Matza Maror: Introduction
The Maggid section (devoted to storytelling and explanations) is almost
complete. Before eating the seders edible symbols, the Haggadah
brings us Rabban Gamliels checklist
on the three essential foods, whose significance must be understood by
all the participants in the seder.
Why these three?
The Pesach lamb, matza and maror constituted the original menu
in the Egyptian seder. They shall eat the meat (of the lamb) ...
roasted over the fire, with matza and with maror (Ex. 12:8).
As in a three act play Rabban Gamliel identifies these foods with
three progressive historical moments in the Exodus:
Maror captures the bitterness of the enslavement;
The Pesach lamb, represented today by the roasted bone (zeroa),
recalls the blood on the doorposts and the terror and anticipation of
the night of the plague of the first born;
Matza stands for the following morning, when Israel was rushed
out of Egypt with no time to let their dough rise.
A Night of Fear and Liberation
THE MIDDLE of the night the Lord struck down all the first-born in the
land of Egypt. Pharaoh arose in the night, because there was a loud cry
in Egypt; for there was no house where there was not someone dead. He
summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, Up, depart from
among my people, you and the Israelites with you! Go, worship the Lord
as you said! Take also your flocks and your herds, and begone! May you
bring a blessing upon me also!
The Egyptians urged the people on, impatient
to have them leave the coun- try, for they said, We shall all be
dead. So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their
kneading bowls wrapped in cloaks upon their shoulders.
The length of time that Israel lived in
Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430th year, to the very day, all
the ranks of the Lord departed from the land of Egypt...about six hundred
thousand peo- ple on foot, aside from children
(Ex. 12) top
I Left Egypt, I Took With Me . . ."
Try this childrens memory game.
Go around the table asking everyone to fill in the blank: When I
left Egypt, I took with me my most treasured possession ................
The participants in turn must repeat the objects mentioned and add their
Just as one sends a letter from
place to place, one may send, to ones self or others, letters
through time. Photographs, mementos and journal entries are letters
we send into the future; and by writing or speaking about events gone
by, we can communicate to some extent with the past. To do this regularly
and intelligently is to expand our being in time
(Robert Grudin, Time and the Art of Living)
Rabban Gamliel identifies the Pesach meat,
the matza and the maror as the three essential mementos from the Exodus
experience that are to be sent on into the future and revisited annually
on seder night. Similarly, each of us keeps heirlooms of our personal
past, that one sends into the future for oneself and ones children;
aspects of oneself which ought not to be lost.
Try the following exercise: select one item
that somehow represents your personal Jewish identity, or that preserves
some pivotal memories. Explain your choice. If possible, bring those mementos
to the seder table and share their explanation with others..
"All is Not Well That Begins Well!"
RABBIS recommended (Romaine) lettuce over all other forms of maror, though
horseradish is far more bitter.
R. Shmuel bar Nachman
said: How is Egypt similar to maror? Just as maror when it first
grows is gentle, but it turns harsh and bitter, so the exile in Egypt
began gently, but ended harshly.(Pesachim 39)
must charoset be so thick? Why must it be made from pungent fruits, like
The rabbis offered two explanations: one drawn from the construction industry
and one from the realm of romance:
mixed with cinnamon sticks simulates Egyptian mud bricks reinforced with
straw or papyrus stalks. These sun-dried bricks produced on the Nile river
banks constituted the chief building material of Egypt used by the Hebrew
slaves. Their employer Rameses II was the greatest
builder pharaoh since the era of the pyramids, built a thousand years
before the Exodus.
A Taste of the Song of Songs
its texture may be like mortar, the taste of charoset is sweet like a
fruit ambrosia from the Garden of Eden. It reminds us of the apple orchards
of Egypt. According to the rabbinic midrash, the Jewish women were heroines
in the battle against Pharaoh's attempt to stop the Jews from having children.
The women took the initiative to arouse their husbands to procreate. In
of Songs the Rabbis detected allusions to this heroic lovemaking in the
womans open invitations to her lover to come to the garden of fruits
Come, my beloved
Let us go into the open
... Under the apple tree I roused you
It was there your mother conceived you.
