About That Seder

I’m not sure whether to characterize myself here as gentile or goy, since one term seems to carry offensive connotations and the other seems to name one as either Christian or non-believer, none of which I’d entirely want to apply myself — but as my last name likely indicates, I’m not of the Jewish heritage. Welsh and Scots, mostly. Raised Unitarian but with Methodist and Episcopal grandparents, atheist as a teen and agnostic for a time after that, but now I’d characterize myself as having an uncertain and nondenominational but ultimately believing capital-f Faith.

And when I look at religion, I think my instinctive desire for order and my love for ritual and history and esoterica make traditions like those of Catholicism and Judaism deeply appealing to me. But this started out for me as a post about food, which is to say: I’m deeply curious about the ritual aspects of the Passover Seder. Albeit with a nod to the necessary heterogeneity of religious and cultural tradition, I feel impelled to ask: traditionally, the z’roa and the beitzah are cooked but never handled or consumed? Can the z’roa, as a roasted lamb shank bone, be used in the preparation of other Seder foods, e.g. in soup broth — or does it carry its own necessarily independent semiotic value? Does the same hold true for the roasted egg beitzah? Is there a symbolic distinction between the things consumed and the things not consumed?

3 thoughts on “About That Seder

  1. Mike Golner

    To answer your questions the Zeroa and Beitzah of the seder plate carry deeper meanings. They are set on a special plate with salt water, charosis and maror. The Zeroa represents the arm of god and his aiding the jews out of Egypt. The Beitzah is a symbol for the continuity of life. The charosis, which is apple nuts and wine, represents the mortar and clay the slaves used to build bricks. The salt water represents the tears cried by the jews in Egypt. The maror, which is usually horseradish, is the bitter herb that represents the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. These things are presented during the seder to remind us about the past and keep the spirit of Moses and his actions alive.

    ~Mike Golner


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