Why the Wrap?

This blog post is with gratitude to Rabbi Pesach Sommer, for asking:

Anyone aware of any interesting conceptual, philosophical, theological, or derush ideas connected to koreich, and the idea of eating Pesach, matzah and marror together?

I didn’t, but the question prodded me to dream up the following.

Hillel’s stated motive is textual. As the Hagadah puts it:

זֵכֶר לְמִקְדָּשׁ כְּהִלֵּל.

כֵּן עָשָׂה הִלֵּל בִּזְמַן שֶׁבֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָיָה קַיָּם: הָיָה כּוֹרֵךְ פֶּסַח מַצָּה וּמָרוֹר וְאוֹכֵל בְּיַחַד לְקַיֵּם מַה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר “עַל־מַצּ֥וֹת וּמְרֹרִ֖ים יֹאכְלֻֽהוּ׃”

A memorial to what was done in the Beis haMiqdash according to Hillel.

This is what Hillel would do when the Beis haMiqdash was standing: He would wrap [qorban] pesach, matzah and maror [together] and eat them together. To fulfill what is said, “… on matzas and bitters you will eat it.” (Bamidbar 9:11, c.f. Shemos 12:8)

Interestingly, when there is no Beis haMiqdash, and matzah is deOraisa while maror is “only” derabbanan, it is unclear whether one fulfilled the Torah obligation of matzah while mixing the taste with something the Torah doesn’t require it get mixed with. (Pesachim 120a) That’s why we eat them separately, and then this commemoration.

As for a lesson we can take from the mitzvah of koreikh, R’ Pesach’s question…

We experience history as a story. We just told the story of the Exodus starting from Terach (“בתחילה עובדי ע״ז היו אבותינו — in the beginning our ancestors were idolaters” describes Terach) and Lavan (who is the “ארמי אובד אבי — an Aramean tried to eliminate my ancestor”). We continue the story through the slavery, the plagues, the first seder night, the expulsion, the Red Sea, and in Dayeinu – beyond.

As the Seifer haYetzirah writes, the root \ספר\ has three meanings: to cut (from which Hebrew gets the words misparayim – scissors, and sapar – barbar), to count (mispar – number) and to tell (sipur – story, seifer – book). What do all three have in common? When we count we divide a whole to identify its parts. Similarly, we could just mention something happened, as when we perform zeikher liYtzias Mitzrayim — the mitzvah to remember the Exodus from Egypt, every day and night. But on the seder night, the mitzvah is lesapeir, to separate out the details, from beginning to the end…. if the Jewish story actually had an end.

But Hashem’s Action only makes sense if we see it as One. He has no Time, no beginning, middle and end to the story. As humans, this means a story makes more sense after the fact, we cannot understand the present when there is unknown future left.

The whole thing serves One Purpose, has One Meaning, even if we experience it as a sequence of events, many details we must pay attention to on this night of the haggadah.

And so, Hillel understands the commemorative mitzvos of the Torah should be performed at once. To remind us of the unity of Divine Purpose: From the suffering of Egypt of bitter maror, through the matzah of the redemption night and the quick redemption, and the qorban we can then bring once redeemed to be G-d’s People.

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  1. Bob Miller says:

    The Koreich assembly looks a lot like a laminar composite structure. One object with many layers (of meaning, too, in this case!) The physical properties of the structure depend on all the layers being there, just so.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Composites, including fiberglass, are also often used for tubular structures. The best analogue might be radial tires:

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