Hillel, the rabbi who lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod, invented the “Hillel sandwich” a combination of the three elements given in the biblical commandment to eat matzah, bitter herbs and the Pascal lamb.
Instead of eating the lamb, however, today we substitute charoset. We take some matzah and smear some maror on end and some charoset on the other. We then top off the sandwich with another piece of matzah.
When we eat, we begin with the bitter side and move to the sweet side, reminding us that though our slavery was indeed bitter, our redemption is sweeter still…
The step of Korech was developed to accommodate an argument among the sages. Hillel thought that the matzah and maror (and lamb) should be eaten together. Other sages though they should be eaten separately. Therefore Jewish tradition opted to do both: first we eat them separately and then we do it again together.
Another interpretation of the Hillel sandwich is that part of the challenge of living is to taste freedom even in the midst of oppression, and to be ever conscious of the oppression of others even when we feel that we are free.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am for myself only, what am I?
And if not now, when?
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