Seder Sweets

One of the most important seder tips from the Talmud: Don't forget the treats for the kids - and the "kids at heart!"

אמרו עליו על רבי עקיבא שהיה מחלק קליות ואגוזין לתינוקות בערב פסח כדי שלא ישנו וישאלו

They said about Rabbi Akiva that he would distribute roasted grains and nuts to children on Passover eve, so that they would not sleep and so they would ask.

Giving out yummy treats throughout the meal helps keep everyone awake, and sparks questions. Maimonides puts it this way:

וצריך לעשות שינוי בלילה הזה כדי שיראו הבנים וישאלו ויאמרו מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות עד שישיב להם ויאמר להם כך וכך אירע כך וכך היה. וכיצד משנה מחלק להם קליות ואגוזים...

One should make changes on this night so that the children will see and will [be motivated to] ask: "Why is this night different from all other nights?" until one replies to them: "This and this occurred; this and this took place."

What changes should be made? One should give them roasted seeds and nuts...

It's not every night that sweets get incorporated into the meal! Make sure that everyone who offers a great question, new insight, or answer gets a treat, and keep the conversation going.

And speaking of sweets, don't forget the sweetest part of the seder plate - the charoset! Rabbinic sources have a lot to say about the best way to make this traditional seder dish. Here's what Maimonides, who lived in the 12th century, had to say:

הַחֲרֹסֶת מִצְוָה מִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים זֵכֶר לַטִּיט שֶׁהָיוּ עוֹבְדִין בּוֹ בְּמִצְרַיִם. וְכֵיצַד עוֹשִׂין אוֹתָהּ. לוֹקְחִין תְּמָרִים אוֹ גְּרוֹגָרוֹת אוֹ צִמּוּקִין וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן וְדוֹרְסִין אוֹתָן וְנוֹתְנִין לְתוֹכָן חֹמֶץ וּמְתַבְּלִין אוֹתָן בְּתַבְלִין כְּמוֹ טִיט בְּתֶבֶן וּמְבִיאִין אוֹתָהּ עַל הַשֻּׁלְחָן בְּלֵילֵי הַפֶּסַח:

Haroset is a rabbinic mitsvah, to commemorate the cement that they would work with in Egypt. How is it made? We take dates or dried figs or raisins and things like that, and mash them up and put in vinegar and flavor them with spices, like cement with straw, and bring it to the table on Passover nights.

Rabbi Moshe Isserles, an Ashkenazic authority living in the 16th century, had a different twist on the recipe.

הגה...וחרוסת יעשה עב זכר לטיט ואח"כ נותנין בו מעט חומץ או יין אדום זכר לדם (טור) ועושין חרוסת מפירות שנמשלו בהם ישראל (תוס' פ' ע"פ) כגון תפוחים תאנים אגוזים רימונים שקדים ונותנין עליו תבלין כגון קנמון וזנגביל הדומין לתבן שהיו מגבלין בו הטיט: (טור)

Comment of Rabbi Moshe Isserles:

The haroset should be made thick, to remember the cement. Afterwards, you should add a little vinegar or red wine, in memory of the blood. And the haroset should be made with the fruits to whom the Jews are compared, like apples, figs, nuts, pomegranates, and almonds. Spices should be added, like cinnamon and ginger that are similar to the straw that they would use to mix the cement (in Egypt).

Stir up a conversation at your seder by making a few different charoset recipes this year. Do a taste test: What do people like best? What is the significance of the different ingredients? What recipe would you create to represent the story?