Dip the Karpas? Why?

Seder Step Three - Dip the karpas

Seder. Order. At the Pesach seder, everything is done in a specific order and in a specific way.

After kiddush (קדש) and the first hand washing (ורחץ), everyone takes a piece of karpas, dips it in salt water, says the blessing (ברכה) for a vegetable (בורא פרי האדמה), and eats.

Read the directions and blessing from the Haggadah and answer the questions below.


לוקח מן הכרפס פחות מכזית - כדי שלא יתחייב בברכה אחרונה - טובל במי מלח, מברך "בורא פרי האדמה", ומכווין לפטור בברכה גם את המרור. אוכל בלא הסבה.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה.


Take from the greens less than a kazayit - so that you will not need to say the blessing after eating it; dip it into the salt water; say the blessing "who creates the fruit of the earth;" and have in mind that this blessing will also be for the bitter herbs. Eat without reclining.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

1. What vegetable do you eat at your seder for karpas?

2. What reasons have you learned for eating karpas at the seder?

Four Haggadahs, four opinions

We will look at four different Haggadah commentaries to see what they each have to say about why we eat karpas.

Opinion #1

Marbeh Lesaper is written by Rabbi Yedidiah Tiah Weil (1724-1805).

כרפס והם שתי תיבות כר לשון כרים וכסתות. ופס לשון הסרה כמו פסו אמונים מבני אדם. והכוונה מי שרוצה לזכות לכתר תורה. ר"ל שיסיר הכר שכך דרכה של תורה על הארץ תישן ולא לשכוב על כרים וכסתות. וגם דרשו כרפס ס' פרך. וששים ריבוי אותיות לתורה. וששים ריבוי הן ישראל. וכל אחד מישראל יש לו אחיזה באות אחד מן התורה:

Karpas: This word is derived from two words: karim, which means pillows and pas, which means remove, as in the verse, “The loyal have vanished (pasu) from among men.”2Psalms 12:2 One who wishes to wear the crown of Torah must first throw away his pillow (his comforts). We learn this in Avot, “This is the way that is becoming for the study of Torah… sleep upon the ground, and live a life of trouble…”3Pirke Avot 6:4 That is, a person should not lie on pillows and couches...

1. According to the Marbeh Lisaper, what two words is "karpas" derived from and what does it mean?

2. Summarize the entire idea of this commentary.

3. What aspect of the commentary do like?

4. What questions about the interpretation would you like to ask the Marbeh Lisaper?

Opinion #2

Maarechet Heidenheim is a commentary written by Rabbi Tevele Bondi and was published in 1898 in Frankfort der Mein, Germany.

(1) Karpas: One dips green vegetables in salt water to symbolize that like karpas, we must undergo an entire immersion of one's body for the purpose of a complete purification. One should not be like the person who immerses himself with an impure reptile in his hand, God forbid! This is an allusion to the fact that the Israelites were idolaters while they were in Egypt. When God took them out of Egypt in order sanctify them by giving them the Torah, it was necessary first to remove the impurity that was upon them and to have them perform complete repentance. One immerses the greens to symbolize the Baal Teshuvah (repentant) who is as humble as the plants in the field which are trampled underfoot.
The greens are called karpas, which comes from the word for trampled over; or it is related to the word refes, spelled with a shin instead of a samech, which is the word for mud or earth. (See Rashi in Proverbs, 6) Karpas is a reminder that the Israelites were humiliated by the Egyptians; they were like "mud and dirt."
The combination of the words rehatz and karpas also hint at the process of purification: first cleansing oneself, then immersion and finally 'sprinkling,' as we find in the law of the red heifer: the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer mixed in water was done with a bunch of hyssop. (See Nu.19:18) Here we dip a bunch of greens as an allusion to this ritual of purification. Similarly, the people were commanded in Egypt to dip some greens in the blood of the Passover lamb and to place the blood on the lintel and the doorposts of their homes, as it says, You shall take a bunch of hyssops.." (Ex. 12:22)

1. According to Maarechet Heidenheim, what does dipping karpas in salt water symbolize?

2. According to this commentary, what is the derivation of the word "karpas"?

3. How does the combination of "rachatz" and "karpas" remind us Pesach Mitzrayim?

4. Summarize the idea of this commentary.

5. What aspect of the commentary do you like?

6. What questions about the interpretation would you like to ask the author?

Opinion #3

Rabbi Naftali ben Shimon Hertz Ginzburg wrote his commentary on the Haggadah in Poland the end of the 17th Century.

(1) The Symbolism of Karpas Why was it necessary to tell us that one must make a blessing on the karpas ‘boray peri ha’adamah,’ since we are obligated to make a blessing on any food which we consume? The reason is based on a principle of Halacha: for anything which would normally be improved through cooking, we say the sh’hakol blessing when it is uncooked and the appropriate blessing (in this case ha’adamah) when it is cooked. Based on this the Maharil wonders why, if one uses parsley for the karpas, one would say boray peri ha’adamah? There is a great lesson to be learned from the fact that we say this blessing even though we eat it raw.
This is an allusion to a Midrash: when the Israelite women gave birth in the fields and the Egyptian soldiers would come to kill the children, the ground would swallow up the infants. The Egyptians would then bring oxen to plow up the ground in order to find them. After they left, they broke through the ground and sprouted up like weeds, as it says “I caused thee to multiply as the plants of the field.” (Ezekiel 16:7) In order to remember this great miracle, we eat greens and recite the blessing boray peri ha’adamah even though it is not necessary to recite this blessing under these circumstances.

1. What koshi (textual difficulty) is raised in this commentary?

2. What problem does the answer to the koshi raise? What is the problem with using parsley as karpas?

3. Explain how the midrash solves the problem.

4. Summarize the idea of this commentary.

5. What aspect of the commentary do you like?

6. What questions about the interpretation would you like to ask the author?

​​​​​​​Opinion #4

Rabbi Gourarie's opinion comes via YouTube and was recorded in ​​​​​​​2015. Rabbi Gourarie is the director of "Bina" in Sydney, Australia.

1. According to Rabbi Gourarie, why do we eat karpas at the seder?

2. Why, according to Rabbi Gourarie, do we use a vegetable instead of a fruit?

3. Why are we supposed to feel like a vegetable at the seder? How does the seder transform us?

4. Summarize the idea of this commentary.

5. What aspect of the commentary do you like?

6. What questions about the interpretation would you like to ask Rabbi Gourarie?

​​​​​​​What's your opinion?

Now that you have heard four different interpretations of karpas, write an explanation that you can use at your seder. Feel free to incorporate ideas from any of the commentaries along with your own opinion.

Chag Sameach!