Dayenu: A few Passover Haggadot would have been enough…really?

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Die Haggadah des Kindes. (Click on title to view digitized version.) Leo Baeck Institute.

Dayenu: A few Passover Haggadot would have been enough…really?
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Senior Reference Librarian – Collections, Center for Jewish History 

As we prepare for the ritual Seder this evening, I started to reflect on the variations of Passover Haggadot and the vast number of them that we have in the collections at the Center for Jewish History. Each of the five partners of the Center has the liturgy in many variations.

The Haggadah is “probably the most widely used text of the Jewish people” according to the Encyclopedia of Judaism (p.1052), which states that “with the exception of some popular folk songs and some local elaborations of the established text, inserted at the end, [the text] remained almost intact from geonic times until the nineteenth century” (p.1053).

In fact, when looking at the Soncino English translation of the Talmud that we have in the reference collection, the Mishnayos listed in the last chapter of Pesachim contain the highlights of the ritual. Cecil Roth’s Jewish Art has extensive passages on Illuminated Haggadot with regard to the illumination of Hebrew manuscripts in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance section. It explains that the Haggadah was popular for illustration because it is a relatively small but widely popular work. One edition mentioned is The Sarajevo Haggadah.

The American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and Yeshiva University Museum have copies of a facsimile of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The AJHS copy, The Sarajevo Haggadah, also contains text by Cecil Roth: “The Sarajevo Haggadah and its significance in the history of art.” The Yeshiva University Museum holds other illustrated Haggadot including Pages from Haggadah created by Eliezer Zusman Magrytsh, 1831-1832, Call number 1974.001. Select pages of this work are available online; click here.

The following are more selections from each partner of the Center. Click on the listed item to view its bibliographic record or, when available, the digitized version that is available online.

Yeshiva University Museum

Chagall’s Passover Haggadah, 1987.

The Moss Haggadah: a complete reproduction of the Haggadah written and illuminated by David Moss for Richard and Beatrice Levy, with the commentary of the artist, 1990.

Haggadah and woodcut: an introduction to the Passover Haggadah completed by Gershom Cohen in Prague, Sunday, 26 Teveth, 5287 (Dec. 30, 1526) by Charles Wengrov, 1967.

Yeshiva University Museum holds many ritual items, such as a silver and enamel Seder plate created by the artist Albert Dov Sigal.

Leo Baeck Institute

The Offenbacher Haggadah, illustrated by Fritz Kredel, has been digitized and is available online.

Another work—which is in Hebrew and includes a German translation—is also available online: Hagadah le-Yeladim=Die Haggadah des Kindes.

The LBI has numerous other works in their repository spanning a large period of time, including Seder Hagadah shel Pesah: im perush yafeh ṿe-tsiyurim naim, Amsterdam, 1711 or 1712.

I also found an 1846 Prague work entitled Seder Marbeh le-saper ṿe-hu Hagadah shel Pesah. It has heavily stained pages, “possibly by food.”

There are also many other Passover-related works held by LBI, some of them Haggadot and others books on the liturgy, such as Haggadah and history: a panorama in facsimile of five centuries of the printed Haggadah from the collections of Harvard University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, 1975.

LBI also holds the 1955 selection, Which is the oldest woodcut Haggadah?

American Sephardi Federation 

The American Sephardi Federation has many relevant works, including: A Sephardic Passover Haggadah: with translation and commentary prepared by Marc D. Angel, 1988.

Seder Hagadah shel Pesah: The Amsterdam Haggadah of 1662 is a reprint of an illustrated Haggadah published in Amsterdam in 1662 with a commentary by Rabbi Joseph of Padua. This work has instructions in three languages on how to conduct the Seder; the Judeo-Italian instructions are in the right-hand column, the Yiddish in the center, and the Ladino on the left-hand side.

There is also a digital recording available online: Saady’s recordings of Haggadah and others, date unknown, recorded in Hebrew and/or Ladino.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

There are over 500 results in the YIVO library catalog for “Haggadah.”

One is the Sefer Zevah Pesah, 1557. The book includes text of the Haggadah, and it was part of the Strashun Library Collection in Vilna (today Vilnius, capital city of Lithuania). The Library was confiscated by the Nazis in 1941 and shipped to Frankfurt in Germany to be part of the future Institute for the Research of the Extinct Jewish People, planned by Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s chief Nazi ideologue and Head of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories. The Strashun Collection, along with the YIVO Vilna collections, were liberated by the American Army, and re-patriated to YIVO in New York in April 1947. The work has been digitized, and it is available online; click here to view.

Seder Hagadah shel Pesah bi-leshon ha-kodesh u-fitrono bi-leshon Italyano is from Rome, 1609, with text in Judeo-Italian & Hebrew, and now on microfiche.

Seder Hagadah shel Pesaḥ im perush Abarabanel from Fürth, 1755. This book was also part of the Strashun Library and has been digitized; click here to view.

The more contemporary YIVO holdings reflect many changes in the face of modernity. These include:

Let my people stay!: Hagode for an immigrant justice seder. Los Angeles : Workmen’s Circle / Arbeter Ring, 2007.

The women’s Passover companion: women’s reflections on the festival of freedom, 2003

The freedom seder: a new Haggadah for Passover by Arthur I. Waskow, 1970. This is “an updated, radicalized version of the traditional seder text.” (This is also held by the American Jewish Historical Society.)

American Jewish Historical Society

AJHS holds the Arthur I. Waskow papers, P-152. The finding aid contains details on the collection, including how there is a folder on “Seders inspired by Waskow’s work.” Perhaps the annual Passover Seder held by President Obama should be mentioned. (For more on “the Obama Seder,” click here.)

AJHS also has an array of Haggadot encompassing both modern and traditional varieties. There are over 500 keyword matches when you search the catalog. Works that I found interesting include:

The “First American edition.” Service for the two first nights of the Passover: in Hebrew and English / According to the German & Spanish Jews. Translated into English by the late David Levi, of London, 1836.

The revised Hagada with musical notes, 1898.

Hagadah, the narrative of Israel’s redemption from Egypt: Seder ritual for Passover-eve, 1933.

The new American Haggadah Reconstructionist, 1999.

The Chassidic Haggadah: An anthology of commentary and stories for the seder, 1988.

Hagadah shel Pesah: Seder for Soviet Jewry, 1968.

Haggadah for Jews and Buddhists, 2006.

This represents just a small selection of the Haggadot that can be found in the partners’ collections here at the Center. I encourage you to explore these works and conduct your own searches of the collections (by clicking here). The Haggadot and Passover-related works housed here at the Center will prove varied and thought-provoking resources for your own Passover celebrations and reflections.

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