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Saturday, March 7, 2015

An invitation to Passover: Traditional Seder is rich with readings, rituals and symbolic foods(part 2)

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By Julie Wiener
Associated Press

The basics

All Seders include a few basic elements, such as kosher wine, matzo (unleavened bread), a Seder plate (a special plate that displays symbolic foods) and a reading of the Haggadah, the book that serves as a guide to the ceremony.

Beyond that, family traditions generally dictate.

Some families will dress formally and spend hours before the meal reading the Haggadah in Hebrew. Others are decidedly more casual, zip through the rituals in English and make the food the main event.

Many families create their own Haggadah, incorporating contemporary readings. Those who use published Haggadahs have hundreds to choose from, including books that embrace vegetarianism, feminism and other causes.

Some families conclude with dessert, while others continue into the night with singing, readings and prayers.

Four questions

Early in the Seder, the youngest participant typically will ask "The Four Questions." These are:

r Why does one eat matzo? (To remember their ancestors, who fled Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise before the journey.)

r Why does one eat bitter herbs? (A reminder of the bitterness of slavery.)

r Why does one dip parsley in salt water (a symbol of the tears shed by slaves) and bitter herbs in charoseth, a sweet fruit paste (the texture evokes the mortar slaves used when making bricks)?

r Why does one lean on a pillow or recline during the meal? (To symbolize the comforts of freedom.)

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