I went down to the nut grove ...
The pomegranates were in bloom ...
the figs ... the almonds ... the dates ...
all choice fruits. (Song of Songs 7:12-14,
OF THE MOST literal yet inventive representations of charoset was conceived
during the American Civil War, when a group of Jewish Union soldiers made
a seder for themselves in the wilderness of West Virginia. They had none
of the ingredients for traditional charoset handy, so they put a real
brick in its place on the seder tray. (Ira Steingroot)
Though neither the Torah nor Rabban Gamliel lists charoset with the
essential big three Pesach, matza and maror, it is
still a mitzvah to eat charoset with the maror. In fact the rabbis were
very explicit about its ingredients and their rationales.
Taste and compare
two traditional recipes for charoset. Identify as many ingredients as
with the Exodus
The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era,
in every year and even on every day, said the Hassidic Rabbi Nachman
of Bratslav. At the seder we must try to empathize with that original
liberation and to discover its relevance throughout the generations.
The Exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, on every era,
in every year, and even in every day. (Rabbi Nachman
Think of the many exoduses throughout our lives whether
emerging from one geographical place to another or from an experience
of slavery to one of greater freedom.
How might you fill in the
Pass-over Pass-port below? A few people might be asked to
share their most important personal exoduses. They might even
bring their old passports or photographs to illustrate their journey from
port to port. top
Invisible Identity Card
Ein Harods Haggadah
Q: On every Pesach
one must ask oneself: When was I born? Where was I born? ... What is the
historical memory I bear?
A: I look at my identity
card and read what is engraved in invisible script: My parents were
born as slaves in Egypt, when the king of that Egyptian Empire ordered
the first planned national genocide in our history. I too was there with
HEBREW WORD for Egypt, Meetzrayim, means a tight spot or a
narrow strait where we feel boxed in.
One day, a few days
after the liberation, I walked through the country past flowering meadows,
for miles and miles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose
to the sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was no one to be
seen for miles around; there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and
the larks jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped,
looked around, and up to the sky and then I went down on my knees.
At that moment there was very little I knew of myself or of the world
I had but one sentence in mind always the same: I
called to Adonai from my narrow prison and God answered me in the freedom
of space (Psalm 118:5).
How long I knelt there
and repeated this sentence, memory can no longer recall. But I know that
on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed,
until I again became a human being.
(Viktor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning, lessons
from a concentration camp)
I Went Out"
Exodus of Three Refuseniks, Three Prisoners of Zion
SHARANSKY (formerly Anatoly Sharansky and later Cabinet Minister
in Israel) writes: I, as practically all Soviet Jews, was absolutely
assimilated. I knew nothing about our language, about our history, about
our religion. But the pride of being a Jew, the pride for our State of
Israel after the Six Day War, made me feel free. And, after I turned to
Jewish identification, I felt myself really free from that big Soviet
prison. I was free even before the very last day of my leaving the Soviet
SLEPAK described his first Israeli morning: It is like
being reborn. Until I die, Ill never forget this morning, when I
woke up and looked out at the sun rising over the Judean Hills, and the
Old City in front of me.
NUDEL said upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport: A few
hours ago I was almost a slave in Moscow. Now Im a free woman in
my own country. It is the most important moment of my life. I am at home
at the soul of the Jewish people. I am a free person among my own people
(from the CLAL Soviet Jewry Haggadah)..
one letter in the traditional formula: In every generation one is
obligated to SEE oneself as one who personally went out of Egypt.
He inserts SHOW (l'har-ot) instead of SEE
(lir-ot). Ones posture must
show the stature of a liberated person. Freedom speaks a special body
language reinforcing feeling with actions. On seder night one must act
out the part for all to see and to learn. (Mishne Torah,
The Torah reports
that Israel emerged from Egypt with arms raised high. That phrase has
become an idiom for triumph to gain the upper hand.
The high five or the V-sign can also express the sense of
personal elation as I emerged from slavery.