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Korech: The Matzah and Maror Sandwich

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Apr 2, 2009

Korech: The Matzah and Maror Sandwich

One of the practices of the night of the seder is korech. The concept of korech is to eat the matzah and maror together in order to commemorate the practice of Hillel the Elder who ate the korban Pesach, the matzah and the maror together (Hillel lived during the Second Temple Period). In this issue we will discuss some of the halachic discussions surrounding korech.

How Should One Fulfill the Mitzvot of Korban Pesach, Matzah and Maror?

The Gemara, Pesachim 115a, notes that there are two opinions among the Tannaim regarding how one must eat the korban Pesach. The Torah (Shemot 12:8) states that the korban Pesach should be eaten with matzah and maror. According to Hillel, this means that one should eat all three items together. [This explanation follows the opinion of Rashi, Pesachim ad loc., s.v. Shehaya. According to Rambam (1135-1204), Hilchot Chametz U'Matzah 8:6, Hillel only combined the matzah and the maror.] Rabanan (the other rabbis of the time) disagree and maintain that it is not necessary to eat all three together. Within the opinion of Rabanan, the Gemara quotes a dispute whether it is permissible to eat all three together but not necessary or whether one may not eat all three together (see Rashbam, ad loc., s.v. V'Hashta). The Gemara concludes that since there is no definitive ruling on whether one should follow the opinion of Hillel or Rabanan, the preferred practice (nowadays when we don't eat a korban Pesach) is to recite a beracha on matzah, eat the matzah, recite a beracha on maror, eat the maror and then eat both together without reciting a beracha as a remembrance for the Temple (zecher l'Mikdash).

Tosafot, ad loc., s.v. Ela, explain the necessity for all three stages at the seder. While it may seem logical to recite the berachot on matzah and maror and then eat them together, this is not halachically possible. The Gemara, in the discussion preceding the discussion about korech, notes that there is a dispute as to whether two mitzvot that are fulfilled by eating something can both be fulfilled when eaten simultaneously. Hillel is certainly of the opinion that they can be fulfilled when eaten simultaneously. However, the Gemara notes that if one of those mitzvot is only rabbinic in nature, the rabbinically mandated mitzvah nullifies the taste of the biblically mandated mitzvah to the extent that one does not fulfill the biblically mandated mitzvah. For this reason, the Gemara notes that since maror in the absence of the korban Pesach is rabbinic in nature and matzah is biblical in nature even with the absence of the korban Pesach, one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of matzah if one eats it together with maror. Tosafot further state that one cannot eat the matzah first and then eat matzah and maror together (without eating maror separately first) because after one fulfills the mitzvah of matzah, any matzah that is eaten afterwards does not constitute a fulfillment of the mitzvah and therefore, nullifies the taste of the rabbinically mandated maror. Therefore, the only method of fulfilling Hillel's opinion is to fulfill matzah and maror separately and then combine them.

The Two Approaches to Understanding Korech in Today's Time

R. Yosef D. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), Hagadat Si'ach HaGrid no. 65, presents two approaches to understanding the practice of korech in the absence of the korban Pesach. The first approach is to assume that if Hillel lived nowadays, he would eat matzah and maror together in order to fulfill both of those mitzvot. Therefore, if one wants to fulfill the opinions of Rabanan and Hillel, one must first eat matzah and maror separately in order to fulfill the opinion of Rabanan and then together to fulfill these mitzvot according to Hillel. When one recites the berachot on the matzah and the maror, one should have in mind that those berachot also cover the matzah and maror of korech. Therefore, one should not speak from the beginning of the recitation of the beracha on matzah until the conclusion of korech. According to this explanation, korech is the rabbinic method of fulfilling matzah and maror (according to Hillel) and the reason why it was instituted this way was in order to commemorate the Temple. R. Soloveitchik notes that the aforementioned Tosafot, in explaining the necessity for all three components, seem to follow this approach.

Alternatively, one can understand that Hillel will agree that nowadays one should fulfill the mitzvot separately. In the absence of the korban Pesach, there is no inherent reason to eat the matzah and maror together. The only reason why the Gemara states to eat the two together is to commemorate what Hillel did when the Temple was standing. Korech nowadays does not seek to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah or maror, but rather a general obligation to commemorate the Temple (see Sukkah 41a). According to this explanation, there is no need to recite a beracha on Korech and therefore, one may speak between the mitzvot and it does not constitute an interruption.

R. Soloveitchik posits that Rambam follows the second approach. Rambam, Hilchot Chametz U'Matzah 8:6, writes that in the times of the Temple, one has the option of eating the matzah and maror together or separately. As such, one cannot assume that nowadays we are more stringent and require eating them together and separately in order to fulfill all opinions. However, one can explain that Rambam follows the second approach and korech does not serve to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah or maror, but rather to commemorate the Temple.

As a matter of practical Halacha, R. Yosef Karo (1488-1575) Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475:1, rules that one should not talk from the beginning of the recitation of the beracha on matzah until the completion of korech unless the conversation relates to the fulfillment of the mitzvot. Shulchan Aruch does say that one should declare that korech is a remembrance for the Temple prior to eating the matzah and the maror together. R. Yisrael M. Kagan (1838-1933) Mishna Berurah, Bei'ur Halacha ad loc., s.v. V'Omer, questions whether it is appropriate to recite this declaration in light of the prohibition against talking between the beracha on matzah and the completion of korech. He concludes that one should omit this recitation (at least until after the completion of korech). R. Simcha Rabinowitz, Piskei Teshuvot 475:6, justifies the practice of reciting the declaration prior to korech by claiming that it is relevant to the mitzvah.

Should One Recline for Korech?

R. Ya'akov ben Asher (c.1269-1343), Tur, Orach Chaim no. 475, writes that his brother, R. Yechiel, was unsure whether there is a requirement to recline (haseibah) for the mitzvah of korech. Ostensibly, this question should be contingent on the two approaches. According to the first approach, korech is the method in which one fulfills the mitzvot of matzah and maror according to Hillel. As such, one should recline just as one reclines for the fulfillment of the mitzvah of matzah when it is eaten separately. According to the second approach, korech is not the fulfillment of matzah or maror and therefore, it should not be necessary to recline.

In reality, the question of whether one reclines for korech has other factors. First, does the fact that korech contains maror inhibit one from reclining? R. Yechiel's primary concern about reclining for korech seems to be that it is inappropriate to recline for maror and since korech contains maror, the same concern might apply. R. Yosef Karo, Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim no. 475, assumes that it is permissible to recline for maror and therefore, the presence of maror should not inhibit one from reclining for korech. Second, R. Yosef Karo notes that since the purpose of korech is to emulate what Hillel did during Temple times, and he certainly ate in the reclined position, we should do so as well. For these two reasons, R. Karo, Shulchan Aruch op. cit., rules that one should recline for korech.


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