The Big Three (Paschal Offering, Matzah, and Maror) have formed the core of the Seder since biblical times. Yet through the centuries, the way we encounter these three things have changed.
Today we dredge through Maggid, often rushing through it to get to the main meal, but during the times of the mishnah and gemara most of this storytelling would have happened as the Paschal lamb was being prepared. Each family would sacrifice and roast an offering then gather around and tell the story of Passover as they prepared their barbeque sandwich. Fathers and sons would spend the day taking their offering to the temple, watching as the kohen prepared it for slaughter and roasting, and then bringing it home to be eaten that night. All the while, they would discuss different aspects of the very physical, very involved process of preparing the Paschal sacrifice. At the same time, mothers and daughters would be preparing the home, making matzah and cooking other necessary passover dishes. Conversation would revolve around the details of passover practices here as well, since most work was done directly. These conversations would serve double duty, teaching methodology and passing along the storied origins of the holiday at the same time.
When the seder started, everything would focus on the Paschal Lamb, positioned in the middle of the table. The retelling of the Passover story would happen fairly quickly. In these seders, the culmination of the night was the Great BBQ Sandwich, which took place after Maggid. The Offering and the Matzah, both products of a very hands on process, paired together and slightly tainted by something bitter, would possess symbolism everyone could appreciate. The work that represents freedom (the Paschal Lamb), together with the poor man’s bread (matzah), tainted with bitterness to temper the mood. The experience would have been powerful.
However today we do it differently. Today we break it all up into individual steps (matzah, maror, and then the sandwich), and instead of a powerful experience it’s often glossed. Why is this night different than those nights?
Pesachim 115a addresses this divergence from the past. First it sets out the problem, raised by the jewish Baron de Sandwich himself (Hillel) that “A person should not wrap matza and bitter herbs together and eat them.” The reason being that, in the absence of the Temple, matzah is still biblical, but maror is rabbinic, and you can’t mix and match your rabinics and biblicals. The argument goes back and forth over whether matzah and maror should be eaten together or separately. The gemara even cites Hillel, in contradiction of Hillel (yes the same guy) saying “Hillel...would wrap matza and bitter herbs together and eat them”. Finally the gemara states “Now that the halakha was stated neither in accordance with the opinion of Hillel nor in accordance with the opinion of the Rabbis” instead we eat the matzah and maror separately, and only after we have had them individually do we make a sandwich in commemoration of the Sandwich from Temple times.
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