The Method of Eating Marror

  • Rav Moshe Taragin



By Rav Moshe Taragin



Shiur #11: The Method of Eating Marror


A previous shiur discussed the types of species that can be used to fulfill the mitzvah of maror.  Is the bitter taste merely meant to identify the valid species or is the taste the essential element of the mitzvah?  Perhaps the Chazon Ish’s question best highlights the role of the bitter taste: Can maror be used if it is the halakhic species but does not yet taste bitter?

There are several gemarot which  discuss another relevant topic - the manner of eating marror – which may also demonstrate the role of the bitter taste in fulfilling the mitzva:

1)    The gemara in Pesachim (115b), at least according to the version of the Rashbam, claims that matzah can be swallowed, whereas maror cannot. Presumably, this stresses the need to actually TASTE the maror. The contrast between marror and matzah is notable. The gemara in Pesachim (39a) compared the two in trying to identify the species of maror; just as matzah must be an edible item that grows, marror must be as well. Evidently, they are comparable regarding their MAKEUP but dissimilar regarding the MANNER OF INGESTION. Maror, unlike matzah, must be tasted; mere eating (in this instance, through swallowing) would be insufficient.


2)    A second gemara highlighting the need to actually taste the bitterness of marror is the statement in Pesachim (116b) that although marror should be dipped in charoset, it should not be immersed for too long. Too much immersion in charoset would cancel the FLAVOR of marror and the taste of bitterness. This gemara also demonstrates the need to actually taste the bitterness of the marror.

Presumably, the Peri Chadash, who disagrees with the Chazon Ish and allows ingestion of a bitter species which has yet to turn bitter (such as lettuce), would distinguish between the two above cases and his scenario of not-yet-bitter vegetables. The actual bitterness doesn’t have to be tasted; thus, currently sweet vegetables are permissible. The METHOD of eating, however, must be capable of extracting a bitter flavor. Excessive immersion in another food or swallowing without tasting would not qualify as a halakhic act of eating maror since it subdues or avoids the flavor of marror.

Another possible indication of the importance of the bitter flavor may be found in an interesting gemara in Pesachim (115a) regarding someone who must use marror for karpas as well since he was unable to procure karpas-suitable  vegetables. Since he will effectively eat marror twice, when should he recite the birchat ha-mitzvah on eating marror, "al achilat marror"? Logic would mandate reciting the berakha during the second ingestion of marror, during the time that he is actually performing the mitzvah of marror, rather than during the first ingestion, when he is performing the mitzvah of karpas (with a marror vegetable). Yet R. Chisda disputes this logic, demanding that the berakha on the mitzvah be recited upon the VERY FIRST ingestion of marror. He questions how a person fill his stomach with marror during the karpas slot and then subsequently recite the berakha at a later and secondary stage of eating maror. On the surface, his claim is itself questionable. What would be wrong with eating marror the first time for karpas – WITHOUT INTENDING TO FULFILL THE MITZVAH OF MARROR - and at a later stage eating marror again – this time for the mitzvah of marror - and reciting the appropriate berakha? Perhaps R. Chisda is highlighting the role of the bitter taste. Since the mitzvah of marror depends upon experiencing the bitter flavor, the mitzvah cannot be fulfilled once the bitter flavor has already been tasted; physiologically, that flavor will no longer be as pungent or as sharp.

Interestingly, this question may have already been addressed by Rashi in explaining a mishna in Pesachim (39a) which invalidates "pickled" or "soaked" lettuce for marror use. The mishna describes "kavush," which usually refers to any item that has been distilled in a liquid for over 24 hours, including water. But Rashi comments that the mishna only invalidates lettuce that had been distilled (pickled) in vinegar. Although many question Rashi’s leniency (effectively allowing water-soaked lettuce), the Netivot (in Chok Ya’akov) defends Rashi: only pickling in vinegar will compromise the bitter flavor. Rashi’s comments may argue for the sufficiency of bitter flavor. By allowing water-distilled lettuce and disqualifying vinegar-pickled, Rashi may be claiming that as long as the original flavor has been maintained - even though the actual texture and fiber of the marror has been compromised - the mitzvah can be executed.


An interesting comment of the Rosh may further indicate the absence of classic models for the performance of this mitzvah; ALL that the mitzvah of marror requires is experiencing the flavor. The Rosh claims that a kezayit of marror must be ingested, since the berakhah mentions the term "akhilah." In most instances, the performance of a mitzvah with food requires eating a kezayit INDEPENDENT of the syntax of the berakhah. Without consuming a kezayit, an act of akhilah has not been performed. In this instance, the Rosh believes that an act of akhilah is not absolutely necessary and, fundamentally, no kezayit is necessary. The only reason a kezayit volume is required is to reflect the LANGUAGE of the berakhah. As the Sha’agat Aryeh (100) comments, according to the Rosh, the marror used for korekh would not require a kezayit. The only kezayit requirement for marror results from the wording of the berakhah, and since korekh does not require a berakhah, no kezayit is necessary.

Viewing the mitzva of marror as structurally different from most halakhic acts of eating may explain an interesting beraita in Pesachim (114b), which allows the kezayit of maror to be ingested in different stages as long as the stages are not separated by a "kedei akhilat peras" (the time it would take to consume a peras measure of bread). This time frame is fairly STANDARD; any halakhic act of akhilah can be divided as long as all the eating segments occur within this time frame. It seems odd that the gemara iterated this requirement specifically in the situation of marror.

Presumably, marror is such a different form of a mitzvah that we may not have applied the kedei akhilat peras qualification. Marror does not require a formal act of eating and, at least according to the Rosh, does not even require the standard measurement of kezayit on fundamental grounds (but rather merely to reflect the language of the berakha). We therefore should not demand that the entire volume of marror be consumed within the time of akhilat peras. It is particularly in the situation of marror that the gemara must reiterate that, despite the lack of any prescribed act of eating, it all must occur with an akhilat peras.