Maror (Step 9) – The Eating of the Bitter Herbs

The Haggada asks: “For what reason do we eat these bitter herbs?” The answer, known by most, is because the Egyptians made the lives of our fathers bitter by burdening them with back-breaking work.

The Me’am Lo’ez haggada advances a different reason. He explains that there are three words for romaine lettuce in Hebrew: maror, chasa, and chazeres. We have already explained why it is called maror, because of the bitterness we experienced in Mitzraim.

It is also called chasa because Hashem took notice of the Jews suffering in Mitzraim and had mercy (chas, in Hebrew) on them and brought them out of servitude.

It is also called chazeres because in Mitzraim, the Jews were so degraded that they literally had to go around (chazar) begging for their sustenance in order to survive.

It is interesting that the three items that Rabban Gamliel requires us to discuss at the seder: pesach, matza, and maror all symbolize both good and bad. The pesach being both the death of the Egyptian first born and Hashem’s “jumping” over the homes of the Jews to spare them. Matza on one hand commemorates the harsh life our ancestors endured as it is yet referred to as “poor man’s bread.” On the other hand, Matza commemorates the fact that we were able to leave Mitzraim so rapidly.

The same is true of maror, which symbolizes the bitter lives we led in Mitzraim, yet also alludes to the fact that even in our lowly, degraded level, Hashem still took mercy on his beloved nation and redeemed us from bondage. It is for this reason that we eat romaine lettuce which in Hebrew is not only called maror (bitter), but is also called chasa (mercy).

It also reminds us that, until this day, Hashem is looking down on his beloved nation yet entrenched in a long, difficult, and dark golus, and Hashem will one day again, have rachmanus (mercy) on us and bring us out mei avdus l’cheirus (from servitude to freedom).