The sweetness of the Maror


One of the major themes of the Hagadah is that it begins with the Jewish people’s disgrace and ends with our praise. This is expressed in two ways, either as first we were slaves and then free men, or first we were idol worshippers and then servants of Hashem[1]. The Gemarra expresses this same idea in a different manner. “Three gifts are acquired through suffering, Torah, Eretz Yisroel and Olam Haba.” The Sfas Emes explains that the specific suffering that is the foundation for the Torah is the exile in Egypt[2]. Thus the two themes above are really one, since the slavery brings to the Torah and the service of Hashem, as Pirkei Avos (6,2) says; “The only truly free person is one who is involved in Torah”. The Maror is the aspect of the Seder where we actualize the suffering of the exile to bring to the desired goal.

Therefore the Maror is one of the main Mitzvoth on the night of the Seder. When there is a Korban Pesach, it is a Torah Mitzvah, and even when not, it is D’Rabanan[3]. R’ Tzadok reveals that this is the only positive Mitzvah that can only be performed with a vegetable[4]. This need to perform a Mitzvah with a vegetable goes back to the beginning of Gan Eden and the sin and punishment of Adam.

The sin of Adam caused many changes and curses into the world. One punishment that brought Adam to tears, was that instead of eating fruit from trees which are perennial, Adam now eats vegetables which are transitory. This symbolizes the change from living for eternity to living for a temporary life.

The Jews through the suffering of Egypt prepare to return to a permanent world through the Torah. Maror is the only vegetable based mitzvah, and through it we use the bitterness of the Maror as a metaphor for suffering to teach us this idea. This change from suffering to redemption has three components:

  1. The Chewing of the Maror to break down the bitterness

  2. Eating the Maror with Charoses to connect it to a higher source

  3. Eating Korech to join the Matza to the Maror

All of these processes are to rectify the sin of Adam. We change the transitory nature of the vegetable Maror to a permanent Tree of life, the Torah.

On the night of the Seder the Hagada revolves around teaching our children this idea, which they themselves represent, the permanence of a person rather than his temporary nature. By teaching our children the continuity of the Jewish people through the suffering, we ensure our future through them.

Adam and the Curse of the Vegetables

When Adam was created, the source of food he was commanded to eat was fruit from trees. As Hashem says, from all the trees of the Garden you are commanded to eat[5]. Only after the sin is Adam told, that you shall eat from the vegetation of the ground. This was such a devastating descent for Adam that his eyes dripped with tears and he cried out in shame, “Am I and my donkey to graze from the same trough![6]” This was one of the curses put upon Adam as a result of the sin. This change therefore needs to be grasped as a basic difference in the world.

Trees are a renewable resource, and eating their fruit does not consume the principal. As is said in the Mishnah in Peah that is said every morning, “We eat the fruits of the Mitzvah in this world but the principal remains for the next world[7].” Vegetables are consumed and gone. An animal does not plan for the future so it eats vegetables. The whole life of a human is “today to work and tomorrow – in the World to Come – to eat the fruits.[8]” That is why the Torah compares man to a tree[9]. So when Adam is told that he is going to eat vegetables, that means that he has no future, his life is only in the here and now and there is no connection to Gan Eden- the World to Come. That is why he cries, since eating vegetables is another descent into a fleeting animalistic world disconnected from Gan Eden where one lives for eternity.

But the Jewish people can strive to a different level. When we receive the Torah we are once again connected to eternity. The giving of the Torah is meant to rectify the sin of Adam, and reconnect this world to an eternal higher world. This can be seen on two levels, one in the specific Mitzvah of Maror and the second, the idea of vegetables in general as seen in Perek Shira. We have the ability to turn the curse of Adam of the vegetables into the Mitzvah of Maror.

The Bitterness of the Maror

There is a Halacha which differentiates between Matza and Maror. If you grind Matza into flour and swallow it without chewing it you have fulfilled your obligation to eat Matza. But, if you swallow Maror without first chewing it, you do not fulfill the Mitzvah[10]. Explains the Ariz”l, that Maror has the following characteristics. At first as you begin to eat it, it is sweet. As you chew it the bitterness comes out, but then at the end it is dissolved in the mouth through the chewing process and can be consumed[11].

