1. Maror Is a Bitter Herb

The Hebrew word maror (מרור) means “bitter.” Scripture commands that the Passover lamb be eaten on Passover eve along with matzot (“unleavened breads”) and merorim (“bitter [herb]s”).1
Read: What Is Maror?

2. Romaine Lettuce Is Sought Out

The Talmud lists five types of bitter vegetables that may be used.2 Today, most people use horseradish root (which stores well and was plentifully available to our Eastern European ancestors after the long winter) and romaine lettuce. Why romaine, which is not actually bitter? The sages explain that if it remains in the ground too long, it becomes bitter and hard.
Read: How Is Romaine a Bitter Herb?

3. It Recalls the Bitter Slavery

The fact that Romaine lettuce starts out sweet and becomes bitter over time is significant, because the purpose of eating maror is to remind us of the bitterness of Egyptian slavery which gradually intensified over time.3
Read: “They Made Our Lives Bitter”

4. It’s Eaten as Part of the Seder

Today, maror is eaten as step 9 of the 15-step ceremonial feast known as the Seder (“order”), which is held on the (two) first night(s) of Passover (in the Diaspora).
Read: 15 Facts About the Passover Seder

5. We Say a Blessing

Before we eat the maror, we say a special text: Blessed are You … Who commanded us regarding eating maror.4
Print: The Texts of the Passover Seder

6. We Eat It Again With Matzah

In Temple times, the great sage Hillel would wrap matzah, bitter herbs, and the roast meat of his Passover offering together and eat it. To commemorate this, step 10 of the Seder is Korech (“wrap”), in which we eat maror sandwiched between two pieces of matzah.5
Read: Understanding the Sandwich

7. It’s Dipped Into Charoset

Before we eat the maror, it is dipped into a special paste called charoset. Historically, one reason for this dipping was because the charoset would neutralize a harmful worm known as the kappa that was found in lettuce. Even though kappa is no longer common, we still dip the maror in charoset for another important reason: its consistency reminds us of the cement with which our ancestors built cities for Pharaoh.6
Read: Why We Dip the Maror in Charoset

8. The Children Ask About It

The Seder night kicks off with the children asking the Four Questions. Two of these questions relate to the maror:

On all other nights we don’t dip even once; this night, we dip twice?
On all other nights we eat all greens; this night [we eat] only maror?

Read: The Four Questions

9. Today It’s Rabbinic

As mandated in the Torah, the bitter herbs are to be eaten with the meat of the Passover sacrifice. Since nowadays there is no Temple and therefore no animal sacrifices, there is no Passover offering. Nevertheless, the Sages decreed that we still eat the maror at the Seder as a memorial.7
Read: How Can the Rabbis Add to the Torah?

10. We Don’t Recline

When we eat the ritual foods and drink the four cups of wine on the Seder night we recline in the manner of diners at classical antiquity-era banquets. The exception to this rule is the maror. Since it reminds us of bitter slavery, to eat it while reclining like nobility would be a contradiction in terms.
See: Reclining at the Seder

11. It’s On the Seder Plate—Twice!

The Seder meal is held around a ceremonial tray (known as a kaarah or “Seder plate”), which contains all the ritual foods that will be eaten that night, including two portions of maror. One, referred to as maror, is used for the first portion of bitter herbs eaten at the meal. The other, known as chazeret (“lettuce”), is used for the Hillel sandwich.
Read: The Seder Plate

12. We Eat At Least An Olive-Sized Portion

Both times we eat maror, we must eat a portion that is at least as large as an olive (one may reach this amount by combining two kinds of maror, such as lettuce and horseradish8). When calculating the exact size of an olive, we are somewhat lenient since the maror we eat is mandated by the rabbis and not a Torah obligation,9 and as little as ¾ of an ounce may suffice.

13. It Reflects Our Reality

We just ate the matzah, the symbol of our freedom, and, yet, we still eat the maror, which recalls our bondage. This is because even though we inhabit a post-Exodus reality, evil still abounds and many are still bound, both by our internal bitterness as well as external circumstances.

Eating the maror, we hope and pray for the day when all bitterness will become sweet, like our sweet, non-bitter lettuce.
Read: 15 Moshiach Facts