Menachem Bluming Muses: Why the chicken neck on the Seder Plate?

I look at the empty Seder plate with this lonely chicken neck left behind, and wonder, why is it there?

Here’s a thought: One of the most amazing characters in the story of the Exodus is Pharaoh. He witnessed with his own eyes the downfall of his country, he experienced firsthand the miracles of the Ten Plagues one after the other, he saw how every prediction Moses made came true, and yet he stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go. Only when every firstborn Egyptian died in the final plague did he relent and let them go.

Stubbornness is sometimes called having a stiff neck. The neck connects our head to our body, representing the passageway that translates what we see with our eyes and know with our mind into what we feel with our heart and do with our body. A stiff-necked person is unmoved by what they know to be true. They have blocked neck, and the message just doesn’t reach their heart. This was Pharaoh’s problem.

Indeed, the Hebrew word for neck is הערף -Haoreph. When you rearrange those Hebrew letters it spells Pharaoh פרעה. So the chicken neck that sits on the Seder Plate and doesn’t budge is a little reminder of Pharaoh and his stubbornness. After all the miracles and all the wonders, he is still there, same as ever, unchanged and unmoved.

When we sit at the Seder, we have a choice. We can be like Pharaoh, skeptical, cynical and unimpressed. Or we can take our honored place at the table of Jewish history, and marvel at the miracle that here we are, over three millennia after Pharaoh’s demise, still eating our Matzah and celebrating being Jewish.

Chicken necks get left behind. Don’t be one of those.

Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac Maryland and Rabbi Moss

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