Jesus, Demons, and Flatulence: A Brief History of the Charoset Passover (2023)

Surprisingly, the earliest known reference to the practice of immersion in Charoset may not come from rabbinic literature, but from the New Testament, no less than a quote from the mouth of Jesus, found in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus and his 12 disciples gather on what is almost certainly the Passover, when Jesus says, "Whoever dips his hand into the bowl with me will betray me" (Matthew 26:23).

Did the author of Matthew mean that Judas dipped his bitter herb in Jesus' bowl of charoset? We do not know. The text does not say what was immersed or in what. However, given the practices of Jews in succeeding generations and up to the present day, it is not improbable.

Our first explicit reference to Charoseth comes a little over a century after Matthew, in the early third-century collection of Jewish law called the Mishnah. The collection compiled by Rabbi Judah the Prince says of the Passover meal: “They brought him matzo and charoset and two cooked dishes, although charoset is not a mitzvah. Rabbi Eliezer ben Tzadok says it is a mitzvah” (Pesachim 10:3).

This text clearly shows that Rabbi Judah the Prince had charoset on his Passover table and probably dipped his bitter herb in it, although he did not consider it a religious obligation. That said, you might have seen this as an integral part of the ritual meal, all the way back to the three "Four Questions" (Mas Nishtana), which he included in the Mishnah, was one of the reasons we had two immersions during Passover dinner instead of just one on other nights (Pesachim 10:4). What he meant, however, remains a mystery; we Jews do not immerse anything special in something special on other nights.

Several centuries later, the subject of dipping the bitter herb in charoset was taken up again by the Babylonian Talmud, a massive and authoritative commentary on the Mishnah written in present-day Iraq. The Talmud quotes several rabbis on why we dip our bitter herb in charoset, and their answers are quite surprising.

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First, the Talmud quotes the fourth-century sage Rav Pappa as saying that the bitter herb (especially lettuce) “because of thefound.” The Talmud even contradicts this by saying that “there is no need to dip it, because the kapha dies from its odor (the charoset)” (Pesachim 115b).

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It is not explained what this kafa meant to remove the charos cluster. According to medieval commentators, it is a type of worm or poison found in green leaves.

Prepare Charoset: Ingredients Differ Between CulturesCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

But since the Talmud provides a curse to counteract the kafa: "Kafa, kafa, I remember you, your seven daughters and your eight daughters-in-law" (Pesachim 116a), the sages of the Talmud probably spoke of a demon. . The Talmud sages were very concerned about thisthe threat of demonsand its distance.

After this discussion, the Talmud goes on to quote two 3rd-century Galilean rabbis who said that the use of charoset in the Passover meal was symbolic. According to Rabbi Levi, its consumption was "in memory of the apple", while Rabbi Yochanan said it was "in memory of the mortar".

This last opinion is quite clear: Yochanan was referring to the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves in their works. That is, the carousel is a symbol of the oppression suffered by Hebrew slaves at the hands of their Egyptian masters. The connection that Yochanan made between charoset and mortar likely stems from the fact that the dip's name appears to be related to a Hebrew word meaning "earthenware".estimated, which is something like mortar. This view is accepted by most Jews today.

But what about Rabbi Levi's apple? What was he talking about?

the medieval pathshaveHe explained that Levi was referring to apple trees: according to a legend found elsewhere in the Talmud (Sothah 11b), Hebrew women secretly gave birth to prevent their newborns from dying at the hands of the Egyptians. Based on these two opinions, the Babylonian sage Abaye of the early 4th century decreed that charoset should be as sour as apples (which are not as sweet as modern apples) and as thick as mortar (Pesachim 116a).

At this point, it becomes clear that dipping the bitter herb in charoset has become part of the ceremony.easter foodamong rabbinical Jews, but we still don't know which charoset they delved into, as neither the Talmud nor other ancient rabbinic texts explain how charoset was made or what it consisted of. We have at most a brief statement in the Jerusalem Talmud that he was also calledSadness, a noun cognate with an Aramaic verb for "hit" or "crush", which probably means that something was hit in its preparation.

