Charoset, is one of the symbolic foods eaten by Jews during the Passover seder. There are no references to charoset in all the biblical text. The Torah never mentions eating it.
In the Haggadah, Hillel (c.110BCE-10CE) is mentioned as the founder of the custom of eating Matzah with bitter herbs and charoset.
The Talmud presented three different outlooks on the symbolism of charoset:
- Rabbi Levi said: In memory of the tapuchim (a fruit tree).
- Rabbi Yochanan said: In memory of the tit (mud).
- Abaye, a Rabbi of the Talmud who lived in Babylonia, known as an amora, combined the two: make it acid in memory of the tapuchim and thicken it in memory of the cheres (clay)."
Rashi says it is based on and refers to:
The opinion of Rabbi Yochanan that the origin of charoset lay in Nile mud is the most obvious one, reflected in its very name, derived from the later preferred term cheres, חרס. According to this view, charoset, like the bitter herbs dipped into it, serves as a reminder of the slavery and oppression of Egypt and the mud the Israelites used to make bricks. Mashed dried fruits, particularly dates, evoke this symbolic meaning, as they resemble mud.
The basis for the charoset was dates [the palm is a metaphor for an imposing height and the righteous.] The reddish brown color of the date honey serves to highlight its connection to mud.
The first known charost recipe, which was included in the siddur (Jewish prayer book) of Saadia Gaon, Sa’adiah ben Yosef Gaon ( born Egypt 882/892, died Baghdad 942), head of the Sura Academy (Hebrew: ישיבת סורא) in Babylonia instructs,
and knead it in a red wine vinegar [the acidic element],
and that is called ‘halek’.”