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Browse Zemanim: Pesah: The Bitter Sweet Maror

Contributed by: R. Shaul Chamoula

We read in the Haggadah that the reason why we eat maror (bitter herbs) is because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our forefathers. Are we only commemorating the suffering of our forefathers by eating the maror, or can we learn lessons from this missvah of Pesah?

There is an interesting verse in Tehillim which states:

(105:25) הָפַךְ לִבָּם לִשְׂנֹא עַמּוֹ לְהִתְנַכֵּל בַּעֲבָדָיו:

Hashem turned over the Egyptian hearts to hate His people and to be preoccupied with evil thoughts of how to destroy them (Radak). Why did Hashem cause the Egyptians to hate Bnei Yisrael?

The answer is simple. Hashem caused the Egyptians to hate the Jewish nation, in order to protect them from mingling with the Egyptians! In the beginning of the Jewish history in Egypt, the Egyptians respected Yosef for saving their country from famine. It was out of respect for him, that they also respected his extended family, and gave them the best part of Egypt to dwell in. We read in the Torah that Yosef always kept his family separate from the Egyptians. When Bnei Yaacov first arrived to Egypt, Yosef instructed them to tell Pharaoh that they were mere shepherds. This ensured that they would not be called into Pharaoh service, nor would they be invited for tea, because the Egyptians had strong disdained for such a profession. (The Egyptians revered the sheep like gods, and could not imagine herding and controlling them.)

Yosef ruled for eighty years. After Yosef and his brothers passed away, there was a great danger that Bnei Yisrael might start to mingle with the Egyptians and learn adopt their immoral ways. To safeguard the nation, Hashem caused the Egyptians to hate Bnei Yisrael, causing a very deep rift in the Egyptian society. Consequentially, there were no intermarriages in Egypt. The Rabbis tell us that Bnei Yisrael did not change their language, garments or names while they were in bondage. They knew that they were different then the Egyptians. We eat the maror to celebrate the fact that Hashem caused the Egyptians to treat Bnei Yisrael bitterly for our benefit and utter survival.

There is another lesson that we can learn from the maror. The Gemara in Berachot 5A states in the name of Resh Laqish as follows:

נאמר ברית במלח ונאמר ברית ביסורין; נ

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