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