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Chapter 118:8
Preparations for the Seder

8. The seder plate should be arranged in the following manner: One should place three matzos (1) on a plate and spread a beautiful cloth over them; above them, one should place the "zeroa" (shankbone) on one's right side, and the egg on one's left side; the "marror" (bitter herbs) over which the blessing [for the mitzvah of marror] is recited, [should be placed below them], in the center; the "charoses" should be placed below the "zeroa" (in the next row down), and the "karpas" below the egg; the "marror" to use for the "kricha" (sandwich with matzah) goes [below them] in the middle (2).

FOOTNOTES:

1) On every Shabbos and Yom Tov, it is a mitzvah to begin the meal with two loaves of either bread or matzah ("Lechem Mishna"). On the Seder night, however, we add a third matzah to be broken in half during the Seder ("Yachatz"). The reason we recite the Haggadah over a broken piece of matzah, is because the Torah calls matzah "lechem oni" ("bread of oppression" or "poor man's bread") (Deut 16:3); since a poor man is accustomed to sustaining himself only on a morsel, so too, we use only a morsel, as a reminder of our poverty and oppression in Egypt.

(2) This is the order of the Arizal, and is based on Kabbalistic teachings (see Ba'er Hatev 473:8). The Ramah 273:4 has a different order based on the principle of not passing over one mitzvah in order to get to another mitzvah. As a result, according to the Ramah, those items used first should be closest to you: bottom row - karpas (right), salt water (left) (the Arizal doesn't have salt water on the plate); then the matzos in the next row, in the center; third row - marror (R), charoses (L); top row - zeroa (R), egg (L).

It seems that most people follow the order of the Arizal (See Oruch HaShulchan 473:11, and Mishna Berura 473: 26).

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