On Seder night we are commanded to eat matza and
maror. Eating of the bitter herbs is one of the main
features of the Seder and immediately follows the eating of
the matza. The mitzva was for the initial yetzias
Mitzrayim as well as for us throughout the generations.
Chazal discuss what exactly this maror was.
Merorim, the plural form, is used throughout
Tanach. In Koheles 3:15 it is used to denote a
bitter vegetable, somewhat parallel to wormwood. In
Maseches Pesachim 39a, merorim are described as plants
whose common features are "bitterness, possessing sap, with a
grayish appearance", meaning wild or cultivated vegetables
with milk-like sap, leaves that are silvery-gray- green in
color and have a bitter taste. This description can apply to
a number of plants, some belonging to the compositae
The mishna lists five: 1. Chazeres - identified
as Romaine lettuce. 2. Olshin - identified as endives
(or escarole). 3. Tamkha - is identified in the
Mishnah Berurah and other poskim as horseradish
(charein). 4. Hahavina - poskim cannot
identify. 5. Maror - poskim cannot identify.
Although the mishna lists these various types of
maror, we may fulfill our obligation only with those
traditionally known as such. Chazeres is denoted by
the Talmud as chassa - identified today by most
poskim as Romaine lettuce, also known as cos lettuce,
somehow related to the Greek island of Kos. (Some
poskim allow the use of iceberg lettuce.) The Hebrew
word chassa is similar to the word chas, which
means to pity, for Hashem took pity on His children and
redeemed them from slavery.
Although Romaine is preferred, because of the problems
involved in its inspection for insects and worms, some
poskim agree that if this cannot be done correctly by
a G-d-fearing person, horseradish should be used.
The Talmud Yerushalmi describes maror as a
"bitter vegetable with a silvery appearance that has sap
(Pesochim 2:5, 29); the same description we find in
the Bavli for all types of merorim. In its
explanation of chazeres, it says that the growth
stages of chazeres simulate the history of our
forefatherS in Egypt. It starts out sweet, but if it remains
too long in the earth, it becomes bitter. In Egypt, the
Egyptians first treated the Jews like royal guests, letting
them settle in the prime parts of the country. At a later
stage, they encouraged them to work for hire, but
subsequently embittered their lives with slavery.
Incidentally, these characteristics most agree with a plant
called in Arabic murar, a weed widespread in gardens,
fallow fields and roadsides throughout Israel. Its soft
leaves are sometimes eaten as salad by the poor, some also
eating the juicy root. The plant is filled with a milky sap,
the underside is a luish-silvery color and the green plant
has a bitter taste and is hardly edible.
Maror is not an independent mitzva. We are
told, "Al matzos um'rorim tochluhu," it is dependent
on the eating of korbon Pesach. One cannot fulfill the
Tortah commandment of eating maror without
matza and korbon Pesach. However, Chazal
required us to eat maror on Seder night even without
the korbon Pesach, therefore for us it is a mitzva
d'rabbonon. The maror, of course, serves to remind
us how the Egyptians embittered our lives.
The eating of the matza must precede the eating of the bitter
herbs. Even in the times of the Beis Hamikdosh, they were
eaten in this order.
Romaine lettuce has narrow, elongated dark green leaves with
a crisp texture. Be sure to purchase fresh lettuce, avoiding
limp or bruised lettuce or those with rust spots.
Men and women alike are commanded to eat a k'zayis
maror at the Seder. Of course, no one wants the
transgression of mitzva haba'a b'aveira! Most are
familiar with the serious problem of insect and worm
infestation inevitably present on Romaine lettuce. And, since
the creatures often resemble the lettuce in color, the job of
the checker is even more difficult. Formerly, one of the
major pre-Pesach projects, the checking of the Romaine for
maror can involve tedious, painstaking, important
For the last ten or so years, certified insect-and-worm-free
Romaine lettuce has been available throughout Eretz Yisroel,
and during the last few years, in the States as well as
Europe (and even in Minneapolis, my mother reports). So we
are saved this job. We still, however, must get rid of the
accompanying sand. In addition, we are alerted to a reminder
on most of the packages that each leaf must be washed to
remove any possibility of any easy-to-remove flies.
