MAROR

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

MAROR AL­WAYS strikes me as be­ing rather a para­dox. On the one hand, it is meant by its un­pleas­ant­ness to evoke the mis­ery and ab­ject bit­ter­ness of the Egyp­tian bondage, but it never re­ally achieves that, hav­ing be­come one of the much an­tic­i­pated and uniquely en­joy­able tastes and aro­mas of the seder! Horse­rad­ish atop a bit of matzah and charoset must rank along­side chicken soup and knei­d­lach in the top ten of Jewish cui­sine and nos­tal­gia. More than this, ac­cord­ing to the halachah, maror does not even need to be a par­tic­u­larly bit­ter herb. Ro­maine let­tuce and other leafy veg­eta­bles are also quite ac­cept­able, on the ba­sis that the ini­tially mild flavour usu­ally de­vel­ops a bit of an af­ter­taste, just as the slav­ery went from mild to bit­ter, al­most im­per­cep­ti­bly, over time. Per­haps the d e e p e r

mes- s a g e o f maror i s more n u - an­ced than we gen­er­ally ap­pre­ci­ate. For me, it is that no ex­pe­ri­ence in life is to­tally black or white. As in this sym­bolic seder herb, there is some sweet and sour, good and bad, joy and sad­ness in­ter­mixed in ev­ery di­men­sion of hu­man ex­is­tence. The mes­sage is that it is up to us to re­frame tragedy, set­back and the bit­ter­ness of life — how­ever enor­mous — as sweeter than it may ap­pear; in­deed, as even an op­por­tu­nity for re­demp­tion and new be­gin­ning. In that way we be­gin to turn our own lives around.

So, whereas we break a glass un­der the chu­pah to evoke the pain of Jewish his­tory at a time of joy, on Pe­sach eve we do the ex­act op­po­site. By mix­ing maror with charoset and us­ing the mild let­tuce leaf, we in­ject a sense of sweet­ness and hope even as we dwell on bit­ter tragedy.

The mean­ing of the maror grows and changes as we ma­ture. If the maror of child­hood is sim­ply a bit­ter flavour, the maror of adult­hood be­comes a more com­plex ad­mix­ture of var­i­ous and even op­pos­ing sen­sa­tions. The maror be­comes a mir­ror of life it­self. RABBI REUBEN LIV­ING­STONE Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub-

urb United Syn­a­gogue

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