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Haggadah - The Haggadah ( Hebrew: , plural - Haggadot, meaning telling or recital) is the book or the oral tradition of chants, prayers and songs for the Passover Seder celebration, including as well complete instructions on the order of the meal, the rituals to be performed and the preparatory purification of the house that is required. Many of the prayers and chants were either devised especially for Passover, but at least some of the Haggadah material is taken from prayers used on other occasions and from the Old Testament.

Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt, and the entry of the Hebrews into the Land of Israel. The Haggadah probably began to evolve in very ancient times. It was evidently codified in writing at the time of the Mishna (70-200 CE) and evolved since then.

The "Hagadah" in some form may be a very old part of the tradition of Passover however. Exodus 13:8 in the King James Bible English translation states:

And thou shalt shew thy son in that day. saying. This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.

The word "shew" is a mistranslation in the King James bible. The Hebrew reads, "Vehigadeta" - thou shalt tell, or recite or say, and this is very likely the origin of the name of the book - Haggada.

The full verse in transliteration is :

"Vehigadeta levincha bayom hahu lemor: Be 'avur zeh asah adonai li betzeiti memizrayim"

: .

The Haggadah was without doubt developed as an educational instrument after the destruction of the temple, and the Passover Seder became a tool for preserving Jewish culture and history and ties to the land of Israel in the Diaspora. Before the invention of printing and the spread of universal literacy, it is unclear to what extent the Haggadah was maintained through oral tradition as opposed to written scrolls or books. Repetitive, cumulative chants like Ma Nishtana, Had Gadia, Dayenu and others are indicative of an oral tradition, but these were apparently added very late in the history of the Haggadah, around the 17th century, when printing was already widespread.

In any case, the celebration of the Passover with the help of the Haggadah allowed the Jews in the Diaspora to take their Judaism with them wherever they went, even if there was no synagogue, no rabbi and no Jews for hundreds of miles around, and to teach the elements of Judaism and Jewish history to their children, and to non-Jewish wives they may have married.

There were always, evidently, slight variations in the Haggadah in use at a particular time, though Ashkenazi and Sephardi adopted innovations like the Had Gadia and other chants in a timely fashion.

According to some authorities, the Seder began as a discussion or ritual held after the ritual meal, but was pushed back to be held before the meal. Some also speculate that the the origin of the Haggadah was in a free for all question and answer period modeled on Roman and Greek Symposia of the first century, that was turned into formal questions. (Reference) That may account for a part of the ritual, but it is likely that the injunction to retell the story of Passover given in Exodus was fulfilled by a some formal ritual long before the first century.

The earliest surviving written Haggadah text known at present may be a relatively complete fragment of an 8th or 9th-century Palestinian Haggadah (found in the Genizah of the Cairo synagogue, a repository for discarded or worn sacred writings). It is rivaled by a Haggadah incorporated in the 9th-century prayer book of Amram Ga'on of Babylonia, and along with it a similar manuscript of Saadia Hag'aon. The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (1135-1204) has a Haggadah text that is almost the same as the one in present use, without the addition of songs such as Ha Lachma Aniah and Had Gadia that were added by European Jews in the 16th or 17th centuries.

The earliest known complete standalone Haggadot are manuscripts from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, including "The Golden Haggadah," probably wriiten in Barcelona about 1320, and the "Sarajevo Haggadah" from the late fourteenth century. It The first printed Haggadot were possibly produced in Guadalajara, Spain in 1482, but the first confirmed printing of a Haggadah was in Soncino, Italy in 1486. This was a "family" Haggadah, reflecting the custom of wealthy families to order their own printed editions of the Haggadah, just as they had earlier ordered manuscript copies.

Both printed and manuscript Haggadot often had elaborate illustrations.

Kaufmann Haggadah

A page of the Kaufmann Haggadah

German Haggadah

Fourteenth Century German Haggadah

Copenhagen Haggadah

Copenhagen Haggadah, 17th Century

The four sons - illustrated from the 1695 Amsterdam Haggadah

In the 20th century, well over a thousand different editions of the Haggadah were produced. Each edition may have varied not only in trivia such as illustrations, but in some of the content and in exegesis in different languages. Because the Passover holiday is celebrated almost universally by Jews, there is a great demand for versions in languages other than Hebrew and Aramaic, and for Haggadot that include explanations in the different languages of the Diaspora.

Newer variant versions of the Haggadah reflect various pressures, not all of which are constructive. There has probably always been a constant pressure to make the Haggadah briefer in order to accommodate both young children and adults who have lost their patience. Some seek to remove remove text that has lost its relevance or is not understood. There are passages that seem to have no relation at all to the story of Passover and some that are lurid or incomprehensible. These are especially embarrassing in translation, when the literal meaning may be clear, but the significance is incomprehensible in the modern context. There are also modern Zionist and Kibbutz movement Haggadot.

Most Haggadot and exegeses for example, give no translation or explanation of the Nirtzah, the closing of the Haggadah, or of the long passage that reads "ve'at arumah ve'eryah." Not all of these materials should be eliminated, but those that are retained should be explained so that at least the person leading the Seder can pass on the explanation to others.

Some Haggadot however seem to have purposes that are contrary to the accepted meanings of Passover in Judaism. For example, anti-Zionists may omit content about the land of Israel or add various prayers for the safety of Arab Palestinians.

There are numerous online versions of the Haggadah as well as recordings of Haggadah songs and chants. This makes it possible for you to choose the one that suits you best and to edit it and annotate it according to the needs of your family and your understanding of the holiday. Keep in mind and prioritize the different (and sometimes conflicting) purposes of the observance according to your values and needs: To commemorate the Exodus, to maintain a link with the Jewish people around the world, to honor your roots and maintain a connection with your ancestors, by celebrating an ancient ritual as they did, to keep alive Jewish traditions and pass them on to your children, to teach universal values such as love of freedom, and to keep alive the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.

Some examples of online Haggadot:

In Hebrew:

Rambam Haggadah (The text according to Rambam)

Wiki Haggadah


The Chabad Hebrew Haggadah>.htm

In English or Hebrew and English:

The Chabad English Haggadah

Union Haggadah

Open Source Haggadah

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Hagadah, Hagada

Further Information:Passover, Passover, Passover, Seder ,
Ha Lachma Aniah, Ma Nishtana

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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