A Passover Haggadah: As Commented Upon by Elie Wiesel and Illustrated by Mark Podwal


Our tradition has been to use a mix of haggada - if we’re with parents and squares it’s usually the Union Haggada and the Maxwell House haggada, because nothing feels as liberating as having your cultural/religious celebration sponsored by crappy coffee.

When it’s not the squares, my goyisha boyfriend likes the Santa Cruz Haggada
http://www.santacruzhag.com/haggadah.html, which is pretty good. I also really, really love The Freedom Seder http://www.amazon.com/The-Freedom-Seder-Haggadah-Passover/dp/0030846811 because it calls out Bob Dylan as a prophet. We also add appropriate readings that pertain to whatever’s going on.


Re: Haggadahs - there are some things that are requirements or else you haven’t had a seder. That said, one of the sages said that it is incumbent on each person to act as if they had been set free from slavery so many, many things are up to you and what makes the holiday important. One idea, and there are lots and lots, is to have every person at the table contribute a line to telling the story. No need to use the ol’ Maxwell House.

An interesting note - there are Judaica collectors who specialize in haggadahs. The older ones with stains from wine and food are more valuable because the stains indicate that they have actually been used.


My family’s favorite haggadah is the Prince of Egypt Haggadah which we got when my older kids were about 4 and 6. It’s fantastic for keeping little people interested through the boring parts of the text, while still following the traditional order of things. When I bought them I figured that it was a good way to fulfil the requirement of “teaching our children” because we could watch the movie before the first seder each year and then engage the kids with discussion about what they remember from the story and what the book says and what the actual Torah stories say. As they got older, of course, the conversations got deeper and more interesting.

I love haggadot that delve deeply into the story and the traditions in new ways, but I find that most of them are aimed at adults and completely miss the “it’s about the children” part of the seder itself. (Then again, the traditional text read through as quickly as possible without comment ALSO misses that point entirely!) I like to have a few different versions to study and compare during dinner, but everyone wants the ones with the pretty pictures, even the grown ups.

My eldest son inherited my entire library when I turned into a full time nomad, so this year it’s up to him to lead the seder and tell the story to my grandkids. Notably, my dad is heading over there for the seder and asked me, “do you think he has enough copies of the haggadah with the nice pictures?”

I use the standard text one from Chabad. I personally have mixed feelings about the plethora of hagadot published recently but thats minor compared to being happy that Jews of all varieties still observe the mitzvah of doing the seders.

Rabbi Sacks recently had this nice commentary on the Four Questions, specifically about the “wicked son”. Interesting perspective. Made me think about something the Bal Shem Tov said, that the worst kind of exile is one you don’t even know you are in. To quote a Johnny Cash gospel song, “We’re doing mighty fine I do suppose / in our streak of lighting cars and fancy clothes”. Us Jews have in the US and other places assimilated so well that we do need this yearly reminder that we were slaves in a foreign land, in a culture hostile to our values. They tried to kill us and we survived! Whether you know that it was by God’s active interference or not, whether you are “traditionally observant” or not, keeping this tradition really does embody that Jewish balance of dedication to our history and freedom that Rabbi Sacks speaks of.

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