Passover Symbols

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Passover is a sacred holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from enslavement by the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. This eight-day event begins each year on the fifteenth night of the Jewish Month of Nisan (a spring occurrence).

A traditional dinner gathering known as a Seder is held in the home. Seder is the Hebrew word for “order,” and a certain order is followed during this ceremony. Family and friends recall the story of Passover as recorded in the Book of Exodus. According to the account, Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt after a series of plagues caused chaos in the Egyptian Empire. The tenth and final plague, the killing of the first-born child, claimed the son of Ramses II. The legend states that Jewish families were instructed to mark their doorways with the blood of a sacrificed lamb. The angel of death passed over these households and spared the lives of the first-born children inside.

Several traditional ceremonies are key components of the Seder: preparing the Seder plate, eating specific symbolic foods, filling Elijah's cup, asking the four questions, reclining on a pillow, hiding the Afikomen, and playing music.

Precious Plate

This plaster Seder plate would make a beautiful centerpiece for a traditional Passover dinner. A Seder plate is a symbolic centerpiece that holds the following five items:

  • Charoset. A mixture of chopped apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and wine that represents the mortar the Hebrews used when assembling the Pharaoh's bricks.
  • Karpas. An herb (usually parsley) that symbolizes springtime. It is dipped in salt water to represent the tears of the Jewish people during enslavement.
  • Beitzah. A baked or roasted egg that symbolizes mourning for the suffering and deaths of the Jewish people over the ages.
  • Zeroa. A shank bone that symbolizes the sacrificial lamb offering that the Jews made to God. The blood of this lamb was applied to the doorways of the Jewish dwellings to alert the Angel of Death to pass over their homes and spare the life of their first born.
  • Maror. Bitter herbs to represent the bitterness of the slavery the Jewish people have suffered throughout history.

The Gift of Knowledge

Most Seder dinners include wine or grape juice “toasts” that represent the four stages of the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt: 1) freedom, 2) deliverance, 3) redemption, and 4) release. It is thought that a visit from the prophet Elijah occurs on this night. A beautiful silver cup filled with wine or juice is placed on the table to refresh him. A child is sent to open the door for Elijah and let him in.

Time frame: Two to three hours plus two days to dry

Level: Moderately difficult

What you need:

  • Newspaper or plastic cloth
  • Stepping stone mold
  • Bag or box of plaster (at least five pounds)
  • Water
  • Putty knife
  • Toothpick
  • Bags of polished glass pieces
  • Sponge
  • Steel wool
  • Paintbrush
  • Clear acrylic finish spray
  • Piece of felt for bottom of plate
  • Glue gun
  • Five or six three-inch glass flower pots
  1. Cover your work area with newspapers or plastic. Place the stepping stone mold on the covering. Pour the plaster powder into the mold to about two thirds of the depth. Add water according to the directions on the plaster bag or box (usually about three parts plaster to one part water). Mix the water into the plaster with the putty knife. Use a toothpick to burst any holes that appear on the surface. Smooth the top of the plaster with the knife.
  2. Place the glass pieces in a design around the border of the plaster plate. Form the Hebrew letters for Pesach (Passover), shown in the following figure, in the center of the plate using glass pieces.
  3. Hebrew letters of Pesach depicted on the Seder plate.
  4. Allow the plate to set for about 15 minutes. Gently wipe the glass pieces with a moist sponge to remove any excess plaster.
  5. Do not move the mold until it has hardened overnight.
  6. Carefully pry the plate from the mold. Gently rub the plaster finish with steel wool to smooth the surface. With a paintbrush, brush away any plaster particles that exist. Spray the plate with clear acrylic finish spray and allow it to dry. Spray the plate with a second coat of the finish spray and allow it to dry overnight.
  7. Lay the plate on top of the piece of felt and trace around the felt with a magic marker. Cut the felt to fit the plate and glue it to the bottom of the plate using a glue gun. Place five or six glass pots on the plate to hold the Seder foods (see the preceding descriptions of Seder plate items).

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Great Gifts © 2001 by Marilee LeBon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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