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Updated: 2023.04.05


מָרוֹר In Biblical-Era Yi•sᵊr•ã•eilꞋ

Maror-5 maror Sow Thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Click to enlargeמָרוֹר—False Sowthistle (Reichardia tingitana), develops puffball seed head like a dandelion (photo: flora-org-il)

Mi•shᵊn•ãhꞋ Ta•lᵊmūdꞋ lists 5 varieties of מָרוֹר, while the accompanying Aramaic & Hebrew Gᵊmãr•ãꞋ elucidates more contemporary interpretations of each variety.

The earliest extant ms.—the "Leiden (Netherlands) ms."—reflects European Ash•kᵊnazꞋim, Ultra-Orthodox Rabbinic interpretations—which incorporate their assimilations & reforms up until 1289 CE! 13th CE European Ash•kᵊnazꞋim—Ultra-Orthodox Rabbinic "Judaism" is not equivalent to the Tōr•ãhꞋ Principles conveyed by Mōsh•ëhꞋ Bën-AmᵊrãmꞋ, not in Europe but at Har Sin•aiꞋ, more than 23 centuries earlier in c. BCE !

Maror Cichorium pumilum Dwarf Chicory Zohary-100 Alexey Sergeev
Click to enlargeמָרוֹר (Cichorium pumilum) Dwarf Chicory (Zohary, p. 100; photo: Alexey Sergeev)

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis of Christian-era, Dark Ages Europe syncretized (assimilated into Ta•lᵊmudꞋ) local European traditions, producing new, reformed redefinitions of מָרוֹר, including mistranslating חֲזֶרֶת as European horseradish, which—like the ët•rōgꞋ—didn't even exist in the flora of Biblical Yi•sᵊr•ã•eilꞋ!

Eastern Aramaic Gᵊmãr•ãꞋ to Ta•lᵊmūdꞋ Bã•vᵊl•iꞋ, Ma•sëkꞋët Pᵊsãkh•imꞋ 39a listed 5 varieties of מָרוֹר; the 5th being מָרוֹר itself. Since most rabbis hold that these are listed in order of diminishing efficacy, it's oxymoronic that they hold מָרוֹר to be the least satisfactory variety of מָרוֹר!

Mi•shᵊn•ãhꞋ Ta•lᵊmūdꞋ cannot be documented before the Leiden ms.

Maror Centaurea iberica CABI Spanish Thistle Zohary-159
Click to enlargeמָרוֹר (Centaurea iberica) Spanish Thistle (Zohary, p. 159; photo CABI)

  1. Khazeret — Biblical-era accessible in the Levant Lactuca sativa longifolia (lettuce)
    Click to enlargeחֲזֶרֶת 
    חֲזֶרֶת — Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa longifolia)

    Lettuce ≠ Mercy!

    It wasn't until the 5th century CE Ta•lᵊmūdꞋ Bã•vᵊl•iꞋ, that חֲזֶרֶת morphed to "horseradish", enabling Aramaic חַסָּא and Hebrew חַסָּה to morph from their original theme of caring-refuge to "lettuce". This was closely emulated by the Christian Syriac ܚܣܐ .—which focused on the connotation of "mercy", acquiring the meaning of "the Mercy Seat" (properly Ka•pōrꞋët—which had also become corrupted into LXX ἱλαστηρίον and/or the Vulgate propitiatorio — "Mercy Seat").

  2. Maror 2: Tamekha — Wild Carrot Daucus gingidium
    Click to enlargeתַמְכָא 
    תַמְכָא — Wild carrot (Daucus gingidium)

    Note: Daucus gingidium is a cousin of Queen Anne's Lace (which is another variety of wild carrot), as well as poisonous cousins: poison hemlock, fool’s parsley and water hemlocks.

    Ta•lᵊmūdꞋ Yᵊrū•sha•lᵊm•iꞋ Ma•sëkꞋët Pᵊsãkh•imꞋ 2.5 (18a) identifies תַמְכָא with the Hebrew transliteration גִּנְגִּידִין, correlating to the Greek γῐγγῐ́δῐον, which, according to a painting of a plant by Dioscorides, closely resembles (Daucus gingidium) the wild carrot or parsnip of the ancient Levant. These carrot or parsnip root tubers could be the basis for Medieval European Ultra-Orthodox rabbis adopting horseradish—though why they adopted horseradish as חֲזֶרֶת rather than תַמְכָא detracts from such reasoning.

    The uncertainty of identification, compounded by the danger of some of the poisonous varieties of תַמְכָא, combine with the Tōr•ãhꞋ Principle of pi•quꞋakh nëphꞋësh to leave such decisions to botanical experts—which I'm not. (Nor am I aware of the reliability of the illustrative photo identification, or the photographer's botanical qualifications.) My advice: skip תַמְכָא and include, instead, from one or a combination of the other 4 alternatives.

    1. Maror-3 Kharkhavina (Apiaceae Eryngium creticum) 1st leaves not dissected
      Click to enlargeחַרְחֲבִינָא מַכְחִילָה — (Apiaceae Eryngium creticum) Tender 1st leaves not dissected 
      Maror-3 Kharkhavina (Apiaceae Eryngium creticum) bluish plant flower shoot
      Click to enlargeחַרְחֲבִינָא מַכְחִילָה — (Apiaceae Eryngium creticum, bluing plant sends up flower stalk 
      Maror-3 Kharkhavina (Apiaceae Eryngium creticum) blue flowers
      Click to enlargeחַרְחֲבִינָא מַכְחִילָה — mature 
      חַרְחֲבִינָא — Jastrow explains  חַרְחֲבִינָא as a portmanteau of  חֲרַח and  בִּינָא, identified as Apiaceae Eryngium creticum Lam.,  חַרְחֲבִינָא מַכְחִילָה

      Fellow Eryngium species, foetidum, doesn't grow in either Sin•aiꞋ nor Yi•sᵊr•ã•eilꞋ. Therefore, although being closely associated culinarily with cousin species Coriandrum sativum (below), E. foetidum cannot have been a kind of ancient mã•rōrꞋ.

    2. Maror-3 Kharkhavina Cilantro (Apiaceae Coriandrum sativum) pot
      Click to enlargeCilantro (Apia­ceae Coriandrum sativum)

      A cousin species is Apia­ceae Coriandrum sativum — Cilantro (MH: כֻּסְבָּרָה), which is the major ingredient in an ancient Israeli (Tei•mãn•imꞋ) dipskhūg!

  3. Maror 4: Ulshin — Cichorium endivia (endive)
    Click to enlargeעוּלְשִׁין
    עוּלְשִׁין endives (Cichorium endivia)

  4. Maror-5 Sow Thistle Sonchus oleraceus (Maror)
    Click to enlargeמָרוֹר
    מָרוֹר — Sow Thistle Dandelion (Sonchus oleraceus).

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