It is not until the 10th century that we get our first recipe for charoset from a prayer book written byRabbi Saadi Gaona Baghdad.

In her brief description of the Easter dinner, Saadia wrote: “And she will make a sauce of dates, walnuts and sesame and mix it with vinegar and it will be namedkiss.“

Charoset: Does not have to be nut-basedCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

The name Halik, used to this day by Iraqi Jews and some other Jewish communities, may be related to the Aramaic word for vinegar:chala. The Jewish sage Maimonides gave a similar prescription in his 12th-century commentary on the Mishnah, written in Cairo: "You drinkfigsÖGivenand boil and mash them until moist and mix them all in vinegar and add lavender or oregano and the like without grinding. Variations of these recipes are still used today by Yemeni and Sephardic Jews.

But among Ashkenazi Jews, that is, Jews whose ancestors lived in northern and eastern Europe, Charoset is very different: it isusually made from apples, nuts and wine. The earliest such record comes from the 11th-century French scholar Rashi's commentary on the Talmud, transcribed here.troyes: "and it is necessary to add apples and wine" (Pesachim 116a).

After Rashi, this recipe became standard among Ashkenazi Jews. We discovered that it was elaborated, for example, by the German rabbi Eleazar deworms' 13th centurySefer HaRokeah: "Charoset is made from apples ... and a little is added ... walnuts, figs and pomegranates and pepper and ginger and cumin and celery and horseradish, but apples and walnuts are the main ingredients."

Passover lamb outside, Syrian cumin inside

So far, we've seen how charoset and its interpretation evolved over the centuries, but we haven't addressed the main question: how did this tradition originally evolve? To understand this, we must understand the origin of the Passover ceremony itself.

Originally, the Passover meal would have been a kind of barbecue in Jerusalem, with a goat or lamb sacrificed in the temple as the main component. But in later generations, after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CEEaster lamb is no longer eatenthe rabbis created a highly structured ceremonial meal: the Seder. Its first appearance is in the Mishnah, and over the years it has evolved into the Passover meal we have today.

We do not know whether the ceremony described in the Mishnah was created by Rabbi Judah the Prince (it appears for the first time in the Mishnah he compiled) or by earlier generations, but it is clear that those who created it did so with the Roman Symposium in mind. . The similarities between the two foods are too great to be coincidental.

Both the Seder and the Roman Symposium are structured meals that include discussion and food. Both involve drinking lots of wine and singing praises to the gods (or God). In both cases, the discussion begins with three simple questions and the meal begins with the consumption of a leafy vegetable. The origin of dipping the bitter herb in charoset may not be in the Bible, but in the culinary traditions of ancient Rome.

In fact, the famous ancient Roman cookbook Apicius, also known asthe culinary re("Of the Art of Cooking") talks about eating salad, saying, "Dress it with vinegar dressing and a little brine, which aids digestion and is taken for gas (i.e. flatulence). And so that salad can , it is worth taking (with or after) the following mixture: 2 ounces of ginger, 1 ounce of green rue, 1 ounce of fleshy dates, 12 scruples of ground pepper, 1 ounce of good honey and 8 ounces of Ethiopian or Syrian cumin an infusion of it in vinegar, ground cumin and sieve.

Not only does this recipe contain many of the same ingredients we see in charoset (vinegar, honey, cumin, pepper, dates, and ginger), but it counteracts the harmful effects of lettuce, as does the kafa discussed in the Talmud. So it appears that the original charoset was a vinegar extract intended to protect those who ate the bitter herbs at the Passover meal from farting. That original purpose was forgotten, and over time the recipe changed from a watery extract to a paste thick like mortar and sweet like apples instead of sour like vinegar.

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