Sweet Innocence, Passion, and Redemption: Hidden Meanings of Charoset

Sweet Innocence, Passion, and Redemption: Hidden Meanings of Charoset

by Rabbi Rick Brody

While the haggadah makes no actual mention of charoset, we learn about it in Mishnah, Pesachim 10:3 and the Rabbis offer a short elaboration in the Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 116a:

:רבי אלעזר בר’ צדוק אומר מצוה וכו’: מאי מצוה רבי לוי א זכ לתפוח ור’ יוחנן אומר זכר לטיט

“Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Tzadok says [charoset] is an obligation…” What is the reason that it is an obligation? Rabbi Levi says, “It’s a memory of the apple tree” and Rabbi Yonaton says, “It’s a memory of the mortar.

What apple tree?! The Gemara explains elsewhere:

Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 11b

 רב עוירא בשכר נשים צדקניות שהיו באותו הדור נגאלו ישראל ממצרים בשעה שהולכות לשאוב מים…  ומוליכות אצל בעליהן לשדה ומרחיצות אותן וסכות אותן ומאכילות אותן ומשקות אותן ונזקקות להן וכיון שמתעברות באות לבתיהם וכיון שמגיע זמן מולדיהן הולכות ויולדות בשדה תחת התפוח שנאמר (שיר השירים)  תחת התפוח עוררתיך

Rav Avira explained: In the merit of the righteous women that were in that generation, Israel was redeemed from Egypt. They would go to their husbands who were slaving in the field.  And they would wash them and anoint them and feed them and give them to drink and lie with them, and they became pregnant; and when the time came to give birth, they would go and give birth in the field under the apple tree [so that the Egyptians would not find them. (Rashi)] As it says, ‘Under the apple tree I have awakened you (Song of Songs 8:5).’

Questions:

Down among the reeds and rushes
A baby boy was found
His eyes as clear as centuries
His silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

Me and my buddies we are traveling people
We like to go down to restaurant row
Spend those euro-dollars
All the way from Washington to Tokyo
I see them in the airport lounge
Upon their mother’s breast
They follow me with open eyes
Their uninvited guest

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

There’s too many people on the bus from the airport
Too many holes in the crust of the earth
The planet groans
Every time it registers another birth
But down among the reeds and rushes
A baby girl was found
Her eyes as clear as centuries
Her silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

  • Rava’s questions: Talmud Bavli, Mas. Shabbat 31a

:אמר רבא:בשעה שמכניסין אדם לדין אומרים לו:

?נשאת ונתת באמונה”

?קבעת עתים לתורה

?עסקת בפו”ר

?צפית לישועה

?פלפלת בחכמה

“?הבנת דבר מתוך דבר

.ואפ”ה אי יראת ה’ היא אוצרו אין אי לא לא

Rava said: When they take a person to judgment, they ask him:

“Did you conduct your business affairs faithfully?

Did you set aside time to study Torah?

Did you involve yourself in procreation?

Did you look forward to salvation?

Did you debate wisely?

Were you able to infer one thing from another?”

And even so, if “the fear of God was his treasure” – yes, if not – no.

o   Asakta b’piryah v’rivyah (“did you engage in procreation?”) … tzipita lishuah (“did you anticipate redemption?”)

  • What is the relationship between these two questions?
  • Why are they next to each other?
  • How do they relate to the story of Israelite mothers in Egypt?
  • How do these teachings, the story of Egypt, and Paul Simon’s lyrics all relate to each other?
  • What does Paul Simon seem to be saying about the connection between babies born in Egpyt and babies being born in our world today?
  • What connections do you see between the ancient story and our world?
  • How can the eating of charoset bring all these ideas together?
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One response to “Sweet Innocence, Passion, and Redemption: Hidden Meanings of Charoset

  1. Pingback: Electronic Shackles: Redemption on Shabbat and Pesach  | kidmoot

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