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Halakhot of the Seder: Korekh

Pesach Seder Plate

Pesach Seder Plate
Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash 90

 The reason for the “sandwich”

The Gemara in Pesachim (115a) brings a dispute of tanna’im about the question of how the observance of eating matza and maror took place when the Temple still stood. According to the Sages, one must eat the matza by itself and the maror by itself, whereas Hillel would wrap the matza and the maror and eat them together, as the verse states, “They shall eat it with matzot and bitter herbs” (Bemidbar 9:11).[1] According to the Rambam (Hilkhot Chametz u-Matza 8:6-7), Hillel would wrap only the matza and the maror, whereas according to Rashi and the Rashbam (ibid.) Hillel would wrap the matza and the maror with the Pesach sacrifice and eat them together.[2]

According to Hillel, would failure to eat the items together mean that one has not fulfilled the commandment?

The Rishonim differ as to whether failure to eat the different components together means that one has not performed the commandment according to Hillel.

The Rashbam (ibid.), Ramban (Milchemet Hashem, 25, in the Rif’s pagination) and Rav Yehonatan of Lunil (ibid.) are of the opinion that according to Hillel, a failure to eat the components together means that one has not fulfilled his obligation, and thus one who eats matza, maror, and the Pesach sacrifice separately has not fulfilled his obligation.

On the other hand, according to Tosafot (s.v. ella amar), “Ideally one should wrap them together, but if he did not do so, he has still fulfilled his obligation.” That is also the view of the Ba’al ha-Ma’or (25a, in the Rif’s pagination), that even according to Hillel, a person who eats the components separately has fulfilled his obligation.

According to the Sages, if one eats the components together, has he nevertheless fulfilled his obligation?

The Rishonim also differ as to what the Sages’ position is if a person ate matza and maror together.

Rashbam (ibid., s.v. ve-hashta) understood that Rabbi Yochanan’s opinion in the Gemara there is that if the matza and maror are eaten together, according to the Sages one has not fulfilled his obligation, and that is also the view of the Me’iri and Ba’al ha-Ma’or (ibid.).

On the other hand, the Rashbam understood that Rav Ashi’s view there is that according to the Sages it does not make a difference, and one can fulfill the obligations of matza and maror whether eating them together or separately. That is the view of the Ramban (Milchemet Hashem, there), even regarding Rabbi Yochanan’s understanding.[3]

Explanation of our custom today

The Gemara rules that:

Now that the law was not determined as either according to Hillel or the Sages, one recites [the] “al akhilat matza” [blessing] and eats it [the matza], then recites [the] “al akhilat maror” [blessing] and eats it [the maror], and then eats matza together with Romaine lettuce without a blessing – a remembrance of the Temple practice according to Hillel. In other words, as there was no decision made regarding this dispute, one eats matza by itself, maror by itself, and then matza together with maror. Why do we act that way?

First, we should note, that in our times even Hillel would agree that in order to fulfill the commandment of eating matza, one must eat it by itself. The reason for this is explained in the Gemara (ibid.) that in our times eating matza is a Torah commandment, whereas eating maror is by rabbinic decree, and one is not to mix a Torah commandment with a rabbinic decree, for the taste of the rabbinic decree would nullify the taste of the Torah commandment.

Thus, according to all views, one must eat a ke-zayit (olive’s bulk) of matza by itself. The dispute between Hillel and the Sages only affects what is done thereafter:

According to the Sages, after eating the matza one must eat a ke-zayit of maror by itself, and the maror is not to be eaten with the matza. It is true that we saw Rishonim who are of the opinion that according to the Sages one may eat the maror along with the matza, but even according to this view that would only be true when the Temple stood, when a person could fulfill the two commandments together. Nowadays, when one must eat the ke-zayit of matza by itself, one may not eat the matza along with the maror. This is because once one has eaten matza, eating more matza is optional but not required, and one cannot mix the eating of maror, which is required by rabbinic decree, with the eating of matza, which is now an optional act (just as one does not mix an eating requirement by Torah law with one which is only by rabbinic decree). Therefore, had we ruled according to the Sages, we would say that the matza and the maror must be eaten separately.

