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I have noticed that people have something called a 'seder plate' on which they place objects. Is there any obligation to do this? The reason I can think of is the custom of pointing during the recitation of the mishnah of Rabban Gamliel: 'matzoh zo...', 'maror zeh..'. But that would be just two items.

  • What else do you expect to eat off of? You put the stuff you need for the meal on your plate. – Double AA Apr 13 '16 at 18:32
  • Very thought provoking question! IIRC< Talmud Pesachim mentions only 3 of the items - karpas, maror and charoset. I'm uncertain if they mention the egg and bone. The bigger question that I THINK you're asking is why do we need an arranged "plate" for these? Wouldn't it be good enough to, say, bring out these items when you need them? – DanF Apr 13 '16 at 18:34
  • @DoubleAA: "I have noticed that people have something called a 'seder plate' on which they place objects." Apparently, they merely place objects on it, and not eat off of it, or the question would indicate as much. – msh210 Apr 13 '16 at 19:04
  • @msh210 I'm not sure that's a convincing Diyuk. Usually people place food on plates in preparation for consumption, and that seems to be the intended meaning here. – Double AA Apr 13 '16 at 19:06
  • "be on the table anyways" Many have the Matza on the "Seder Plate" as well. (It was easier to do when they could be bent and jostled without fear of cracking.) – Double AA Apr 13 '16 at 19:24
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This fascinating article explains the origin of the Seder plate. Excerpts:

The Mishnah (Pesachim 10:3) directs that, following the first cup of wine: “They bring [a small traylike table] before him [the Seder leader], he dips ba’chazeret [“with lettuce” for the first dipping] until [or, according to Rashi, “before”] he reaches the parperet ha-pat (“accompaniment of the bread”). They bring [a second table] before him [with] matza, chazeret [“lettuce” for maror], and charoset and two cooked dishes [in remembrance of the Pesach and Chagigah offerings -- today usually a roasted bone and a roasted egg].”

The original Seder had a definite Greco-Roman and Middle Eastern flavor, most notably a Greek style of dining with the participants actually reclining on low couches, pillows, or carpets around a central location (not leaning on an elbow). The various Seder items were placed on several low tables, which were carried in and out of the room at designated points in the ceremony and placed in front of the Seder leader. This practice is maintained today by many Yemenites and other Eastern Jews.

Since the Mishnah prescribed two separate small tables for the Seder items, there emerged a dispute as to which items would be placed on the single Seder plate. There was also a question as to when the Seder plate would be placed on the table. Most rabbis directed the Seder plate be placed on the table after the Kiddush and before the first dipping, while others (Vilna Gaon in Ma’aseh Rav) waited until after the karpas has been eaten, the point when the second table was brought before the Seder leader.

The article contains further customs and info on why the plate became common.

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    could you offer the URL for the source article referenced at the beginning?The hyperlink is not active. – Myron Chaitovsky Mar 14 '17 at 21:50
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There is no need to have a specific plate set aside as the "seder plate". Many do so because they go out of their way to have a decorative plate in honor of the holiday. The custom I follow does now have a specific plate for this purpose and is not set up prior to starting the seder but the first thing to do is set up a plate when sitting down with the necessary items.

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    How do you know this fact? Do all the items need to be ready before the seder? Why can't you get them just prior to needing them? – DanF Apr 13 '16 at 18:35
  • some set up the seder plate prior to beginning others start the seder by setting up a late with all of the items to be used during the seder. – Dude Apr 13 '16 at 18:40
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    and some bring out items when needed. See my answer. – DanF Apr 14 '16 at 15:02

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