Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mommy’s Charoset

There is this delicious mixture of chopped apples, chopped walnuts and wine served at the Passover Seder. It is called, “Charoset”. Besides the ingredients just mentioned, there are varying traditions. For example,  some also add ingredients like sliced dates, pomegranate seeds and cinnamon. Some even use pears instead of apples, a close cousin.

During the Passover Seder one is required to eat bitter herbs to recall the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery. The purpose of the “charoset” is to sweeten the experience of bitterness. It's a prayer cast in ritual and intent asking for all bitterness to be sweetened.  (See “Shaar Hakvanot”, Pesach, towards the end of chapter 6 - with “Tiv HaKavanot” commentary.)

My Mommy's  “charoset” tradition is to combine chopped McIntosh apples, sweet red wine, chopped walnuts and a slight drop of ginger. The ginger has to be very slight. Even a bit too much can ruin the mixture. If unsure, better to risk mixing in too little than too much.

These four ingredients seem to me to combine to make a functioning reflection of the Tetragrammaton, the Divine Name spelled י-ה-ו-ה.

The letter י is the main light flowing through the other letters. In this context, the intent is to create a flow of sweetness to sweeten bitterness. The main agent of sweetness is the apple. So the letter י is the chopped apples.

The first letter ה modifies the light to make it more palatable for the lower level recipients.  In this case, the lower level recipient is bitterness. So along comes the sweet red wine to add the happy zing of sweetened alcohol and the smoothness of liquid. So the first letter ה is the sweet red wine.

The letter ו gives the light character and personality. This helps the recipients relate to the light. The chopped walnuts create culinary character and density for the bitterness to latch onto - making the ו the chopped walnuts.

The final letter ה is packages the light with a touch of commonality between itself and the recipients.  Since in this case the recipient is bitterness, it's the drop of ginger which offers this touch of commonality. Its own bitterness makes it feel familiar to the bitter herbs. So the final ה is the touch of ginger.

Also, there's a progressive decrease in quantity of the ingredients used which also follows the  י-ה-ו-ה sequence.  There's a lot of apples used, followed by a bit less wine, followed by a bit less walnuts and then by a lot less ginger. This is because the lower levels are spiritually smaller than the higher levels. Therefore,  there is quantity diminishment on the descent.

So, the basic steps of any sweetening is to discover the sweetening (healing) agent - the main light source. Then to make it more palatable, personable and familiar. Finally, it's ready to be served!  


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