On the other hand, according to Hillel, as ideally the commandment is to eat the matza together with the maror, thus, even though we must eat the matza by itself nowadays, we still have the obligation to make a remembrance of the Temple practice and to eat the two together, thereby fulfilling the commandment to eat maror. According to Hillel, we do not say that after one has eaten the matza, the later eating of matza will be optional and will nullify the taste of the maror in the “sandwich,” because eating the maror is by rabbinic decree as is the eating of matza along with the maror, since eating the two together serves as a remembrance of the Temple practice. Thus we have here two rabbinic decrees, where one does not nullify the other. Therefore, if we had ruled in accordance with Hillel, we should have said that one is to eat a ke-zayit of matza and afterwards to eat a ke-zayit of maror along with a ke-zayit of matza (all of this is according to Tosafot ibid., s.v. ella; Rosh, 27; Ran, 25a in the Rif’s pagination; and others).

Now, given that the Gemara did not reach any decision, we follow both views:

a) We start by eating a ke-zayit of matza (which is required by both the Sages and Hillel, because eating matza is required by Torah law, and one cannot mix it with maror, which is only is rabbinic ordinance).

b) Afterwards, we eat a ke-zayit of maror (in accordance with the view of the Sages, that one does not mix the eating of maror, which is a rabbinic ordinance, with matza, which at that point is only optional).

c) Finally, we eat matza together with maror (according to Hillel, who ruled that at the outset that is the way to fulfill the eating of maror, as was done in the Temple).

As mentioned, according to Hillel it would be appropriate in our times to eat a ke-zayit of matza, and immediately afterwards eat the korekh. However, out of concern for the view of the Sages, we eat the ke-zayit of maror separately before the korekh. In light of our custom, one can ask whether, according to Hillel, one fulfills the commandment of maror when eating the maror or when eating the korekh.

This question would seem to depend on the first dispute we mentioned above, whether, after the fact, according to Hillel one can fulfill the requirement to eat maror by itself without matza. If, after the fact, one has already fulfilled the requirement by eating the maror by itself, that would mean that by the time one gets to korekh, one has already fulfilled the commandment, and eating the korekh at that time is merely a remembrance of the Temple practice, and there is no additional fulfillment of maror consumption.

However, if according to Hillel one does not fulfill the ordinance of eating maror by itself, the eating of the korekh fulfills the rabbinic decree of maror. This latter approach is suggested by a number of Acharonim (Vilna Gaon, Bei’ur ha-Gra 475:1; s.v. u-mi’she’beirekh; Peri Chadash, ibid., s.v. ve-khorekhah, and others), namely that the korekh is not only a remembrance of the Temple practice, but is the main element of fulfilling the ordinance (by rabbinic decree) according to Hillel.

This question, though, depends on another question. As cited above, there is a dispute among Rishonim if Hillel wrapped only the matza and maror together, or whether he added these to the Pesach sacrifice. If Hillel also included the Pesach sacrifice, then, in our times, where there is no Pesach sacrifice, the entire wrapping of the items together loses its real significance.[4]

Thus one can say that even if at the time of the Temple there was an obligation to combine the two, and eating maror by itself would have been of no value according to Hillel, nowadays, where there is no Pesach sacrifice, the commandment of eating maror, which is only by rabbinic decree, need not require be combined with matza, and it is possible to fulfill one’s obligation by eating the maror alone even according to Hillel. It follows that as we have the custom of eating maror by itself out of concern for the view of the Sages, we are thereby fulfilling our obligation of eating maror even according to Hillel, and when we eat the two together it is only a remembrance of the Temple practice, but not a fulfillment of the obligation to eat maror. That is what the Bach (475, s.v. u-ma she-katav ve’achar kakh noteil) wrote, that nowadays where we have no Pesach sacrifice one is unable to fulfill the korekh properly, and that is why we fulfill the obligation to eat maror by eating it by itself, and the korekh is only as a remembrance. That is also the view of the Maharal (Gevurot Hashem, 63), and that is the view accepted by the Acharonim.

Reciting “A Remembrance of the Temple practice according to Hillel”

The Shulchan Arukh (475:1) writes:

Once he recited the blessing on the matza he should not be distracted by anything which is not part of the meal until he eats this combination, so that the blessing of matza and that of maror will apply to this combination as well. In other words, one should not speak between starting to eat the matza until finishing korekh (except for those matters which pertain to the eating). The source of this is the Tur (475) in the name of the Sefer ha-Manhig (Laws of Pesach, 84). They explain that since according to Hillel it is a commandment to eat matza and maror together, when reciting the blessings of matza and of maror one must keep in mind to include korekh in those blessings.

