Preparations for the Seder
4. The "charoses" must be thick to commemorate the mortar [used by our
ancestors in Egypt]. Before one dips the marror into it, one should pour
wine or vinegar into it so that it will be soft and serve as a reminder of
the blood [of the Jewish children slain by the Egyptians]. This also
facilitates the use of [the charoses] as a dip.
The "charoses" should be made from fruits that were used as metaphors for
the Jewish people, for example, figs, as [the Song of Songs 2:13] states:
"The fig tree has blossomed forth with tiny figs"; nuts, as [ibid. 6:11]
states: "I descended into the nut garden"; dates, as [ibid. 7:9] states: "I
will climb up the date palm"; pomegranates, as [ibid. 6:7] states: "As a
Apples should also be used as an allusion to [ibid. 8:5]: "I aroused you
beneath the apple tree," for [in Egypt, the Jewish] women would give birth
to their children in such places without the natural birth
pains. Similarly, almonds should be used [because the Hebrew for almond, "
shakeid", comes from the root meaning "to diligently apply oneself]. G-d
"diligently applied Himself" to bringing the end [of the exile].
It is also proper to include spices that resemble straw, for example,
cinnamon and ginger. They cannot be ground thoroughly and have strands
that resemble straw. This commemorates the straw [the Jews were forced] to
mix into the mortar.
On Shabbos, one should not pour wine or vinegar directly into the charoses
(1). Rather, one is required to do this in an abnormal manner - for
example, one should pour the wine [into a dish and] place the charoses in it.
(Even when Pesach falls during the week,) it is proper to prepare the salt
water [in which the karpas is dipped] before the commencement of Yom
Tov. [If this was not done and one is required] to prepare the mixture on
Yom Tov itself, one must do so in an abnormal manner, for example, one
should pour the water [into a dish] first, then add the salt (2).
(1) When Yom Tov does not fall on Shabbos, the charoses should ideally be
prepared before Yom Tov begins, but if one forgot, one may prepare it on
Yom Tov itself (Mishna Berura 473:47).
(2) Misgeres HaShulchon (4) states that if Yom Tov falls during the week,
there is no necessity to prepare the salt water beforehand.