Even if all of us were wise

Last week’s list of mitzvot includes (#115) the mitzvah to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt each year at the Pesach seder. There is no limit to how much we can expand on this story: the haggadah itself says “åëì äîøáä ìñôø áéöéàú îöøéí, äøé æä îùåáç” – the more we tell about the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy. Developing new interpretations of the Exodus and applying the story to our own times (as Mishnah Pesachim 10:5 says, quoted in the haggadah, “áëì ãåø åãåø çééá àãí ìøàåú àú òöîå ëàéìå äåà éöà îîöøéí” = “in every generation, a person should see him/herself as if s/he had gone out from Egypt) is not merely a peripheral activity that we do for kicks; it is fundamental to the essence of the seder.

The ways in which we tell the story differ not only in each generation, but also differ for each individual. The haggadah tells of four archetypal children, to emphasize that there isn’t one message or one teaching style that works for everyone; the message of the seder should be transmitted in a way that is appropriate for each learner. Each of us learns in different ways, and each of us connects to the narrative of the Exodus in different ways. Telling the story in original ways, year after year, is truly a fulfillment of the mitzvah “You shall tell your child on that day” — a telling that is appropriate for the individual and for the time.

Sadly, the haters at Slate seem to think otherwise.

Mark Oppenheimer writes disparagingly about the proliferation of haggadot, such as a new one edited by novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, saying that “We couldn’t possibly need so many Haggadot.”

Diversity within a religious tradition can be a source of strength, but it can also be a weakness. One of the inarguably great aspects of religion is how it gives communities of people shared experiences: Jews the world over know about the Haggadah’s “four questions,” the singing of the rousing hymn “Dayeinu,” and the traditional foods on the Seder plate. Although traditions vary from region to region—and the Seder, conducted in the vernacular, thus comes in as many versions as there are languages Jews speak—there are certain common Passover rituals that most Jews will recognize.

The question, then, is how diversified and variegated a cultural tradition can get before it loses meaning to the people who invented it. It’s one thing to add an orange to the Seder plate, an innovation meant to honor Jewish women. But what if one family uses a Haggadah that focuses on vegetarianism, while another reads from one about Palestinian liberation? Both noble causes, to be sure—but are the families celebrating the same holiday?

Oppenheimer attempts to diagnose the roots of this “problem”:

The diversity of Haggadot is a symptom of the unease that many Jews feel about Judaism. For some, the unease is political: Passover is a holiday about liberation, so the Haggadah has special meaning to those who feel that Judaism today is insufficiently attentive to left-wing political causes. For others, the unease is just a species of what all secular Americans feel around religious tradition, and Jews like this are always looking for a Haggadah that is “contemporary” or “relevant” enough to produce religious sentiment with a minimum of embarrassment.

Then he provides a solution to this terrifying diversity:

The Haggadah I like best is the old Maxwell House Haggadah, filled with the “little kitschy scribbles” others find objectionable. According to Maxwell House, nearly 40 million of these handy little booklets have been distributed since 1934, when the coffee company first hit on an ingenious way to win Jewish customers’ loyalty. The 2007 edition is, like all its antecedents, apolitical and middlebrow, geared for mass appeal. But it’s clear and concise, and, most important, my parents and my in-laws all grew up on it. What it lacks in poetry, it makes up in ubiquity. It’s the Haggadah most evocative for my extended family, and there’s majesty in that simple claim, a claim that no better, smarter, more beautiful edition could ever make.

I think his diagnosis is completely backwards. Oppenheimer suggests that the diversity of creative haggadot can be attributed to the Jews who are primarily “secular Americans” and feel “unease” around Judaism, and that those who are more secure in their Jewish identies will opt instead for the unadorned Maxwell House. On the contrary: “Secular Americans” who have a minimal connection to Judaism but nonetheless attend a seder out of nostalgia or ethnic identification are more likely to, like Oppenheimer, read the Maxwell House from rote, while those who make Judaism more a part of their year-round lives are more likely to add layers of meaning on top of the traditional haggadah text, whether by using a creative haggadah or simply by making discussion an important part of their seder.

