The entire Seder, beginning with your Seder Plate, can provide tools to achieve personal insight; to experience emotional and spiritual freedom; and to feel the female presence of God in your life. A Seder can become a reflection of the women in your life who bless your soul. I will focus on a spiritual Female Seder Plate, for she can provide a spiritual direction for the your entire Passover Seder.
First set up the Seder Plate with ten items: Three Matzot and seven food items – z’roa (a roasted lamb or chicken bone), beitzah (a hard boiled egg), maror (a bitter herb), charoset (a mixture of fruits, nuts and wine), karpas (a green vegetable like celery), chazeret (slightly bitter Romaine lettuce used in the korach sandwich) – and an orange to honor all of our generation’s female rabbis.
Arrange the Seder Plate using the directions of Rabbi Isaac Luria, glossed by Rabbi Allen Maller. The three Matzot represent Jewish males who have three increasing levels of Mitzvot observance; the sons of Israel [the foundation matzah], then the sons of Levi, and then the sons of Aaron the Kohen. Some say these Matzot also represent three kinds of religious Jews today: Orthodox, Conservative/Renewal and Reform.
Next to the stack of Matzot place an orange to represent all the Jewish woman, who as daughters of Miriam provide both spiritual and material nourishment for the Seder. The three Matzot, plus the seven special foods on the plate, represent the ten Sefirot that connect humanity and Divinity to each other.
On the Seder plate; on the top right, place the bone, corresponding to chesed-compassion, and opposite it, on the left, place the egg – gevurah-strength. Beneath them, in the center, place the charoset – tiferet-splendid/glorious. Beneath the bone, on the right, place the chazeret– netsach-endurance, and opposite it, on the left, below the egg, place the maror – hod-awesomeness. Under the charoset place the karpas – yesod rootedness/potency.
The orange (with its inner seeds of rebirth and creation) representing the Shechinah–the feminine presence of God, should be next to the stack of Matzot representing all Jewish males.
The bone symbolizes the lamb offering in Temple times’, roasted and eaten for the Seder meal. A hard-boiled egg symbolizes the daily offering of Jewish women throughout the ages. In the past they served silently so the egg was unmentioned in traditional Seders. Now women do speak out, so we should mention the egg and the orange and the sacrifices of past and present generations of mothers and wives.
Bitter herbs indicate the bitterness of oppression in Egypt and in recent lands. The charoset mixture is like mortar for binding bricks and represents key people who bind family and community together. Karpas represents spring growth and productive labor we benefit from. The Shechinah is God’s presence at its most intimate; often felt in couple love on Shabbat. Think of men and woman whose lives embodied these values.
As the Seder develops note the symbols relationships to each other and to you. Become aware how God’s sefirot influenced your life. Refer to this paper during the Seder and feel the presence of people from Seders long past to whom you can say: Dayenu