A Blessing Over Bitterness

BY RABBI YOSEF ZVI RIMON

By eating maror, we are reminded that G-d’s supervision of the world drives everything – both the good and the bad. Even the bitter was known to Him in advance, and bitterness also has a role to play. We eat maror and internalize the great thanks we owe to G-d for His great rescue. We eat maror and pray in our hearts for Am Yisrael, who have already gone through so much bitterness – in Egypt, in the exile to Babylon, in the Inquisition, in the Crusades, in the expulsion from Spain, in the Holocaust, and today. As we eat the maror, we pray that the future will bring not bitterness, but sweetness, light and redemption.

The mitzvah of maror was a Torah-mandated mitzvah at the time that the Pesach sacrifice was brought. Today it is only a rabbinic mitzvah. The best maror is lettuce, and one must ensure that it is insect-free. One must take a kezayit of maror. It is best to take 27 cc. (0.91 fluid ounces), which is about the size of an average lettuce leaf, but by the technical requirements of the law 19 cc. (0.64 fluid ounces) are enough. When reciting the blessing on maror, one must keep in mind that the blessing should also include the maror that will be used in korech. Then, dip the maror in the charoset, shake off some of the charoset, and eat it without leaning, eating at a normal pace, but without stopping.

Rambam (8:8) writes that one should dip matzah into charoset: “and he dips matzah into charoset and eats.” Ra’avad disagrees, and Maggid Mishneh cites other opinions that disagree and states that one eats matzah by itself, without charoset

Sefer HaManhig (Hilchot Pesach 79) is surprised by Rambam’s opinion: “I was amazed that he wrote to dip matzah in charoset and I have never seen or heard this custom anywhere. One can even ask how such a combination is logical. If matzah requires leaning because it is a remembrance of freedom, and charoset is a remembrance of the clay of slavery, how can the contradictory values of freedom and slavery be combined? It is possible that Rambam is teaching us that very point – on this night it is important to combine servitude and redemption. Although it is not our custom to dip matzah into charoset, we do express this connection in other ways. When we eat maror directly after matzah, as well as by eating korech, we demonstrate that slavery and redemption are intertwined.”

When we eat maror we think about the bitterness of slavery in order to instill in ourselves a greater appreciation of the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt. Simply put, in the wake of our thoughts about the difficulty and the suffering during slavery, we better appreciate the greatness of our salvation. Beyond this, eating maror teaches us that everything was planned by G-d – both the slavery and redemption. Slavery also has a role to play in the process of redemption, and without it we would not have been redeemed. Sadly, on occasion, history has proven that bitterness and antisemitism have even prevented assimilation.

On the Seder night we do not ignore the bitterness and distress, nor do we repress the difficulties of the past. On the contrary, we eat maror and recite a blessing on it. By doing so we acknowledge that the bitterness we endured was also part of “He has sanctified us with His mitzvot.” The mitzvah of eating maror teaches us to look directly at the difficulties of life, without fear and without evasion. We acknowledge that with every difficulty one grows, and every struggle reveals the powers within ourselves to continue focusing with joy and abundant good.

 

Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is the Nasi of World Mizrachi. He is the Founder and Chairman of Sulamot and La’Ofek, and serves as the Chief Rabbi of Gush Etzion, and Rosh Yeshivah of the Jerusalem College of Technology.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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