This is a metaphor for Galus. At the beginning it seems sweet. When the Egyptians began the enslavement of the Jewish people Pharaoh himself came and joined the laborers. The Jews saw the construction of Pitom and Ramses as an opportunity and vied with each other who could produce the most bricks. It then became a bitter slavery, as the verse says, “They embittered their lives.” But as the Gemarra says three things are acquired with suffering, Torah, Eretz Yisroel and the World to Come[12]. The suffering which acquired the Torah is the subjugation in Egypt. Thus the Jews are able to utilize the bitterness of the Maror to acquire the Torah.

The Three Methods

There are three methods by which this takes place.


The first is through the chewing. One chews with the teeth. In the Sefer Yetzirah it discusses how the thirty two teeth are the thirty two pathways of Chochma- knowledge[13]. Chochma represents the higher levels of understanding, connected to a higher reality where everything is perceived as it comes from HaShem. When one connects to a higher reality one realizes that the Maror can be broken down to its component parts and then used correctly to serve HaShem. Ultimately a Chacham realizes that there is nothing in the world which is wasted and HaShem has a plan for everything.

That is why the opposite of the Chacham is the Rasha. We tell the Rasha that if you were in Egypt you would not have been redeemed. To be redeemed you need to realize you are in exile, and that the exile needs to be changed and metamorphise into something positive. His lack of perspective of Chochma is what we mean when we say that we knock out his teeth. He lacks the ability to use Chochma to understand what is happening, so he does not deserve Chochma.

In the Hagada the repetition of the motif of four represents the four exiles. Each exile has a question in the Mah Nishtana, since exile represents a lack of clarity and a questioning of Hashem. In addition each of the four sons asks a question that represents one of the exiles. That is why when we relate the four sons to the four questions, the question of the Rasha is about the Maror. He cannot understand what the purpose of the Galus is. But the Chochom can understand, that is why his question is answered.


The next method is the putting the Charoses on the Maror. The word Charoses in Hebrew is two words Rus, and the letters Samech and Chet which are the numerical equivalent of sixty eight. Life is Chaim which also equals sixty eight, as does Chochom. Maror is the same as Maves- death, four hundred and fourty six. Adding the Charoses to the Maror which is Gematriya of Death, changes it to life[14].

That is why the Charoses is made specifically from the fruits which represent the Jewish people as referring to the permanence of a tree and its fruit, to counteract the bitterness and transitory nature of the vegetable Maror.

The Shelah HaKodseh says that the other letters of Charoses are a reference to Rus who is the matriarch of King David and the Moshiach[15]. If we take this idea further, Naomi is married to Avimelech the leader of the Jewish people. She then descends to Moab, loses her husband and children and returns impoverished to the land of Israel . She then says: Do not call me Naomi, call me Marah; the word Maror. But then Rus marries Boaz and through her Naomi raises the child who is the ancestor of King David, who is alive forever. Add Rus to Maror and you get eternal life; that is the Rus and life of the Charoses.


The last process is Korech, when we join the Matza to the Maror. Actually we are supposed to add the Korban Pesach also, but now all we can do is a commemoration of what Hillel did and only have the sandwich with the Matza and Maror. The third Matza which we use for Korech represents Da’as, understanding[16]. The Gemarra says that whoever has Da’as it is as if the Bais HaMikdosh is built in his lifetime[17]. We cannot actually join the Matza to the Maror and truly understand how the bitterness leads to Torah since we do not have the Da’as of the Bais HaMikdosh, but we can try. So we have a remembrance. This is the approach of Hillel who lives his life through Chesed. The inclusive approach of the Midah of Chesed is the way to see everything as leading to completion. When on eats the Matza as Hillel did, the bitterness turns to praise to Hashem- Hallel.

Maror in the Hagada

And that is why the paragraph after explaining why we eat the Maror, begins “Therefore we need to praise and say Hallel- Hillel- to Hashem”. We understand the lesson of the Maror. As it says in the Torah itself, and as much as they oppressed us, we grew and expanded.

That is also the meaning of the Pasuk and its explanation in the Zohar. They embittered- Maror- our lives with Chomer and Leveinim. The simple understanding is mortar and bricks, but the Zohar tells us this refers to the methods of Biblical exegesis which are Kal Va’Chomer and Libun Halacha[18]. The Maror leads to the Torah. The structure of the Hagada is to explain the Pesukim of the Torah through Drashos. I would like to suggest that this is turning the Chomer and Leveinim of the Egypt to the Kal V’Chomer and Libun of the Torah itself.

