A Case Of Mistaken Identity
‘And Two Cooked Foods’
We customary place a roasted foreleg (zro’a) and an egg on the Seder plate. This custom is based on our mishnah, which states that two cooked foods should be served. The Gemara (114b) explains that these represent, respectively, the Korban Pesach and Korban Chagiga which were eaten on Pesach night when the Beis HaMikdash stood in Jerusalem. The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 473:4) cite this Gemara and add that the meat should be roasted, just as the Korban Pesach was. The egg may either be cooked or roasted, like the Korban Chagiga.
Using specifically a foreleg and egg is based on the Kol Bo, a sefer on halacha and minhag authored by the 14th century rishon Rabbi Aharon of Lunil. The Kol Bo (50) cites, in the name of the Yerushalmi, that these two foods signify our redemption from Egypt. “Egg” in Aramaic is “bei’a,” which also means “to desire.” Together with the foreleg, it represents Hashem’s desire to stretch out His mighty arm, to redeem us from Egypt (see Mishnah Berurah s.k. 27).
The Communal Custom
The mishnah above (53a) states that after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, some communities refrained from eating roasted meat on Seder night. The Korban Pesach was roasted, and they feared that any roasted meat might be mistaken for the Korban Pesach. (Of course, it is forbidden to eat a Korban Pesach outside of Jerusalem.)
The Mishnah states that if a community has such a custom (not to eat roasted meat on Seder night), it is forbidden to go against it. The Tur (O.C. 476) and Magen Avraham (ibid, s.k. 1) write that this custom is accepted among Ashkenazim. Poskim add that in places where it is customary to permit eating roasted meat on Seder night, one should still refrain from eating the zro’a since it is specifically meant to represent the Korban Pesach (Teshuvos Mahariv 193, et. al.).
All Meat And Fowl
This custom not to eat the zro’a on Seder night applies even if it is taken from a cow or chicken, which cannot be used for the Korban Pesach (Shulchan Aruch 476:2). Although only lambs and kid-goats were used for the Korban Pesach, the prohibition against eating roasted meat extends to any animal which requires slaughtering since, once slaughtered, any animal may somewhat resemble the Korban Pesach.
Poskim add that although the Korban Pesach was roasted directly over an open fire, nevertheless meat roasted in a pot should not be eaten on Seder night since it resembles the Korban Pesach. If meat is cooked and then roasted, it should also not be eaten. Although unfit for a Korban Pesach, it appears roasted. However, if it is roasted and then cooked, it may be eaten on Seder night, since this meat clearly appears cooked and does not resemble a roasted Korban Pesach at all (see Mishna Berura 476, s.k. 1).