At the seder we dip twice: the karpas into the salt water and the maror into the charoset. Many commentaries agree that the double dipping reflects the two times dipping relates to the story of the Egyptian experience. At the beginning, the brothers dip Joseph’s coat into blood-which ends in Joseph going to Egypt then the entire tribe…- and at the end, the Jewish people dip the bundle of hyssop into blood and dab the lintel and doorposts of their houses- the initiation of the Exodus. Many commentaries agree that the second dipping comes to “repair” the sin of the first.
If you think that this is a little too midrashic, allow me to suggest some additional ideas to serve as a basis for this idea. First, in the halacha the dippings are called tibul rishon and tibul sheni, the first dipping and the second dipping. Now they are not called “dipping one” and “dipping two” using cardinal numbers. They are ordinal numbers suggesting that they comprise a series; there is a relationship between the two. In our explanation, the second comes to repair the first. Second, in the story of Joseph, the brothers draw him from the pit- vayimshichu; and in the story of Pesach, the people are commanded to draw the sheep- mishchu. Third, the brothers dipped the ketonet passim- pas is Peh, Samech. In the ceremony of the korban, the people dip the hyssop into a basin called a saf, Samech, Peh. The second is the reverse of the first. P S-S P. Finally, the hyssop itself, throughout the Torah, symbolizes modesty and humility which comes to repair the arrogance of the brothers in committing their heinous crime.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has a beautiful explanation of the seder’s double dipping. Karps is a “sweet” vegetable which is dipped into the salt water. Sweet into bitter. The second is maror into charoset, bitter into sweet. The first symbolizes the sweetness of brotherly love which turned into bitter hatred. The second symbolizes the reverse- the bitter can be turned into the sweet. He reminds us that we cannot get comfortable in times of prosperity. Love can turn into hate when we are not constantly reinforcing love and peace. However, in times of difficulty, when we come together in unity and strengthen ourselves with love, we can turn our pain into joy. Rabbi Sacks give us a meaningful understanding of our practice.
But something leaves me wanting more. His structure has the opposites in constant tension. Sweet – bitter , bitter- sweet. How is it resolved? I suggest that we take note of the third time we dip at the seder. When we list the ten plagues we dip our finger or utensil into the glass of wine and remove one drop for each plague. Here we diminish our joy at the downfall of our enemy. We do not simply rejoice and dance on their graves. If we did that, the cycle would continue: sweet- bitter-bitter-sweet. They will try to get back at us. So we transcend our victory and push towards something more lasting. The third dipping hints that we have to create peace and harmony even with our enemy. This year we have experienced the highest number of anti-semitic incidents in a long time. Israel is in a constant struggle with the Arabs. There is continuous tension. Ultimately we believe that the third way will prevail. We may not see clearly how it will happen. But Pesach tells us it will.