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The Passover Meal


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 14, 5779
Salutations Rabbi, I have a question pertaining to the traditional Passover meal. The traditional Seder dinner typically includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel and carrot and prune tzimmes. Now, we know that none of these foods originated in ancient Israel - they?re from a later period in Jewish history during the diaspora and after the destruction of the Temple. But my question is, what would have been a traditional Passover meal in ancient Israel? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living at the time of King Solomon or the Prophet Isaiah? What would have been the Passover meal for people living in the time of Herod?s Temple? Thank you, Joshua Flaugher
It’s true that until modern times, local diet and dietary customs were often dictated by what was available! Accordingly the eastern-European Passover meal you described developed based upon the available seasonal foods (e.g. potatoes and carrots were not around the middle-east in the olden days). During both Temple periods, the Passover feast revolved around the Shalmei Hagiga (either beef, goat or sheep), where part was given to the alter and kohanim/priests) and the rest satiated the masses, romaine lettuce (reminding us of the bondage in Egypt), and obviously matza and matza derivatives (which may have included matzo balls, as well as many creative things Jews do with matzah). Charoset (treat made of apples, wine, nuts, dates etc.) was eaten with the lettuce and the meat. A little paschal lamb or goat was the desert. Wine was also always important, but the obligatory 4 cups of wine and green vegetable may have been added after the destruction of the Temple 2,000 years ago.
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