Oppenheimer praises Maxwell House for being “apolitical”, suggesting that Pesach is at its core about the maintenance of old traditions, and that any contemporary political content in the seder is grafted on inappropriately. I refer him to one of the oldest Jewish texts about the Exodus after the book of Exodus itself: Psalm 114, which concludes the “maggid” section of the haggadah. It begins “When Israel went out of Egypt…”, and then it does not say “The sea felt content about its mass appeal, the Jordan continued flowing exactly as it had flowed for thousands of years, the mountains stood still in their places, the hills did exactly what other hills were doing all over the world.” Rather, it says “The sea saw and fled, the Jordan ran backwards, the mountains skipped like rams, the hills skipped like sheep.” Pesach is about overturning the established order, and about turning rocks into lakes, not about keeping rocks as rocks.

If you don’t believe me, why not ask Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva, and/or Rabbi Tarfon? At their famous seder in Benei Berak, they spent all night discussing the Exodus from Egypt, until their students came in and said “Our teachers, the time has come to say the morning Shema!” Why did their students have to tell them this? Why didn’t they know that the sun had risen? Because they were in a cave! They were hiding from the Romans, and when they were “discussing the Exodus”, they weren’t simply telling a story, but were plotting redemption in their own time.

Closer to our own time, ask Natan Sharansky or the other Soviet refuseniks who secretly held Pesach seders in prison. These sedarim were anything but “apolitical and middlebrow”; the message of liberation was directly relevant to the refuseniks’ situation, and the existence of these sedarim was a fundamentally political act.

The best way that we can honor the traditions of Pesach is by continuing to innovate in our annual retellings of the Exodus story and by taking seriously the haggadah’s message of freedom as it applies to us in every generation.

22 Responses to “Even if all of us were wise”

  1. right on BZ!
    it’s exactly people who claim an “objective” or “apolitical” or “noncultured” stance that you need to examine most closely.


    invisible_hand · April 16th, 2007 at 10:01 pm
  2. “Sadly, the haters at Slate seem to think otherwise.”

    Really? The people at Slate are “haters” because one of them doesn’t think that the proliferation of sundry haggadot is a net positive? Come on!

    Can’t somebody disagree with you without being labeled a “hater”?


    Eric · April 16th, 2007 at 10:42 pm
  3. As to the substance of Oppenheimer’s critique: I think it’s a fair point that those of us who have a tendency for “reinventing” or “relevance”-izing Passover and other parts of Judaism might be better off if we first understood the original content and substance of the messages that we assume require our benevolent reinvention.

    I think there’s always a danger that instead of interfacing with what the Torah is trying to show us, we simply inject our own preferences and projections into Judaism in order to produce a more palatable and familiar–and fundamentally unchallenging–fruit punch that is nothing but an extension of our own preestablished opinions. All well and fine, but I don’t think that leads to much growth or intellectual maturity and it’s probably healthy to be reminded of that danger from time to time.


    Eric · April 16th, 2007 at 10:54 pm
  4. My favorite part is the Seder, conducted in the vernacular, thus comes in as many versions as there are languages Jews speak
    which makes Mr. Oppenheimer as much of an am-haaretz as the next guy, since conducting the seder in the vernacular is an American innovation. The translators of Maxwell House’s Haggaddah didn’t really think they were making the standard English version of the Haggadah, didn’t they? Also, by that logic, Jews should have less books overall, maybe about three or so, and make sure that there are no more produced, for, well, the sake of uniformity.


    Amit · April 17th, 2007 at 6:37 am
  5. Word.


    Rachel · April 17th, 2007 at 9:46 am
  6. Disclaimer: I know Mark Oppenheimer personally, and have the pleasure of davening with him at our shul regularly. Mark and I have different views on many things, which I consider a feature.

    I agree with previous comments that note the venomous criticism being spit Mark Oppenheimer’s way because he dares to promote the importance of conserving core concepts and ideas of Pesach and being careful not to confuse them with the offshoot ideas considered relevant by some people to “current times”. Mr. Oppenheimer clearly had a positive personal connection with one classic printing of the Hagadah, and comes off as a traditionalist in this sense (which I laud, but that Hagadah isn’t my favorite), but to think he is ignorant of obvious political connections both past and present is silly. As anyone who ever read his left-leaning editorials when he was top dog editor at the local “progressive” newspaper would know, this person is a politically savvy left/center kinda guy. He simply understands with a maturity of vision, as the writer of the rant, BZ, clearly does not, that there is a longer term view involved when it comes to dicking with the core text and concepts of Pesach.