This question is also dependent on the dispute among Acharonim mentioned above. If korekh is the main aspect of eating maror according to Hillel, it is clear that one may not interrupt with conversation between eating the maror and eating the korekh, for that would be an interruption between the blessing and the performance of the commandment. That was also what the Vilna Gaon and Peri Chadash wrote, as quoted above.[5] However, if korekh is only as a remembrance of the Temple practice, it is only a preferred practice that one should not speak between the blessing and korekh, just as, in the view of Hillel, at the time of the Temple one was forbidden to speak between the blessing and the korekh, but that is not required by law. That indeed emerges from the words of the Manhig and of the Tur, who write that this is “most preferable,” as the Bach (475, s.v. u-ma she-katav ve-khatav od), based on his view above, wrote.

The Shulchan Arukh (475:1) added:

…Afterwards he takes the third matza and breaks it and wraps it with the maror… and he says: A remembrance of the Temple practice according to Hillel and eats it while leaning.

The Bei’ur Halakha (s.v. ve’omair) expressed surprised regarding this: after all, the Shulchan Arukh himself writes that one is not to interrupt himself between the blessing of the matza and korekh, so how can one say, “A remembrance…”? He rejects the solution that this statement is part of the meal and is therefore not considered to be an interruption (evidently because there is no instruction being given here which practically serves the needs of the meal, but is rather providing background for the consumption). The Bei’ur Halakha gives two answers:

a) It is possible that the sequence which the Shulchan Arukh wrote here was not precise, and he meant that one must eat the korekh and then make this declaration. However this answer is difficult given the language of the Shulchan Arukh: “He says ‘A remembrance of the Temple practice according to Hillel,’ and then eats it.”

b) One can emend the language in the Shulchan Arukh and delete the words “he says.” According to this, what Shulchan Arukh means is that one eats the korekh as appears in the Gemara and the poskim, but without making any statement. In the end, the Bei’ur Halakha leaves the question unanswered.

One might be able to understand the Shulchan Arukh based on the view of the Bach which we saw above, that the entire eating of korekh is only as a remembrance of the Temple practice, even according to Hillel. According to this view, when one recites the blessings on matza and maror, there is no reason to have korekh in mind, but at the outset one tries not to interrupt between them, so that the “remembrance” will be fulfilled in a true way. As this is only an enhancement but not required by law, one can say “A remembrance of the Temple practice according to Hillel,” and explain the significance of the combination, even though this is an interruption.[6]

One can explain this matter slightly differently. On the night of the seder we attempt to emulate the way the seder was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood. As we saw, according to the Bach and most Acharonim, in our times, Hillel, too, would agree that there is no obligation to eat matza together with maror, so why do we eat korekh?

The answer is that we try to have the entire seder as a “remembrance of the Temple,” and we therefore make a point of eating the korekh, as if the Temple still stood. It follows that our declaration is not merely symbolic. The declaration is part of the obligation of korekh. That declaration imparts all the significance to the korekh in our time! It announces: we are now eating korekh, because we want to act as if the Temple still stands! (It is obvious that even without this declaration we have fulfilled the obligation of korekh, but the declaration is an integral part of the fulfillment of the obligation, and is not merely a symbolic and external statement.) This also emerges from the words of the Bach (475, s.v. u-ma she-katav ve-khatav od), who wrote that one should not speak until after the korekh even though it is only a remembrance, for we are acting “as if the Temple still stood”:

If so, as a matter of course, we act in regard to the blessing as if the Temple still stood, and one is not to divert his attention until he performs the korekh as Hillel ruled, so that the blessing of matza and maror will apply to the korekh. Bei’ur Halakha wrote that reciting “A remembrance of the Temple practice according to Hillel” is not mentioned by any rabbinic decisor except for Shulchan Arukh, but in reality it is mentioned by a number of poskim: Hilkhot Pesach de-Rabbi Shmuel mi-Palaiza (one of the Tosafists, p. 138), the Darkei Moshe (475:3) in the name of the Maharil, and others. And indeed the custom today is to say, “A remembrance of the Temple practice according to Hillel,” before eating the korekh (Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, 119:7; Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav , 475:18), and others).[7]

The way to combine the two

According to Rabbeinu Chananel (Pesachim 115a), “one wraps the maror on the matza,” or, in other words, the matza is wrapped by maror. And that is what Sefer ha-Chinukh (Commandment 21) wrote.[8]

However, the custom is to place the maror between pieces of matza, and that is what Arukh ha-Shulchan (475:7) and Kitzur Shulchan Arukh (119:7) wrote. In any event, both are equally valid (Haggadat Mo’adim u-Zemanim, p. 107).

