by Lila Hanft, Cleveland Jewish News, 04/11/08
The Haggadah Shel Pesach has always been a somewhat fluid text.
It took about 1,000 years for the haggadah to evolve from 435 words of Mishnah to its current size (approximately 5,500 Hebrew words). And the haggadah continues to grow and change: At least 4,000 printed editions of the haggadah have appeared in the 550 years since Gutenberg debuted his printing press.
The fluidity of the haggadot over time and place is intentional; it’s based on the injunction to retell the story of Exodus to every generation -- and to make the telling so vivid that your children feel as if they were there.
Some people, however, think the haggadah has changed too much and for no good reason.
Last Passover, Slate.com published an essay by Mark Oppenheimer, a book critic at the Forward, cleverly entitled “Haggadah better idea: Let’s stop improving Passover.” Oppenheimer sees the plethora of special haggadot as divisive and urges Jews to go back to sharing common, traditional seders. (He’d prefer we all use the classic Maxwell House haggadah.)
Three new haggadot --A Mystical Haggadah, The Student’s Pesach Haggadah and Joyous Haggadah: The Illustrated Story of Passover -- suggest that there’s no end to the kosher ways we can approach Passover innovatively, even if we don’t want to wander into the flakier realms of Jewish Buddhism, Pig Latin haggadot, and vegan seders.
Read the entire story at the Cleveland Jewish News, including reviews of 3 new haggadot:
Tried and true: some of our favorite haggadot
If you’re not ready to spring a new haggadah on your unsuspecting seder guests, here are some older haggadot and seder companions we consider keepers:
• Telling the Story: A Passover Haggadah Explained. By Barry Louis Polisar. Polisar is a children’s author and songwriter (his song “All I Want is You” was on the soundtrack for the film “Juno”). Telling the Story is a minimalist haggadah that manages to be lovely and poetic as well as brief.
• The stories, poems, recipes and gorgeous images which author Eric Kimmel has gathered in his elegant Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion make it a favorite resource.
• In 1997, Noam Zion and David Dishon’s highly popular A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah changed the focus of the seder from passive listening to active participation, particularly for children.
• A decade later, Zion extended this approach in A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices, written with his son Mishael Zion. This haggadah contains an astounding array of stories, quotes, quizzes, discussion suggestions, illustrations and commentary n all meant to liven up the seder and imbue it with relevance. The volume is so jam-packed with ideas that the authors issue this “Seder General Warning: Too many additions may be harmful to your seder.”
• Why on This Night? A Passover Haggadah for Family Celebration. By Rahel Musleah. This poetic, social justice-oriented haggadah has activities best suited to children in kindergarten through grade 4.
• Creating Lively Seders by David Arnow is a guide to invigorating your seder, creating lively discussions, and making personal, contemporary connections with the Exodus story.
• Special needs: Large-print Haggadah for Passover is available for free in an English or Hebrew/English edition from The Jewish Heritage for the Blind. Contact 718-338-2000 or jhbinternational.org.
More Passover stories in this week's CJN: