Many have the custom of using both horseradish and romaine lettuce to fulfill the obligation to consume maror (bitter herbs) on Passover night.

The sages of the Mishna1 list five vegetables which may be used for maror. Unfortunately, it is difficult to be certain as to the identity of these five vegetables mentioned in the Mishna by their ancient Hebrew names. Two of them, however, we have a clear tradition regarding their identity: horseradish and lettuce.2

The Talmud3 says that of the five species mentioned in the Mishna, the preferred one for use is the lettuce — which is surprising, considering that it is not bitter. The reason for this is its symbolism. If lettuce isn't harvested, its stem hardens and becomes very bitter. i.e. it starts off sweet, and its end is bitter. This is a perfect metaphor for our ancestors' slavery in Egypt. Originally they were enticed to work with promises of full wages, and they were sweet-talked into joining the work campaign; their patriotism to the Egyptian homeland was invoked. Eventually, however, this led to full-fledged bitter enslavement.

Nevertheless, many have the custom of having horseradish as well, apparently this stems from a desire to consume actual "bitter" herbs, to recall the great pain that the Jewish nation endured for the duration of their slavery.

Click here for more about maror.

Have a Kosher and happy Passover!

Rabbi Dovid Zaklikowski,