Mishnat Ya’akov (475) explained that the Rishonim would use Romaine lettuce for maror, and they were therefore able to wrap the matza with maror, but in Europe they would use horseradish, and it is impossible to wrap matza with it, and that is why they placed the maror between the matza.

In reality, even though it might be appropriate to revert to the practices of the Rishonim and to wrap the matza with maror, in any event, since it is not essential for the fulfillment, it is the accepted practice to place the maror between the matza. In this way, it is possible to say that one matza is meant to commemorate the matza eaten with the Pesach sacrifice, and the second matza to commemorate the Pesach sacrifice itself (Vayaged Moshe, 26:7).

Dipping in charoset

According to the Ra’avya (quoted in Tur, 475) and Rabbeinu Yona (Seder Leil Pesach), it is not customary to dip the maror of korekh in charoset, as one has already fulfilled the requirement of dipping, and as the charoset is only optional, it will annul the requirement of eating matza with maror according to Hillel. Similarly, there is no need to offset the pungent taste of the maror (one of the reasons given for dipping the maror in charoset), as the matza annuls this taste.

However, according to Rashi, the Rosh (brought by the Tur ibid.), the Or Zaru’a (II:256) and others, the custom is to dip the korekh in charoset as well, because that was what Hillel did (because he would fulfill the obligation of maror with korekh), and we act as Hillel did in fulfilling korekh (Hagahot Maimoniyot, 8:7).

In practice, the Shulchan Arukh (475:1) wrote that one dips the korekh in charoset. The Rema (ibid.) noted that there are those who do not dip, while the Mishna Berura (subsection 19) wrote that the custom is to dip.

Shaking off the charoset

Regarding maror, the Shulchan Arukh (ibid.) wrote that one shakes off the charoset, whereas in regard to korekh, he did not write that one shakes it off, implying that there is no need to do so for korekh. This is indeed what the Beit Yosef (ibid., s.v. ve-khen katav) cited in the name of the Agur from the Maharil. However, the Mishna Berura (subsection 17) wrote in the name of the Ma’amar Mordekhai that one must shake off the charoset for korekh as well. In any event, whoever wants to eat the korekh without shaking off the charoset first may do so (see Pesach Me’ubban, 308; Kaf ha-Chaim, 475:32).

The maror in the korekh

The quantity of maror

The Sha’agat Arye (100) wrote that according to the Rosh, who states that the need for a ke-zayit of maror is only because of the blessing, there is no need for a ke-zayit for korekh, and the Yeshu’ot Ya’akov wrote the same.

In the final analysis, the Sha’agat Arye disagreed with the Rosh, and wrote that one is to eat a ke-zayit for korekh as well, and that is the ruling of the Mishna Berura (475:16).

The amount of a ke-zayit for rabbinic decrees is 27 cubic centimeters (1.65 cubic inches). However, according to the letter of the law one may use a smaller quantity for the ke-zayit of korekh, namely 19 or even 17 cubic centimeters (just over a cubic inch) – namely, a medium or small leaf of lettuce, because this is only a remembrance of the Temple practice, and many poskim were lenient in the size of maror (including the Chazon Ish and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).

One should eat the korekh continuously (within four minutes, but there is no need to time it with a watch).

The type of maror

There are those who wrote that, according to the Ari z”l, it is preferable to use Romaine lettuce for maror and horseradish for korekh. The Magen Avraham (473:12) wrote that the custom is to use the leaves of Romaine lettuce for maror and the stalks of Romaine lettuce for korekh.

The Taz (ibid., subsection 5), though, wrote that “there is no rhyme nor reason” for this differentiation, and those who do so “do not know their right from their left.” There are those who wrote that the “origin of this is that the seder plate of the Ari z”l had one place for “maror” and another for “chazeret,” but he did not mean that there are different things.

In practice, there is no need to differentiate between the vegetable to be used for maror and that to be used for korekh, however every person may do as he wishes, as any of these is acceptable (and according to Chazon Ish there is even an advantage in eating horseradish, and if that is so, it is possibly better, according to him, for the maror. And there are those whose custom is to eat Romaine lettuce for korekh, but to add a little horseradish).

