Attending a weekly study session at the Chabad the other night, Rabbi Mendel stressed the meaning of the word Seder in Hebrew as meaning “order.” In order to accommodate the needs of the guests at the seder, and to allow all the guests the context in which they should concentrate on the commandments of the order of the seder, it is sometimes alright to do a bit of shuffling in order to put an end to the fidgeting that would otherwise take place.
The order of the seder places the festive meal about half-way through the commandments of the seder but, according to Rabbi Mendel, if you are unable to begin the seder at exactly the moment of sundown, it is unlikely that food would be served before 10:00 PM and there would still be hours to go before the whole thing were completed. His practical response was to begin the Passover seder even before sundown but start with the festive meal that is to be served to the household. By the time the sun goes down, and the commandments are ready to be met according to the law, everyone at the table is good to go, ready to concentrate and not worried a bit about when in the name of the merciful God one is going to eat. A practical suggestion for a difficult problem that I intend to try this year.
The second thing I learned was that in place of lamb bone to represent the pascal sacrifice one should use a chicken neck. This is for two reasons. First the use of a lamb bone is too much of a reminder of the pascal sacrifice itself and the point is not to mirror the sacrifice but to pay homage to it by representing the sacrifice on the seder place so a chicken neck is an ideal representation of the idea of sacrifice without being either the animal specified as the appropriate Temple sacrifice itself or being so close in color, texture or other specific reminder (say a goat shank) of the sacrifice itself. Chicken is the perfect choice to represent, without anyone ever thinking it could be, the Temple sacrifice. This cleared up a long-standing question I had that, not having an answer for, bothered me. My mother used a chicken neck or thigh bone on the seder plate when I was growing up. When I asked here why a chicken rather than a lamb bone her response was always, “My mother did it this way, I don’t really know why.” Of course, Granny would give me the exact same answer. Now I know why this practice is appropriate.