Looking at 6 different Haggadot, what can we learn about the big ideas and themes of each one?
Guiding questions:
What are the major themes of the Haggadah?
Who is the intended audience of the Haggadah?
How does the Haggadah present the story of the 4 sons?
What can you determine about the Haggadah's use of Hebrew and English?
How are pictures used and what do they tell you about the Haggadah?

Haggahah for the Liberated Lamb: a vegetarian haggadah that celebrates compassion for all creatures

הגדה לשה המשוחרר
Micah Publications (c) 1988
Introduction: as a Haggadah and manifesto
Hebrew/English: The entire Haggadah is in both Hebrew and English. Hebrew is on the right page, English on the left. I think that this is meant for use by Israelis.
Theme: The Torah calls on Jews to treat all living things with compassion. The best way to do this is through vegetarianism.
  • The Torah and Talmud outlines a special relationship/covenant between God and all of his creatures. (p.iii)
  • The Torah and commentators tell us that we should treat animals with respect. Contemporary times don't call for this, and therefore vegetarianism is an appropriate place to reconnect with respect for the animal.
  • "The Lord is my Shepherd" outlines that special relationship between God and man/animal
  • Vegetarianism fulfills more completely Biblical commandments to nurture human life and to treat with compassion all that lives. (p.vi)
Audience: Intended for vegetarians who know about "the suffering of animal life" and also all Jews who care about suffering. God of the Torah cares about any form of suffering, be it animal or human suffering. (Introduction, page i)

The Journey Continues: The Ma'yan Passover Haggadah

הגדה פסח של מעין (Feminist haggadah)
The haggadah answers the question: how is this haggadah different? (echoing the question of the passover seder: how is this night different from all other nights?) The haggadah explains that just like Israel (wrestles with G-d), women throughout the ages have been struggling with the nature of the Divine, with gendering G-d as male

  • God language is feminine “innovative G-d language” may be “unsettling” for some readers p8
  • associated with Renewal or Reconstructionist? (p.8)
  • theme: tzedakah and tikkun olam; “Do Something!” suggestions throughout
The Seder Plate
  • Orange on the seder plate: interestingly, this haggadah doesn't push for the orangeon the seder plate, but does offer that some do this as a response to a comment: women belong on the bimah as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate.
  • Elijah's cup: still included with a traditional explanation of Elijah the Prophet indicating the messianic age (symbol of future hope)
  • Miriam's cup: symbol of Miriam's well that sustained us in the desert (symbol of present sustenance)
  • Tambourines at the seder meal: to dance and sing as Miriam and the women did when they escaped the Egyptians through the Sea of Reeds.
  • Foremothers
Four Sons--4 sons are 4 daughters

  • Daughter in search of a usable past (wise) asks why women weren't counted among the men who came out of Egypt? And why did Moses say 'go not near a woman' when preparing for revelation? Tell her that history is made by the story tellers, so it's up to women to tell their story
  • Daughter who wants to erase her difference (evil) asks: Why must you push women's issues into every text? Tell her your personal story and thanks God for the blessing of being a woman
  • Daughter who doesn't know she has a place at the table: "What is this?" teach her that the haggadah is a conversation about liberation and invite her to comment
  • Daughter who asks no questions: Tell her that her questions will liberate her, much like the midwives who questioned Pharaoh's edict.

The Santa Cruz Haggadah

A Passover Haggadah, Coloring Book, and Journal For The Evolving Consciousness

Introduction connects eating chometz as "the actions I take which do harm to my being" (p.v) and Mitzraim as the "narrow place of holding myself back." The haggadah aims to:
  • connect with our chometz and mitzraim--holding us back from being the best we can be
  • open eyes and hearts to see our "right now"
  • acknowledge our true needs and ask for it
  • enter a state of grace and acceptance and connection to ruach hakodesh
  • The haggadah is read from left cover to right cover
  • the haggadah encourages reading the Hebrew and English text slowly and simultaneously (what does this mean? At the same time?)
  • Contains actual Biblical text on celebrating Passover (Exodus 12:14-15)
  • All Hebrew text is transliterated
  • large and cartoon-like
  • lots of kissing, happy holding hands, symbols such as candles, biblical scenes.
Midrashim/extra text:
  • Carlebach songs
  • each "notes" page contains space for taking notes and a commentary on the prayer or ritual.
Four Children:
  • Wise (depicted as a levitating cross-legged child in meditation with an eye drawn on his forehead): asks "what are these Passover activities all about? Should be taught the rituals of Passover and ways to connect, and told about the types of Mitzrayim in life
  • Cynical (depicted as angry school girl with a dark rain cloud overhead): asks with a closed heart: what good does Passover do us? "What is this service to you?" The child should be gently invited to do and participate because it often leads to understanding through doing.
  • Innocent child asks "what is this? why are we doing this?" The child should be told the facts that we celebrate something that happened a long time ago when Hashem brought the people out of slavery in a place called Mitzrayim.
  • Child too young to ask: We show them everything and bring them to a point of present awareness.
  • Mitzrayim as a metaphoric "narrow place"
  • Songs/skits
  • The difference between "more" and "enough" from dayeanu--seeing the things we should be thankful for in our lives
  • Regard the Passover story as if we have personally been liberated from Mitzrayim
  • Self reflection: In the final analysis, we must ask... (p.51)
  • Everyone should be involved (there is a graphic organizer starting on p.A12 in the back)
The Seder plate:
  • drawing suggests tofu can be a vegetarian zroah

The Making of a Family Tradition: The "Klein" Family Haggadah
Every Pesach in the "Klein" home, a unique haggadah is used. It's one that the family makes and remakes every year.
This family of two parents and three college-aged boys, they host a “generally intellectual crowd” at their seder that is mostly Jewish and mostly Liberal, but aim to make the haggadah appropriate and approachable for non-Jews and “even for Conservatives.”
This year, they aren't set on their Haggadah theme, but then again, it's only February. Throughout the year, and more intensely in late February, an ongoing conversation starts among members of the family: what will the theme of this year's haggadah be? In order to answer that question, the family looks to several criteria:
  • Who is the crowd?
  • What will engage guests in coversation?
  • What will resonate the broad themes of slavery and oppression, and bring it into today?
They change the wording of most of the Haggadah to tie in current events to Jewish themes. This is mostly done by selecting very current op-eds and explicitly connecting them into Jewish texts that illuminate the theme.
Last year, the Pasek haggadah (designed as a facebook news feed) drew parallels between a direct oppressive regime and the oppression that is more subtly systemic, and asked “Is the economic system in some ways oppressive?” This theme came about in the height of the economic crisis, and they generally look to more controversial issues that will spark good debate at the seder table.
Built in to the haggadah is the flexibility to let the seder take its course. “Beyond being something that it itself adapts every year, the haggadah is built to adapt to the seder.” They might include several guiding questions but leave the participants to their own intrigues after that. (Other past themes have been: modern slavery in a literal sense, hunger.)
“Op-eds are a great source of haggadah material,” they tell me. They can be used with Torah themes (“if you're really on the ball,” they add), and with some explanation, can be strongly tied into overall haggadah and Pesach themes.
The prayers and the text of the Magid they don't touch. “Sometimes we don't say the whole prayer, but only in the interest of time. The haggadah ends up being 80 or 90 pages.” But it's those supplemental parts of the haggadah that really bring home the message of Pesach.
“A set haggadah without supplements misses the purpose of Passover. One is supposed to live as if one went through it, and this means thinking about the modern ramifications of slavery.”
Although they are very aware of this mitzvah—to celebrate Pesach as if one had escaped slavery in Egypt themselves—the search to make a family haggadah came about organically. They found themselves reading from different haggadot, until eventually they thought it would be easier to patch together their own haggadah (thanks to the internet), which eventually was paraphrased and changed to be their own unique creation. (They make it into a PDF version that they send around to family and friends.)
The ever-changing haggadah is always filled with graphics—from cartoons and jokes, to pictures, to illustrations. Most are humorous or somehow relevant, although some are placed “to make it easier to swallow the text.”
One joke seems to make it in every year: A blind man is sitting on a park bench. A rabbi sits down next to him. The rabbi is chomping on a piece of matzah. Taking pity on the blind man, he breaks off a piece and gives it to the blind man. Several minutes later, the blind man turns taps the rabbi on the shoulder and asks, “Who wrote this crap?"