Leaning

It is better to lean when eating the korekh, for Hillel certainly ate it while leaning, given that, according to him, this is the obligatory eating of matza. If one did not lean, he has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation (Peri Chadash, 475:1; Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav, 475:20).

Adapted by Rabbi Dov Karoll from Pesach Haggadah Shirah Miriam – Haggadah MiMekorah by Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, published by Mosad Harav Kook in conjunction with the Halacha Educational Center, mhalacha@gmail.com.


[1]     According to the Sages, it would have been enough if the Torah had simply said for “they shall eat it” – yokhelu. The fact that the Torah states yokheluhu teaches us that each item can be eaten alone (Gemara and Rashbam ibid.).

[2]     Because of this dispute, there are various opinions as to what should be recited in the haggada: according to the Taz (475:9), one should say: “so did Hillel at the time that the Temple stood: he would wrap the Pesach sacrifice, matza and maror …” However, the accepted version of the text is, “he would wrap matza and maror…” (Mishna Berura ibid., subsection 21). The Chok Yaakov (ibid., 13) explains that this latter version is based on two reasons: a) According to the Rambam, Hillel would only wrap the matza and maror together. b) As we do not eat the Pesach sacrifice nowadays, the text recited should be in keeping with what we are doing, and there is a concern that if the alternate version is recited, some might eat roasted meat along with matza and maror.

[3]     Tosafot (ibid. s.v. ella) understood that Rabbi Yochanan’s view is that at the outset one must wrap the matza and maror together, even according to the Sages, but if one does not do so he has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation. This view requires study. See the Maharsha there. The Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav, 475:7) writes that even according to Tosafot the Sages would prefer that one eat the two separately, while if one nevertheless ate them together he still fulfilled his obligations.

[4]     Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik claimed (Harerei Kedem, II:93) that even if Hillel combined only matza and maror, that is the way one is to eat the Pesach sacrifice (“unleavened cakes, with bitter herbs they shall eat it”), and therefore, where there is no Pesach sacrifice there is no meaning to the korekh as such, and it is only meant as a remembrance of the Temple practice. One can also add that that in any event, since the person has eaten an ke-zayit of matza by itself, the combining has lost its significance for another reason, because the commandment might be specifically to combine the matza and the maror, and as the person has already fulfilled the commandment of matza, there is no reason to combine the maror specifically with “the taste of matza” unrelated to the fulfillment of the commandment.

[5]     It is true that the main prohibition against talking is between the blessing over maror and the korekh, whereas there is technically no prohibition to speak between the matza and maror blessings.

[6]     Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik (brought in Harerei Kedem, II:93) added that as the korekh is not the fulfillment of the commandment of maror but is only a remembrance of the Temple practice, one can say that it has nothing to do with the blessings of matza and maror, but is an independent display of “there is none to seek Zion,” i.e., the remembrance of the Temple, and thus there is no problem whatsoever in interrupting oneself by speaking before korekh. He adds, however, that in practice Rav Chaim of Brisk made a point of not interrupting by speaking until after eating the afikoman (in accordance with the view of the Shela), because the afikoman is part of the commandment of matza, “so that one should remain with the taste of matza in his mouth.”

[7]     See also Chazon Ovadya, I:41, that this is the view of the Acharonim, and that is the custom.

[8]     There are those who are of the opinion that the maror is to be placed on the matza, for the Gemara states that “he wraps matza and maror,” and not “he wraps the matza with maror,” or “he wraps the maror with matza” (Haggadat Teiman im Peirush Eitz Chaim; Haggadat Mo’adim u-Zemanim, p. 107).

By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon Translated by Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Himelstein

Originally published at Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash.

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6 Responses to “Halakhot of the Seder: Korekh”

  1. when MOSHIACH comes we’ll rebuild the Temple

  2. the practice of the seder did not exist during the days of the Temple. wtf, does this page ever check with history, is it even written by a real Jew? in the days of the Temple the sacrifice was done the night bbefore and then you would get some of it to eat. there was no seder or home ritual with bitter herbs etc.

  3. Stephen Boak says:

    Wish I was Celebrating this in Israel.

  4. WISHING YOU AND ALLTHE PEOPLE A WONDERFUL PESSACH AND PEACE CHAG SAMEACH .SONIA ZAGARODNE FROM BRAZIL

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