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Why do some specifically use saltwater at the seder for karpas?

NOTE: Rav Shraga Simmons suggests the common answer that it resembles our tears in Egypt, but I haven't seen any commentators offer such an understanding beyond 200 years ago. I also don't understand why karpas is particularly connected to our tears in slavery...

  • Because that's what their ancestors did? Saltwater is already mentioned by rishonim, see e.g. Tosafos Pesachim 114a. Or are you asking why did the usage of saltwater ever start? – Alex Mar 20 '18 at 5:16
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What else do you put on your salad besides salt water? That's what the word salad means after all! Oh a vinaigrette, you say? Indeed Tosfot (Pesachim 114a) and others (and ruled in the Shulchan Arukh OC 472) mention either salt water or vinegar as reasonable options for dipping. Leket Yosher writes that in his community people should prefer vinegar to salt water since vinegar was the normal salad dressing all year. YMMV depending what people use for salad near you or near whatever ancestor taught you what to use at the Seder.

(Other Rishonim specifically dipped Karpas in Charoset as with Maror, but that's probably not the school of thought you were asking according to.)

Check out R' Zvi Ron's article on the modern reinterpretations of salt water after the development of contemporary complicated salad dressings for sources regarding the recent "tears" idea among others. Anyone living >200 years ago wouldn't have thought salt water was odd enough to need an explicit explanation.

  • So according to Leket Yosher, shouldn't we be using a "contemporary complicated salad dressing" for Karpas? – DonielF Apr 18 at 12:45
  • @Doniel whatever you'd normally use as a condiment. he explicitly rejects changing the dressing so that kids will ask questions. (Just make sure it has one of the seven liquids to obligate washing, or you run into a different question.) – Double AA Apr 18 at 12:48
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We have halacha of טיבולו במשקה - we need to wash handes only when eating something that is wet from one of 7 beverages י"ד שח"ט ד"ם (יין, דבש, שמן זית, חלב, טל, דם, מים) wine, honey, olive oil, milk, dew, blood, water.

so in order to be obligated to wash handes the prefered beverage is water.. but you can also use vinegar.

pay attention that lemon juice is not good for this.

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    What do you mean by "you can also use vinegar"? Do you mean it is included in the list of liquids, or that one can forgo the washing and that's OK, or that one can wash for some reason other than the cited halacha despite using vinegar, and that's OK? – WAF Mar 20 '18 at 9:10
  • it is included in the list of liquids – StackOverflowUser Mar 20 '18 at 13:17
  • Where do you see that vinegar is on the list? I see wine, but no vinegar. In any event, the point of Karpas is not so that we wash on it; the point of washing on it is because we're dipping Karpas. Perhaps one can skip Urchatz if he dips it in vinegar or lemon juice; indeed, the halacha is that one can dip it in anything except charoses. – DonielF Apr 16 at 2:42
  • @DonielF Why can't you use charoset? – Double AA Apr 16 at 2:44
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    @DoubleAA That's kinda important information for the answerer to leave out of his post, no? – DonielF Apr 16 at 2:52

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