How to do it? Wash thoroughly in several changes of cold
water, then shake off excess moisture. For a small amount,
you may toss it in a cloth towel or gently blot with toweling
or dry in a salad spinner. Here is my secret for drying large
quantities of Romaine (or any salad green): After shaking off
excess water, place in a pillowcase, fasten securely. Place
in washing machine and put it through the spin cycle. Remove
from washing machine. Open pillowcase and add a small towel.
Close again and store in refrigerator until needed.
Often we are overenthusiastic and prepare too much
maror. Don't despair. Use the lettuce in salads to
offset heavy yom tov meals. [For those who eat
gebrokts], make matza sandwiches with crispy lettuce
as trim. Fruit salads or chopped liver can also be served on
a bed of lettuce. Various dressings (homemade, since most
people use less prepared products, Pesach is a time to show
your culinary ingenuity!) will liven up the lettuce - add
your favorite raw vegetables and toss. Caesar salad, minus
the croutons, of course, is another possibility.
* What's Cooking? Maror? Actually, yes. When your Romaine
starts turning a little brown, but not slimy, it may not be
suitable for salads, but it is for sauteing. Sauteed salad
greens make an unusual but tasty side dish. Saute lettuce
just as you would spinach. Cook lettuce quickly in a little
olive oil, minced garlic, and salt. You won't be able to tell
that the greens were once a little brown.
Sugar And Spice Nuts
4 1/2 cups mixed unsalted nuts (walnut, pecan, almond - and
during the year, peanuts)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Grated rind of 1 or two oranges (well scraped)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (opt.)
pinch of ground cloves - not for Pesach [cloves, for some
reason, are considered chometz, but should be tried
for during the year]
1. Mix all ingredients in large, heavy skillet. Simmer over
medium heat, stirring constantly, until water evaporates and
nuts look sugary, about 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and pour nuts onto large, greased baking
sheet/ aluminum foil. Using two forks [beware, this is very
hot], separate quickly to prevent from sticking together. Let
cool, then store in an airtight container in frig or freezer -
if it lasts that long.
3. Serve at room temperature or crush for ice cream
by Yaffa Shepsel
My mother didn't have a Pesach electric mixer, but mayonnaise
was the family treat. Chemically, mayonnaise is an emulsion,
that is, a suspension of oil and water-based liquid combined.
It may go runny until you get the feel, so first read how to
do it, then how to re-do it without getting hysterical about
the expensive ingredients going down the drain (Pesach oil is
about 5 times the price of regular oil).
Ingredients: one egg, lemon juice, oil, salt (minced
HAND METHOD: It is important to invest in a wooden spoon.
They are cheap, convenient, and if you decide to buy a mixer,
can be burned with next year's chometz.
Put whole egg and juice of half a lemon in bowl and stir
vigorously with wooden spoon. Very gradually, add oil in a
very thin steady stream, stirring all the while [you may need
a third hand here] until mixture becomes thick, like - er -
mayonnaise. Add salt, garlic and taste. You may wish to
experiment with different oils. Olive oil is not especially
recommended, but some families use only that.
MIXER METHOD: Same as hand method. Beat well before adding
oil, a little at a time.
BLENDER METHOD: I would suggest using one whole egg plus one
white to get it started. You need enough liquid to cover the
blender blades and get the emulsion to `take'. Start the
blender and then add the oil in a very thin, steady stream.
It will get thick very quickly.
OOPS! What to do if the mixture goes runny. Set aside and
begin with a fresh bowl, juice and egg. Sorry. Beat, then add
the ruined mixture to this very slowly. It should `take' this
time. Keeping adding oil to desired consistency.
Since the oil is quite expensive and the mayonnaise,
hopefully, delicious, you may wish to dilute it to stretch
it. Those who do not eat gebrokts (allow any contact
of water with their matza), can, nevertheless, make large
quantities to use as a spread, without too much oil.
DILUTION: Orange juice may be added at the beginning stage,
since pure fruit juice does not constitute gebrokts,
especially if the mayonnaise is eaten on bite size pieces of
matza at a time. I make my mayonnaise in the blender, and
before adding the oil, put in a whole onion, some real orange
juice and garlic for taste, then add the oil to the desired
CAUTION: It may be so delicious, that you may find yourself
using up more matza than you bargained for. You can limit
mayonnaise-on-matza to only meaty meals. Or whatever.
Enjoy. Chag somayach!