Kadesh U’r’chatz: Atonement for the Garden of Eden There are good reasons for the customs of Israel which are based on the Torah. The things we do are surprising for those who lack knowledge and an understanding of what makes this night different from all other nights. Flour, wine, meat for the Passover offering and festive offering and apples and nuts for charoset are understood by the sages of truth to be a way of ridding Israel of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. We seek to repair through that which we sinned.
There is a controversy about whether the fruit which our Adam ate was from the vine or wheat or fig tree or an etrog tree. Since we do not know with which one he sinned, we consume all of them as part of the seder. For those who say it was from the vine, we drink four cups of wine – through this mitzvah we repair the sin of the Garden of Eden, wine for vine. Since there is a question if it was wheat that they ate, we make matzah from fine flour. Since there is still a doubt, we make charoset from apples since the etrog is sometimes also referred to in Hebrew as a tapuach, an apple . Some people add figs to the charoset for this reason as well, in order to remove the sin of the tree of knowledge. In Midrash Rabbah we learn that afterwards Adam and Eve ate all types animals; therefore we use the lamb for the Passover offering and a cow for the festive offering.
We eat the Passover offering roasted and we eat it leaning to one side is a reference to the fact that Adam used to lean in the garden of Eden while the angels roasted meat for him and chilled the wine. The serpent saw this and was jealous of the fact the Adam HaRishon was free of the angel of death. The serpent knew that as long as human beings did not sin they (?) would continue to eat the roasted meat; for this reason the Passover offering must be roasted and consumed while leaning.
Why do we eat greens? Before Adam sinned he was not permitted to slaughter animals for food in order to eat since the animals were not in need of repaire. Therefore Adam only gathered vegetation for food, as the Bible tells us “the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.” (Genesis 1) After Adam sinned, animals needed to be repaired and it was permissible for humans to slaughter them. We eat greens first, just as Adam did, and then have wine and meat as part of the Passover meal to atone for the sin in the Garden that took place afterwards.
Why do we call the greens karpas? 600,000 souls were affected by the sin of Adam HaRishon; they went down to Egypt and suffered from oppressive servitude as is hinted at by the word karpas. Why do we dip the karpas in salt water? Because the Egyptians cast the children of the 600,000 in the River, all of them were brought out of the River through the merit of Moses. Some people dip the karpas in vinegar; this symbolizes that their deeds were as harsh as vinegar; they went down to Egypt to be purified and to go out pure.
Why do we eat an egg? Just as an egg is round so too death comes around because of the deeds of Adam HaRishon, as it says in the Torah: “you shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you shall surely die.” Death shall be for generations to come. The double reference to death in this expression, mot tamut, “you shall surely die,” is a reference to the two temples which would be destroyed. That is why we eat bitter herbs. Tisha B’av always falls on the same day of the week each year as the first day of Passover. Therefore Passover is an allusion to Tisha B’av.
The nuts which are mixed in the charoset are an allusion to a Midrash which says: just as all the nuts rattle around when you take one out of the many (unlike other types of fruit), so too as a result of the sin of the one human being in the world who sinned (Adam), all of humanity suffers and becomes angry at him.
We add red wine to the charoset as an allusion to blood. When Eve ate from the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, she experienced the first blood of menstruation; therefore we also add a bit of red wine.
It is customary to wear a kittel at the Seder. The Torah says that Adam was commanded to till and tend the garden (literally to serve and to guard). Adam not only tilled the garden but offered sacrifices to God. He was like the high priest who served God in the Temple. Just as the High Priest wore four linen garments: the tunic, headdress, pants and a sash, so too we wear a kittel with a belt so as to separate the heart from the sinful lower parts of the body.
We take out the middle matzah, break it in half and hide the broken piece for the Afikomen. According to the Maharil, we should set aside the larger piece of the broken matzah for the Afikomen. The broken middle matzah is an allusion to the fact that the night of the Passover was divided into two parts. It was during the first half of the night that God helped Abraham overcome the five kings who took Lot captive, and it was during the second half of the night that God performed the miracle of the Passover, striking down the first born. In the wilderness Moses called the altar that he built Adonai Nisi, God is my miracle is a reminder of the miracle in Egypt. This implies that we too must perform some act as a reminder of the miracle of the tenth plague; we don’t take the upper or the lower matzah but the middle one as a reminder of miracles in the time of Abraham and Moses.
We hide away the Afikomen as an allusion to the Midrash on “It was for the Lord a night of watching.” (Exodus 12:42) This means that it is set aside for watching until the final redemption which will also take place on Passover. The Shach also explains it this way; the night of Passover is divided into two parts – the first half for the miracles with which Israel was redeemed from Egypt and the second half for the future redemption. We hide the Afikomen for the future redemption. The broken matzah, then, is allusion to both sets of miracles: Abraham and Moses, and the past and future redemptions. We can now understand why the Maharil said that the Afikomen must be a larger piece of matzah. The sage taught that after the final redemption, the exodus from Egypt will become secondary while the final redemption will become essential – the Afikomen is larger for this reason. The piece of matzah remaining on the Seder plate is an allusion to the Exodus; it is smaller since in the time of the final redemption the Exodus will be of less importance as well.