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I've participated in only 3 different families' Passover Seders, so my experience is limited in terms of different families' traditions.

How widespread is the custom of eating a hardboiled egg in salt water at the Seder, and what are the source and reason behind it?

EDIT: Is it codified anywhere?

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My family does it. – Double AA Apr 30 '12 at 19:14
    
what is the difference between this and this? – Shmuel Brin Apr 30 '12 at 19:29
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@ShmuelBrin, two distinct Minhagim (at least in my family). One is a roasted egg on the Seder plate. One is hardboiled eggs eaten with saltwater as a sign of mourning for the loss of the Beith HaMikdash (first thing eaten as part of the meal - after Korech). – Seth J Apr 30 '12 at 19:31
    
Re the edit: hebrewbooks.org/… bottom left. – Yishai Apr 1 '15 at 14:08
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And that it seems to be a common practice in the family, even in the UK. – gideon marx Apr 2 '15 at 16:25
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The Encyclopedia Yehudit suggests the salt water is for the following reasons, though I don't know what the source is for what is written there or if the suggestion offered is their own. This does relate to the reason given for the egg as having to do with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash - :

  1. Salt water symbolizes the tears that were wept over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash

or

  1. It symbolizes the crying of the B'nei Yisrael due to extent of the slavery in Egypt.

or

  1. It symbolizes a remembrance of our crossing the Yam Suf (which was salt-water).

את הביצים טובלים במי מלח, המסמלים את הדמעות, שאנו שופכים על חורבן בית המקדש, או זכר לבכיית בני ישראל מרוב העבודה והסבל, או כזכר למעבר בים המלוח.

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The Remah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 476:2) says that some people have the custom to eat eggs at the Seder, as a sign/remembrance of mourning. He posits two reasons:

  • The first night of Pesach is always the same day of the week as Tisha Be'av
  • To remember the destruction of the Temple. Where it not for the destruction we would be eating the Korban Pesach.

The Mishna Berurah (:11) brings a third reason, from the GR"A:

  • As a remembrance for the Chagigah (generic holiday offering) offering that was also brought and eaten that night. [Therefore the egg from the seder plate should be taken and eaten]

We do not make a difference between the first night and the second night - Mishna Berurah S"K 11 and 13 and Be'er Hetiv S"K 2.

No mention of dipping the salt water is made. Askmoses.com mentions that it is a tradition.

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since rama in 575 says we do not salt the matza on seder night we need to fulfill the custom of always having salt on the table. al kol karbanecha takriv melach. since the egg represents the korban chagigah this would be the appropriate time.

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575 - סימן תקעה - דיני תעניות שמתפללין בארץ ישראל על הגשמים - are you sure it's 575? – Danny Schoemann Apr 1 '15 at 13:47
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Can you salt korbanot with salt-water?? – Double AA Apr 1 '15 at 13:58
    
Interesting theory. Does anyone write this somewhere? – Seth J Apr 1 '15 at 17:40

Sefer Hatodaa page 98 mentions that there are those that do so and those that do not. My families Minhag, which I have never seen or heard of elsewhere is to make egg soup. This is done by mashing the yellow part of the egg into hot water. Then cutting up the white part of the egg into small pieces, adding scallions, black pepper and salt. This is done before Yom Tov and left on the Blech to remain warm.

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Sounds like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_drop_soup – Double AA Apr 1 '15 at 14:22
    
How does it taste? – Seth J Apr 1 '15 at 17:41
    
Is it a Minhag, or just something your Bubby did because she liked it and/or didn't have enough eggs for everyone? – Seth J Apr 1 '15 at 17:41
    
@SethJ: I like it. Hard sell for the kids. – Gershon Gold Apr 1 '15 at 17:41
    
@SethJ: Do not know, however my wife makes it as I want to continue what she did. – Gershon Gold Apr 1 '15 at 17:42

My family did this growing up and we were told is was to represent the tears cried, while celebrating new life. To always remember there is joy and sorrow. I always loved the taste of the dish.

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Welcome dobby. What is the source? – kouty Apr 4 at 18:35
    
I also heard that the egg represents the circle of life-- perhaps that's also in kouty's requested source. – ephraim helfgot Apr 4 at 23:59

Then there's the off-color folk drash saying the salt water represents the sea which reached the Israelites' hips when they waded through it. (Remember the colloquial Hebrew/Yiddish sense of ביצים BEITZIM = eggs. Yes, the Torah clearly says the waters parted completely and the Israelites walked on dry land [Sh'mot/Exodus 14], but perhaps some stragglers got wet just before the sea closed in on the pursuing Egyptians.)

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