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The Haggadah


THE Haggadah, like the feast which it celebrates, is the slow growth of centuries, re-echoing battle-cries of Israel's heroic struggle for life and for freedom. Its oldest stratum consists of the Hallel * wherein triumphal songs, celebrating the deliverance from Egypt, mingle with supplications for Israel's future well-being. These were intoned, at the Temple of Jerusalem, by the Levitical choirs, during the preparation of the paschal sacrifices and were subsequently sung at the table after the festive family meal. Of high antiquity, too, are the blessings over the wine, the Kiddush, the four questions and their answers, based on Deuteronomy XXVI: 5-9. During the century that followed the destruction of the Temple (in the year 70 C.E.), important additions were made to the Haggadah, including the homily of Rabban Gamaliel, the composite prayer of Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiba asking for the reestablishment of the sacrificial service, the complete grace after the meal and the Birkas Hashir. **

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As the struggle against the Roman Pharaohs grew in intensity, the Jewish people welcomed into the Haggadah the mathematical disquisitions of the Rabbis Jose the Galilean, Eliezer and Akiba regarding the number of plagues that were visited upon Egypt. As a protest against their revilers and tormentors, they also embodied into the Pesaḥ ritual the biblical imprecations against the heathens that know not God and devour Jacob and lay waste his habitation. *

The character of the Haggadah was further affected by the theological ideas which Judaism was called upon to combat. An echo of its conflict with early Christianity is found in the strong emphasis laid in the Haggadah on the fact that Israel's deliverance was effected by God in person, without the aid of intermediaries. The further struggle of Judaism against Karaism left a marked impress upon the very structure of the book. On the theory that he who dwells at length on the story of the Passover is praiseworthy, it became customary to include in the Haggadah, passages from the early Midrashic and the Talmudic writings, dealing with the Exodus. In the eighth century, when the Karaitic sect, in its opposition to Rabbinism, excluded these and other passages from the ritual, the masters of the Babylonian academies (the Geonim) took steps to standardize the homiletical sections of the Haggadah. While

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the service retained its elasticity for several more generations (as evidenced from Saadia Gaon's and Maimonides’ Haggadahs *) the text as drawn up by Ray Amram (about 850 C.E.)was adopted by Spanish Jewry and became the standard for all Israel.

The subsequent additions to the Haggadah consist of its poetic numbers. When the Haggadah began to circulate in separate book form (in the 13th century), it was enriched by Joseph Toy Elem's poem "Ḥasal Siddur Pesaḥ" (The Order of the Pesaḥ Service is Complete), Jannai's "Vay'hi Ba-ḥatzi Hallay’lo" (And it Came to Pass at Midnight), and Eliezer Ha-Kalir's "Va-Amartem Zevaḥ Pesaḥ" (And Ye Shall Say: This is the Passover Sacrifice), compositions originally written for other purposes. In the fifteenth century the two anonymous ditties "Addir Hu" and "Ki Lo Noeh" were added. About the same time the folk-songs "Eḥod Mi Yodea"and "Ḥad Gadyo" became part of the service, largely under German influence. The Sephardim have refused to admit them into their ritual. The cumulative effect of the varied literature of the Haggadah, of "the curious medley of legends and songs" and prayers, captivated the hearts of many generations of our people and filled them with a sense of special privilege of being part of Israel, the champion of God and of liberty.


It was but natural for reform Judaism, which found itself at variance with a number of passages in the Haggadah, to construct a ritual for Pesaḥ eve in keeping with its religious principles. Among the German attempts, in this direction, are Leopold Stein's ritual (1841), David Einhorn's (in his Gebetbuch "Olas Tomid", 1858) and S. Maybaum's (1893). An English Haggadah

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by H.M. Bien, misnamed "Easter Eve", appeared in 1886. The first edition of the Union Prayerbook (1892) contained a ritual for the Seder, based on Leopold Stein's German work. After its elimination from the subsequent editions of the Union Prayerbook, it was published by its author, I. S. Moses, in separate book form. In 1908, the Central Conference of American Rabbis issued the Union Haggadah. The work was executed in a modern spirit, no longer regarding "rites and symbols with the awe that vested them with mystic meaning, or supernatural sanction", but treating them rather as "potent object-lessons of great events and of sublime principles hallowed and intensified in meaning by ages of devout usage". Among the poetic additions to the Haggadah were Leopold Stein's "The Festive Cup" and Jannai's poem "Vay’hi Ba-ḥatzi Hallay’lo" both translated by Rabbi Henry Berkowitz, and Rabbi G. Gottheil's hymn "God of Might." The volume also contained the familiar Passover music, as edited by the Society of American Cantors, and the setting for "The Festive Cup", composed by the Rev. William Lowenberg.

The aim of the present edition of the Union Haggadah is stated in the introduction. The Committee on Revision reedited both the Hebrew and the English texts of the Union Haggadah and added the following musical numbers: "The Springtide of the Year" by Alice Lucas with the traditional music, as published in the Union Hymnal; "To Thee Above" by James K. Gutheim, with music specially written for it by Hugo Brandt; the traditional "Kiddush" melody with an accompaniment supplied by Rabbi Jacob Singer; traditional settings for Psalms CXIII and CXIV, arranged by D. M. Davis, and the Sephardic Hallel (Psalm CXVII) from F. L. Cohen's "Voice of Prayer and Praise"; a variation of the "Addir Hu"

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melody for Psalm CXVIII: 1-4; F. Halevy's settings for the responses "Zeh Hayyom" and "Hodu Ladonoi"; and S. Naumbourg's "Ono Adonoi"; also Alois Kaiser's music for "An Only Kid", from Rabbi William Rosenau's "Seder Haggadah"; and "America". In addition the committee prepared a new Appendix. With the original Committee the present Committee on Revision may lay claim to having been guided by "reverent devotion to the sanctifying force of tradition and a due recognition of its supreme value as a bond of union", in its endeavor to present for men and women of to-day a Haggadah, modern in spirit and social outlook.


