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What's the significance of the matzah-maror sandwich?

by Rabbi Shais Taub


Library » Holidays » Passover » Seder » Laws and Rituals | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The Short Answer:

With regard to the Paschal Lamb the Torah says1 "they shall eat it with Matzah and Maror". The great sage Hillel introduced this sandwich as a means to eat them together, literally.

The Askmoses Answer: 

The matzah-maror sandwich – also known as the Hillel sandwich – goes back at least two thousand years to the times of the Temple in Jerusalem when Jews would observe the sacrificial Pesach offering. Originally, this sandwich was just a bit tastier: besides the matzah and maror, it also contained a slice of roast Paschal Lamb.

Just as a point of Jewish pride, it should be noted that while the Earl of Sandwich, a British nobleman who lived in the mid-seventeen hundreds, claimed to have invented the sandwich – and it seems that the popular usage of the term has indulged him this credit – Hillel popularized this method for serving food almost two millennia before the Earl.

Why did Hillel advise eating the meat of the Paschal Lamb in this way?

The Torah commands us that on the afternoon before the Pesach holiday, we should roast a goat or lamb kid over a flame and then consume the meat together with the Matzah and the bitter herbs later that night at the holiday meal.

Now each of these foods has its own significance. But it is implied by the wording of the Torah2 verse that we should eat them all together.3 The verse reads, “al Matzot u’merorim yochluhu,” literally, “you shall eat it [the meat of the Paschal Lamb] upon matzot and bitter herbs.” Wishing to be in full compliance with the instructions of the verse, Hillel popularized the custom of actually placing the sacrificial meat on top of the maror and matzah and eating them all together. In fact, according to Hillel, one would not have fulfilled his Paschal obligations unless he consumed the three together.

Now, for the past two thousand years when we have not had a Temple and have been unable to perform the sacrificial rites, we cannot fulfill the Mitzvah of eating the Pesach sacrifice at our Seder. We do however have the ability to do the mitzvah of eating matzah, which is a separate commandment by itself. And although eating maror is really part of the Biblical commandment of eating the sacrificial meat and not a mitzvah of its own – the Sages enacted a rabbinical commandment that we continue to eat the maror as a remembrance of the Biblical command which we cannot observe today.


  • 1. Numbers 9:11.
  • 2. Numbers 9:11.
  • 3. In the Haggadah, this method is referred to as “koreich” – literally, “wrapping,” – which implies that the original Hillel sandwich was less of a sandwich and more of a burrito of sorts. But before you try to roll your matzah like a tortilla, remember that the matzot of olden days were much softer than we are able to bake today. There were ancient methods that allowed the dough to be thoroughly baked with no concern that any dough was left raw and susceptible to further leavening. Today, however, we are less adept and opt to intensely fire the dough until it is crisp.


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(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
A citron; a greenish-yellow citrus fruit. We are required to take an Etrog on the holiday of Sukkot and shake it together with a palm branch, a myrtle and a willow.
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
(Pl.: Matzot) Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
A palm branch. One of the Four Species we are required to take on the holiday of Sukkot. We shake it together with a citron, myrtle, and willow.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Bitter herbs consumed at the Passover Seder, commemorating how the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors.
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.