The Seder Plate: A symbolism to my life

10 months ago The Connections Staff 0

Chloe Baker// Fairfax, VA

A picture of Chloe’s Seder meal. Note that the shank bone was missing at the time this picture was taken.

Ever since I was young, my favorite holiday has been Passover. Although eight days of matzo is not to my liking, I have always found the holiday to be fascinating and enjoyable. Plenty of work goes into the Seder meals that happen on the first two nights of the eight-day holiday. A lot of cooking, cleaning, burning chametz and spiritual cleansing takes place, and at the center of the table sits a traditional Seder Plate, home to six foods that hold lots of symbolism and meaning. The Seder Plate is not complete without these six foods. Without them, it would just be a boring plate with nothing to it. The Seder Plate and I have plenty in common. I am who I am because of the people, places, things and activities that surround me. 

The first item on the plate is the shank bone, which symbolizes the outreached arm of G-d. Although I go to a public school and live in a secular world, keeping my Judaism prominent is a top priority. I attend services at Shul, observe holidays and pray daily. Five years ago, I began working as a Hebrew school teacher. This job made a strong impression on me because it gave me a sense of responsibility and taught me how to work with kids. Learning Hebrew is hard and I am moved each time a student graduates to the next reading level. Knowing that I am the one who taught them makes me kvell with pride. 

A roasted egg, which symbolizes the cycle of life, is another item found on the Seder Plate. No matter how hard life gets, there is always hope for a new beginning. Throughout my school career I have wrestled with the challenge of having an IEP which, until recently, I have seen as an insecurity. Every time material was misunderstood, I received a poor grade or I compared myself to someone, it had a negative effect on my self-confidence. However, with hard work and perseverance, I reached the light at the end of the tunnel. I no longer compare myself to other people. I’ve learned that everyone has their own path and strong suits. I work hard to ensure I get the grades I know I deserve, and I am happy with myself. 

My favorite item on the plate is Charoset—a sweet paste that symbolizes the mortar that held the bricks together. I am a leader in many settings whether it be at school, at CTeen or in my community. Alongside my peers, I have served as the “mortar” that has helped hold these organizations and projects together. From being part of my school paper to being a class representative, writing for CTeen Connections and helping kickstart a Friendship Circle in my community, these leadership roles have given me tools and experiences I know I will carry with me after I graduate high school and beyond. 

Karpas, the green vegetable, symbolizes renewal and a fresh start to spring. The start of spring is something very important to me. (Anyone close to me knows how much I dislike the winter.) The bitter cold, snow, rain and early sunsets are all things that contribute to my negative feelings toward this long season. The start of spring is seen as a pleasant change and a reset after the winter that I need. I look forward to daylight savings, blooming flowers and warm weather, and once they arrive, I feel rejuvenated. 

Lastly are the two bitter herbs which symbolize hard times and cause us to look at the bitterness in our own lives. While there is so much good in our lives, nothing is ever going to be perfect. On Passover, besides getting rid of physical chametz, we must also cleanse ourselves of our inner chametz. This can include anything that you feel is holding you back, such as fear, anxiety, judgment, your ego or your insecurities. It’s so easy to look at the bitterness in our lives and point out all the things we don’t have, but on Passover, when we imagine ourselves leaving Egypt, these feelings disappear. Take a look at what is dragging you down right now and adjust your mindset. We must free ourselves from feeling like we can control the results of our lives.

I will always be a Passover fan because of the rich symbolism this holiday contains. Without these aspects and experiences in my life, I would be a person without a story, and a Seder Plate without food on it.