning.
  • 3. Rama on Shulchan Aruch 476:2

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Matzah
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Nissan
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Seder
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.