Passover Drash: A Formula for the Epic Charoses

One of the centerpieces of the Seder plate is the Charoses which is a fruit mixture and is meant to remind us of the mortar with which our ancestors bonded bricks when they were enslaved in Egypt. On the other hand there is also a celebratory element of the Charoses.  The sages teach us that the Charoses should be made from fruits that the Torah employs as a metaphor for the exemplary character of the Jewish People such as figs, nuts, pomegranates and apples.  What needs to be understood is how can the Charoses have two such different messages.

The famous philosopher, the Maharal of Prague draws a fundamental distinction between the Marror and Charoses, namely the Marror represents bitterness in general i.e the suffering experienced throughout all Jewish exiles, whereas Charoses which reminds us of the mortar used in Egypt alludes to the suffering unique to the Egyptian exile. The difference between all the  various Jewish exiles is that Egypt represents the essence of evil which subjugated the essence of the Jewish soul whereas the other regimes are merely manifestations of evil which can only subjugate the manifestation of the Jewish soul.

This understanding of the difference between Egypt and other oppressive regimes leads to another highly significant teaching of the Maharal. The Maharal teaches, that as a result of the exodus from and victory over Egypt, the essence of the Jewish soul always remains free and the future exiles can only endanger the “Jewishness” (manifestations) of the Jew such as one’s level of observance, but there is an essential quality that always remains within the soul.

Now we can understand the opposite message of the Charoses. The Charoses remind us how the Egyptians compromised the essence of our Jewish identity. But if we would stop there it would only tell us half the story. Therefore the sages instructed to make the Charoses from the fruit that teach us about the exemplary character of the Jewish people to stress that as a result of the exodus from Egypt our essential Jewish identity will never be endangered and will always remain intact within our soul.

About Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner is the Rabbi of Boulder County Center for Judaism. In addition, he teaches extensively throughout Boulder County and is the author of "Finding the Joy in Everyday Living," a book of short chapters explaining the ways to access happiness through appreciation, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

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