Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

That which by the Seder on Pesach we eat "karpas", what does this word actually mean and where does it come from?

share|improve this question
This question has now been published in Hagada - Mi Yodeya Second Edition. Thanks! – Isaac Moses Apr 18 at 16:00

According to Jastrow, the word כרפס refers to an umbelliferous plant (one that has stalks branching out from a common stem, forming a flat or curved surface), like parsley or celery. It is not clear what the word's etymology is, or whether or not it is related to its homonym, כרפס, which turns up in Tanakh. That word, appearing in Esther 1:6, refers to a fine fabric, like linen (acc. to HALOT) or cotton (acc. to BDB). It is related to the Aramaic כרפסא and the Arabic كرباس (karbās), both of which derive from the Sanskrit karpāsa and the Greek καρπασος, meaning "cotton plant".

According to Rashi (cf: Genesis 37:3), this word is synonymous with פסים, which appears both as a reference to the clothes that Yaakov gave Yosef, as well as in 2 Samuel 13:18, in reference to the clothes that Tamar was wearing when Amnon sent her away. According to Rabbi Manoach ben Yaakov of Narvona (MT Hilkhot Chametz uMatzah 8:2), the reason that we dip this type of vegetable on erev pesach is to remind ourselves of the dipping of Yosef's coat into blood, which resulted in the servitude of his entire family and their offspring.

share|improve this answer

To make things short - I think it's just the vegetable's name.

I searched my Haggadot (one of them includes 12 perushim) - nothing. Wikipedia in Hebrew also doesn't explain the name's origin.

The only thing that comes to my head is that expensive fabrics are also called karpas in Meggillat Ester 1:6:

חוּר כַּרְפַּס וּתְכֵלֶת אָחוּז בְּחַבְלֵי בוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן עַל גְּלִילֵי כֶסֶף וְעַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ מִטּוֹת זָהָב וָכֶסֶף עַל רִצְפַת בַּהַט וָשֵׁשׁ וְדַר וְסֹחָרֶת

Could imply some connection to the plant, but I still think it's just its name.

One last thing, there's a known clue (Remez) in that name. the ס (Samech) represents (using Gimmatriah) 60 Riboh (10-thousands) of Israelies (men aged 20-60) praticipating in the exodus. The remaining letters of karpas - being כרפ - can be transposed to פרכ which hints the 60*10000 Israelies that were forced labour in Egypt.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.