The Perek Shira of the Vegetables

But this can be seen on a global level also. The Perek Shira of vegetables is “You water its furrows abundantly, You settle its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth. You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with bounty[19].” The Midrash Rabbah brings this Pasuk to explain the blessing of Yakov that his descendants will be as numerous as the dirt of the earth[20]. The Midrash says that dirt is walked upon and beaten down. So too the Jewish people are trampled, but they realize that the punishment will ultimately be better for them. That is why the curse of Adam is to eat vegetables, but when used in the correct way the punishment is for our own good. R’ Tzadok says that the Mitzvah of Maror is to rectify all vegetables and to turn the curse of Adam into an understanding that all that Hashem does is for the good.

Our Children – Our Fruit

This idea of seeing the world as fruit of perennial trees rather than annual vegetables is basic to the whole mitzvah of the Hagada. The ultimate fruit of a human is his children, the reward of the fruit of our loins[21]. The Zohar explains that there is a Midah called Yesod. This is the ability to have progeny. That Midah is called “Beyond the body”[22], since it is the ability to extend your life past its physical limitations. The Hagada is about teaching our children, extending ourselves into being something eternal. One who invests in his children is growing fruits not vegetables. In a world which is all about “self” the Hagada makes us eternal by focusing us on our children, the eternal everlasting fruit.

May we realize through our Seder that from the Yisurin we will get the Torah enter into Eretz Yisroel and deserve the trees and fruits of an eternal Olam Haba.


[1]פסחים דף קטז/א- מתחיל בגנות ומסיים בשבח: מאי בגנות רב אמר מתחלה עובדי עבודת גלולים היו אבותינו [ושמואל] אמר עבדים היינו

[2] שפת אמת ספר שמות – פרשת שמות – שנת [תרמ”א]  – במד’ ג’ מתנות ניתנו ע”י יסורין תורה וא”י ועוה”ב ע”ש. וזה מטעם אוהבו שחרו מוסר ע”ש במד’. והיינו שרצה הקב”ה שיהי’ המתנות דבר של קיימא. לכן הקדים לתתם ע”י יסורין. וכמו שהי’ גלות מצרים יסורין לצורך מתנה של התורה. כמו כן יש לנו להבין יסורים של גלותינו המר שהוא הכנה לימות המשיח ולעוה”ב. לכן בכל תוקף שיש בכל גלות הוא לקיים כן ירבה וכן יפרוץ:

[3]פסחים דף קטו/א –  משום דסבירא לן מצה בזמן הזה דאורייתא ומרור דרב

[4]ספר פרי צדיק לחג הפסח – אות א  – – ובא המצוה באכילת ירקות שזה היה קללות אדם הראשון כמו שאמרו (פסחים קיח.) זלגו עיניו דמעות אני וחמורי נאכל באבוס אחד …ובא התיקון בחג הזה באכילת ירקות שהוא בא על ידי הקללה ואכלת את עשב השדה, וכאן אוכלין אותו בקדושה ומברכין עליו אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על אכילת מרור,

[5]בראשית פרק ב – (טז) ויצו ידוד אלהים על האדם לאמר מכל עץ הגן אכל תאכל:

[6] פסחים קיח.-  זלגו עיניו דמעות אני וחמורי נאכל באבוס אחד

[7] משנה מסכת פאה פרק א – אלו דברים שאדם אוכל פרותיהן בעולם הזה והקרן קימת לו לעולם

[8]עירובין דף כב/א –  דאמר רבי יהושע בן לוי מאי דכתיב אשר אנכי מצוך היום לעשותם היום לעשותם ולא למחר לעשותם היום לעשותם למחר לקבל שכרם

[9]דברים פרק כ –  ואתו לא תכרת כי האדם עץ השדה

[10]פסחים דף קטו/ב – אמר רבא בלע מצה יצא בלע מרור לא יצא

[11]שער הכוונות – דרושי הפסח דרוש ה –  וענין המרור בגי’ מו”ת והוא בחי’ הדינים הקשים שצריך לטחנן וללעסן בשיניים כדי למתק המרירו’ שבהם כנודע בסוד השחקים הטוחנים מן לצדיקים לעת”ל וז”ש מ”ש רז”ל בלע מרור לא יצא כי צריך ללועסו ולטוחנו. כדי למתק הדינים שבו. וענין החרוסת הוא זכר לטיט והוא בסוד לאה כי אנו צריכים למתק הדינים שבה ג”כ והנה או’ י’ שבאמצע ב’ הטיתין עולה לכאן ולכאן ט”י י”ט והוא סוד מילוי ההויה דאלפין שעולה י”ט והוא בגי’ חו”ה וב”פ י”ט הם לאה ורחל:

[12]ברכות דף ה/א – תניא רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר שלש מתנות טובות נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל וכולן לא נתנן אלא על ידי יסורין אלו הן תורה וארץ ישראל והעולם הבא תורה מנין שנאמר אשרי הגבר אשר תיסרנו יה ומתורתך תלמדנו ארץ ישראל דכתיב כי כאשר ייסר איש את בנו ה’ אלהיך מיסרך וכתיב בתריה כי ה’ אלהיך מביאך אל ארץ טובה העולם הבא דכתיב כי נר מצוה ותורה אור ודרך חיים תוכחות מוסר

[13]השל”ה הקדוש – מסכת פסחים – ביאור ההגדה (טו) – ועתה נבאר בעזה”י ביותר ענין מרור. מרור בגימטריא מות שהם הדינים הקשים. וצריך ללועסו בל”ב שיניים שהם נגד ל”ב נתיבות חכמה, ובלועסן ימתק המרירות שבהן. ולכן בלע מרור לא יצא עד שילעיסנו וימתיקנו. כן מצאתי בקונטרס דהאר”י ז”ל. ונודע כי החכמה מקור החיות, כמו שנאמר (קהלת ז, יב), והחכמה תחיה את בעליה, ואז מות נתהפך לחי, סוד צדיקים במיתתן קרוין חיים.

[14] שער הכוונות – דרושי הפסח דרוש יב –  ומלת חרוסת הוא חיבור רו”ת ס”ח ורות הוא בחינת לאה להיות כי שם אדנ”י במילואו תרע”א וכשתסיר פשוטו שהוא ס”ה מנין אדני לרחל ישאר מילוי שהוא רו”ת אל לאה ושתי אותיות ס”ח הם המוחין של ז”א והם ג’ שמות אהי”ה יהו”ה אהיה העולים בגי’ ס”ח כמנין חיים הממתקין את דיני לאה הנק’ רו”ת וזהו חרוסת רו”ת ס”ח. וז”ס המרור שהוא בגי’ מות ולכן צריך למתק את המרור ואת רו”ת הנז’ באותיות ס”ח שהם חיים הנז’ שהם מוחין של ז”א. ובכורך נכנס פנימיות ת”ת דאבא שהוא מ”ה ב”ן בדעת דז”א גדלות ב’ והוא ה’ בציור ג’ ווי”ן:

[15] ספר השל”ה הקדוש – מסכת פסחים – ביאור ההגדה (טו)  –  ונקרא מרור שנאמר (רות א, כ), קראן לי מרה, שנתרחקה מן הדעת ונפלה בגלות עם בניה, וכשנזכרה נקראת חסא. ו

[16] ספר חמדת ימים – פסח – פרק ה – . אשר עליהם יצדק הרמז בסתרו לרשום ולנקד בראש הסכין במצה ראשונה הרומזת לחכמה די, ובמצה ב’ הרומזת לבינה דו, ובמצה ג’ הרומזת לדעת ה. ובכל אחד יבטא בשפתיו לאמר “לשם מצוה”:

[17] ברכות לג. – כל אדם שיש בו דעת כאילו נבנה בית המקדש ב

[18] תיקוני זהר חדש-ספרא תנינא-והאי איהו וימררו את חייהם בעבדה קשה בחמר ובלבנים, בקל וחמר ובכל עבודה בשדה, בגזרה שוה

[19] תהילים פרק סה – (יא) תלמיה רוה נחת גדודה ברביבים תמגגנה צמחה תברך:

[20]מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה סט פסקה ה  – והיה זרעך כעפר …ומה עפר עשוי דיש לכל כך בניך עשוים דיש הה”ד (ישעיה נא) ושמתיה ביד מוגיך מהו מוגיך אלין דממיגין מחתיך [נ”א מכתיך] ומייסרין אותך ומתישין את כוחך אפילו כן לטובתך משקשקין וממרקין לך מן חוביך כמה דתימא (תהלים סה) ברביבים תמוגגנה צמחה תברך

[21]תהילים פרק קכז -(ג) הנה נחלת ידוד בנים שכר פרי הבטן:

[22]פרי עץ חיים – שער השבת – פרק י – כי נצח הוד יסוד לבר מגופה


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s