As the principal ritual work for the home, the Haggadah has enjoyed great popularity. Hundreds of learned scholars delighted to comment on its content, and innumerable scribes to copy and illuminate its text. Since the introduction of printing, the Haggadah has appeared in more than a thousand editions. Of the twenty-five known illuminated manuscript Haggadahs, the Sarajevo manuscript deserves special mention. * Israel Abrahams writes ** that "the Sarajevo book must remain supreme as an introduction to Jewish art, so long as it continues to be the only completely reproduced Hebrew illuminated manuscript of the Middle Ages." The still unpublished Crawford Haggadah (now in the Rylands Library, Manchester) rivals the Sarajevo manuscript in point of age and of artistic excellence. "The beauty of the Crawford Haggadah consists just in the text, in the beautiful

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margins, full of spirited grotesques and arabesques, no doubt (like the Sarajevo manuscript itself) produced in Spain under strong North French influence." * In the Sarajevo Haggadah "we have, in the full page drawings, depicted the history of Israel from the days of the Creation, the patriarchal story, Joseph in Egypt, the coming of Moses, the Egyptian plagues, the Exodus, the revelation, the temple that is yet to be.". . . It is noteworthy that in the revelation picture no attempt is made to depict the Deity. "Into Moses’ ear a horn conveys the inspired message; but the artist does not introduce God. . . . Certainly the drawings, sadly though they lack proportion, are realistic. Especially is this true of the portrayal of Lot's wife transformed into a pillar of salt. Disproportionate in size, for she is taller than Sodom's loftiest pinnacles, yet the artist has succeeded in suggesting the gradual stiffening of her figure: we see her becoming rigid before our eyes."

Rachel Vishnitzer points out the French Gothic style in the illustrations of the "Two Medieval Haggadahs" of the British Museum. ** The one with the fleur-delis *** exhibits a rich store of fanciful decorated forms. "There are lions, dogs, peacocks, salamanders, serpents, herons, griffins, hares and so on. Acorns, pomegranates and acanthus-leaves appear with the Gothic ivy-leaf as the prominent floral ornaments; then we can admire on the margins of the fine vellum sheets amusing fights between beasts, hare-hunting, little domestic scenes, caricatures of monks and various grotesque subjects agreeable to the taste of the time, executed with delightful finesse of design and coloring. It is very interesting,

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moreover, to observe the skillful master of this unparalleled decoration, when he paints the human form and to see how helpless he becomes then."

"The second Haggadah * is quite different in conception and in the execution of the paintings. We recognize there an honest attempt at faithfully representing nature and of graphic interpretation of scenes from Bible history. The paintings are in keeping with the text of Exodus. Moses at the burning bush, his miracles, the plagues of Egypt, the Exodus from Egypt by the Israelites—all the stages of the story—are minutely depicted."

One of the Haggadahs in the Germanic museum at Nuremberg is especially noteworthy for illustrations of domestic scenes relating to the Seder service. "The fifteenth century Haggadah in the Bibliotheque Nationale has initials and domestic and historic scenes; while an elaborate manuscript in the possession of Baron Edmond de Rothschild has highly original domestic and biblical scenes executed in quatrocento style." **

Since the introduction of printing, about two hundred illustrated editions of the Haggadah have made their appearance. Their styles are for the most part determined by the Prague edition of 1526, of the Mantua edition of 1560, and of the Venice edition of 1599. Though they display a "distinct tendency toward monotony", some of them are not without charm.

The first edition of the Union Haggadah sought "an artistic expression for the Passover sentiment which shall reflect the present era". To this end it reproduced Moritz D. Oppenheim's "Seder Eve", the picture

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of Moses Ezekiel's statue "Religious Liberty" and the "Seder Dish" from Rosenau's "Jewish Ceremonial Institutions". It was also provided with pen-and-ink decorations and with pictures of two reliefs by Miss Katherine M. Cohen. The present edition has retained the three first-mentioned pictures, and has added G. Doré's "The Exodus" and the masterly relief of Moses and the Table of the Law, from an Italian Synagogue, dated 1671, reproduced in the Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. XI, p. 663. The book has been further enriched by the decorative frontispiece, borders, and lettering specially prepared for it by Mr. Isadore Lipton. He has utilized authentic material from the Egyptian monuments and from ancient Jewish life, for the purpose of making real to our generation the ever fresh story of our deliverance. In his way, he sought to accomplish for the twentieth century what the unknown illustrators of the Sarajevo, the Crawford, the Prague and the Mantua Haggadahs accomplished for their times.







155:* Psalm CXIII-CXVIII and CXXXVI.

155:** Taken to be the Yehalelucho or the Nishmas. See Pesaḥim X.

156:* Psalm LXXIX: 6-7; LXIX: 26 and Lamentations III: 66.

157:* See A. L. Frumkin's Siddur Rav Amram, p. 213 ff, and Mishneh Torah, Z’manim, Appendix to Hilchos Ḥometz u-Matzo.

159:* It was published by Mueller and Von Schlossar, 1898, and by Stassof and Guenzberg, 1905.

159:** By-Paths in Hebraic Bookland, pp. 91-96.

160:* Mueller and Von Schlossar describe twenty other extant illustrated manuscripts in their above-named book.

160:** The Jewish Guardian, April 22, 1921.

160:*** Brit. Mus. Add. 14,761.

161:* Or. 1,404 Brit. Mus., exhibiting much similarity with Lord Crawford's manuscript.

161:** Joseph Jacobs, Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. VI, p. 144.