Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Eating Original Chazeret

There is an excellent article by Ari Zivitofsky in the Spring 2006 edition of Jewish Action. The article's title is "What’s the Truth about ... Using Horseradish for Maror?"

He talks about the history of maror, when horseradish as maror was first innovated, or else identified as maror:
Horseradish is first mentioned in rabbinic literature by Rabbi Eliezar ben Natan of Mainz (c.1090-c.1170) and the Rokeach, Rabbi Eliezer of Worms (c.1165-c.1230), both of whom refer to
it not as maror, but as an ingredient in charoset! Tosafot Yom Tov (Pesachim 2:6) and Hagahot Maimoniot (Chametz Umatzah 7:13) were among the earliest works to identify tamcha as horseradish.
and whether it is valid for maror.

What I consider the most important paragraph in the article:
Heading the list, and presumably the preferred item (according to many authorities, the Mishnah lists these items in order of preference), is chazeret. The Gemara identifies this as chasah, the modern Hebrew word for lettuce, and there is little doubt that the Mishnaic chazeret is lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Lettuce is a winter plant in Israel and thus was, and is, readily available in time for Pesach. Israel’s “wild lettuce” (Lactuca serriola) neither looks nor tastes like the lettuce sold in American supermarkets. It consists of a central stalk with loose, prickly dark green leaves; it continues to grow wild in Israel. The lettuce is bitter, especially as it ages, and when its stalk is cut, it oozes a considerable amount of white, bitter sap. Early cultivated lettuce had this same sap. It might be worthwhile when visiting Israel to seek out some wild lettuce and sample its bitterness.
Sounds like something worthwhile to get in time for next Pesach (to eat wrapped up with soft matza ;).


Anonymous said...

Interesting and convincing... See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactuca_serriola

However, the plant contains a chemical which makes you sleepy... Perhaps that makes it a less likely candidate :)

Soccer Dad said...

About 25 years ago there was an article in one of YU's student journals (I forget the name) called the Root of the Problem is the Problem of the Root.

Your last comment reminds me of the time I went to Dougies and ordered some sort of wrap with lettuce and meat. (Though I don't recall if it was lamb.) My brother-in-law and I agreed that that was probably very close to what Korech was once like.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I'm hoping to find some horseradish *leaves* to try for maror this year or next.

Nachum said...

The article was in Gesher; R' Schachter quoted it in a recent shiur about what Marror really is.

seebee said...

they look like dandelion leaves to me...


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