Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

Maror – isn’t it different from our other seder foods?

Other seder foods, korban Pesach and matzah, are governed by the “shiur” rules.

“Shiur” rules obligate us to eat a requisite amount of any “mitzva” food.

That shiur is usually a “kezayis” – an olive’s volume.

Which is why we must eat a kezayis worth of korban Pesach and of matzah.

Like korban Pesach and matzah, maror is a mitzva food.

Surprisingly, though, some say that the “shiur” rule doesn’t apply to maror and that we needn’t eat a kezayis of maror to address one’s obligation. According to these authorities, we can address our obligation with just a bit of maror.[1]

Why is this so? Why wouldn’t maror be governed by the shiur rule?

An answer to this question may lie in the following possuk: “And with maror…it [the korban Pesach meat] will be eaten.”[2]

The korban meat is eaten “with maror.” Maror, then, is a condiment – like mustard – that accompanies the main food, meat.

If maror is just a condiment, then we only need small amounts – condiments are eaten in small amounts – and not a shiur’s worth.[3]

If maror is a condiment that doesn’t need shiur, then it is less significant than other seder foods.[4]

Why, though, is this so?

Why is maror is so insignificant?

To answer this question, let us understand what all these seder foods represent.

The korban Pesach, of course, evokes the korban that was eaten during our first Pesach in Egypt.

Preparing that korban back then, we needed to slaughter a lamb, an Egyptian deity.

It required much courage for us slaves, to slaughter our masters’ idols.

We, nonetheless, mustered courage and, thereby, proved ourselves worthy of redemption.

Korban Pesach, then, is positive because it evokes greatness – which is why it is a primary seder food that requires shiur.

As per the following, matzah also evokes the positive.

“They left [Egypt] ..and they baked the dough that they took … as matzos…because they … couldn’t tarry [and have enough time to allow the dough to rise into bread].”[5]

Matzah, then, because it evokes a speedy Exodus, is a positive food which is why it became a primary seder food requiring a shiur.

Yes, matzah, is also called “lechem oni” – bread of affliction[6] – so it conveys the negative.

It was called “bread of affliction,” like the hastily baked bread eaten by slaves who weren’t afforded time to let their bread to rise, it wasn’t allotted time to rise.[7]

It was also called “bread of affliction” to evoke the fact that matzah, which contains only basic flour and water, recalls a slave’s poor diet.[8]

Yes, in many ways, matzoh evokes the negative.

But we focus on life’s positives and see life’s positives outweighing life’s negatives.

Matzoh is, therefore, deemed positive enough to be a primary seder food.

Maror, though, is unlike the other seder foods.


Because maror, as per the following, evokes only the negative.[9]

“Why do we eat maror? Because they embittered our lives.”[10]

Yes, we eat maror to acknowledge the bitterness.

Still, though, for obvious reasons – bitterness’ deleterious effects on our ability to accomplish, to enjoy life and to do so much else – we minimize that bitterness.

Because of that, we eat just a bit of maror – and taste just a bit of the bitterness that it represents – at the seder.

That’s a message that’s meant to spread beyond Pesach and on into the rest of the year.

For so many of us, though, it doesn’t.

So many of us live without minimizing the bitterness.

Sometimes, we live that way because we believe that recalling past bitterness will cautio us from becoming entangled in future bitterness.

Sometime we live that way because, against our will, self-defeating thoughts of past bitterness keep resurfacing in out minds.

No matter what the cause for that bitterness, we must counter it.


Because if we don’t, we will be repeating the bird’s terrible mistake.

The bird had been free. He had floated in the sky. He had caught midges for lunch. And he swam in the lake.

He wanted to keep his beautiful reality alive by avoiding bad things. To achieve that, he adopted the following habit. Whenever something bad happened, he put a pebble into a pouch that he carried back. Those pebbles would remind him to avoid bad things.

After one bad incident, he placed a pebble in his pouch. One pebble created no problems. It may have been a healthy reminder of what to avoid. But then there was another incident, so one pebble became two. Two pebbles then became four pebbles which then became eight.

Weighed down by eight pebbles, the bird couldn’t fly or swim. He couldn’t catch midges or fish. He struggled to survive by catching insects on the ground. All the while, though, he collected pebbles. When twelve pebbles became sixteen, the bird could no longer walk.

And so, that poor bird, doomed by all the maror that he carried, died.

Like that bird, we sometime accumulate pebbles of bitterness.

Sometimes – as mentioned – those accumulations are deliberate.

Sometimes – as mentioned – against our will, those accumulations well up and place themselves in the foregrounds of our minds.

No matter what the cause, we must push those feelings of bitterness to the recesses of our mind.

How, though, do we do that?

Perhaps by focusing on whatever positives – good relationships, good experiences – life allots us.

Focusing on what is right, bright and light may push whatever bitterness into the recess of our minds.

This Pesach, let’s not just clean our homes.

This Pesach, let’s also clean our hearts of any and all bitterness and move past all of life’s marors.

This Pesach, let’s remember that it’s not about maror.

[1] Rosh, Pesachim 10:25

[2] Shemos 12:8

[3] We now eat a kezayis of maror at the seder. That kezayis, though, does not address the mitzva of maror per se. That kezayis of maror addresses an unrelated beracha issue. At a certain point in time, our rabbonim instituted that berachos be said before we perform mitzvos- including, of course, eating maror. Once a beracha on maror was instituted, we were required to eat a kezayis of maror to validate that beracha. Our kezayis of maror is, therefore, not about the maror, but rather about the beracha

[4] The shiur rules also apply to matzah, as per the possuk Shemos 12:18.

[5] Shemos 12:39

[6] Devarim 16:3

[7] Sforno, Chizkuni ad. loc.

[8] Netziv ad. loc.

[9] See the Pesach Haggadah’s reason for marror. Although see an iconoclastic Ibn Ezra in the Peirush HaAruch on Shemos 12:8 who notes that maror was eaten as a sign of affluence.

[10] The Pesach Haggadah’s reason for marror.