During the Jewish celebration of Passover, a special plate with symbolic items is set as the centerpiece of every table. Passover is the remembrance of the chosen people’s exodus from Egypt. One of the items on this special plate is a bone; the name of the bone in Hebrew is זְרוֹעַ (zeroah), which literally means “arm.”
The bone represents the Passover lamb offered in the days when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. Today, there is no lamb on the Passover menu because God commanded His people to eat not just any lamb but, specifically, the “sacrificed lamb” to celebrate the feast. Since the Temple sacrifices no longer take place, there can be no lamb on the seder table today. But why is the bone placed at the center of the Passover table called an “arm” or זְרוֹעַ (zeroah)? After all, a lamb and an arm are entirely different things!
The answer lies in the description of how God promised to deliver Israel: “Say, therefore, to the children of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm (בִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה) and with great judgments (Exodus 6:6). Traditionally, the bone is supposed to be the shank bone of the lamb – and herein lies the symbolism. The outstretched arm of the Lord, the זְרוֹעַ (zeroah), can be seen as the sacrificed lamb whose blood shielded the firstborn of Israel from the plague of death.