    A personal experience from our family’s just past first night’s seder proved Mr. Oppenheimer’s point exactly. We have a collection of various Hagadot from a decade of searching for the best Jewish grouping and mindset for us; we journeyed from Reform to Chabad and ended up in somewhere in the middle on the religiously observant end of Conservative (or a left-wing indie Orthodox minyan when the mood stikes). The people gathered around our table often had trouble staying in sync through the reading of the core text because at least one version, the Reform “Gates of Freedom” has cut out some parts of the core text, just as they did for the cut-n-paste special of a siddur they used for decades. We like to go around the table having everyone read, in whatever language they wish, the core text with added thoughts and ideas either from themselves or from additional text in whatever Hagadah they are reading. That becomes difficult, exactly as Mr. Oppenheimer predicts, when your core text isn’t the same. The people sitting around our table had a variety of Jewish beliefs and practices that often set them apart; that core text was supposed to be the unifying force that would bind them together, and at times it instead was a source of confusion.

    Amit wrote: “conducting the seder in the vernacular is an American innovation”

    That depends upon whether you mean changing the core text, adding additional text, or translating the core text into a locally spoken language. The last two, adding and translating, are clearly part of the tradition. Expounding upon the core ideas – but you can’t change them – is lauded by the Mishna. I also have a wonderful book that prints a collection of Hagadot front covers which shows some of them printed in Hebrew/Yiddish, Hebrew/Ladino, and Hebrew/Italian/Spanish; the core text is preserved, but presented in a manner understandable to the local Jewish population. My Scholar’s Hagadah does show the differences in core text between Yemenite, “Oriental”, and Ashkenazic Hagadot, but none of the text streams do away with any of the core text concepts. They just sometimes have minor core text differences, but there are significant additions of Arabic poems/songs in the North-African based traditions.


    Nathan · April 17th, 2007 at 11:27 am
  7. Good point, Nathan. I especially disagreed with BZ when he said “The only way to properly honor the profusion of different Haggadot is to make sure that even within a single seder, no two people are using the same Haggadah. For everyone at the table to read from the same book is reactionary and totally lame!”

    Oh, he didn’t say that? Then I am not sure I see the relevance of your example.


    Aaron · April 17th, 2007 at 1:29 pm
  8. Oppenheimer’s piece is a reminder to those of us who rejected the tired suburban Judaism we were raised with that many Jews prefer to keep the mediocrity they know rather than explore a meaningful Jewish experience. Some people actually prefer rabbi-cantor performances replete with responsive readings and paternalistic hand signals to partipatory minyanim.

    Then again, the preference for mediocrity is often simply a choice made out of ignorance. 10 years ago, in a bloodless coup, I took over my family’s seder, swapping out the Maxwell Haggadah for the first edition of A Different Night (which would strongly undercut Oppenheimer’s false dichotomy between “tradition” and “innovation”). After an adjustment period, its no question that ADN is a superior Hagaddah and that substituting 20 minutes of kvetching about whether or not to do pg. 10 with kid-friendly activities was a major upgrade.

    [apologies for the triple garbled post]


    mhpine · April 17th, 2007 at 2:14 pm
  9. The last two, adding and translating, are clearly part of the tradition.
    really? I do not recall translation recorded by anybody. The assumption was people can understand enough hebrew to understand the core text. Especially if the “core text” you referring to is Tannaic.
    There’s nothing wrong with translation, mind you, just be informed that the “tradition” (whatever the hell that means, since as BZ is always quick to point out, there are people who’s tradition by now is to do it in German) means people can read Hebrew. that they all Keep shabbat and put on tefillin and eat Kosher food. And since we all know people aren’t like that today, or not all people anyway, then there’s no point in saying “reading the haggadah in English before the treif meal after which we will watch football should be done from a maxwell house haggadah bedavka, and not any other haggadah which might invest some meaning into the damn thing, chas vechallilah, even if we might not keep kosher”


    Amit · April 17th, 2007 at 4:01 pm
  10. I think what BZ is saying is: some people just read the haggadah (this usually occurs at the MH seders) while some bring it to life (seders where everyone has a different point of view, perhaps because they are using different haggadot).

    To those curious about the evoluation of the haggadah, I suggest Menachem Kasher’s Haggadah Shelemah. It has everything historically relevant in it.

    In sum, I am perplexed by people who take issue with BZ. Perhaps he is wrong to call Oppenheimer a ‘hater’, but perhaps he does so because he takes offense at

    The diversity of Haggadot is a symptom of the unease that many Jews feel about Judaism.

    . BZ’s seder is alive and vibrant. Everyone brings or is given his or her own haggadah. It is one of the best seder’s I’ve been to, if one judges seders by their ability to tell the pesah story and keep people interested and involved in the dialogue of generations.

    By the way, to you MH people, we don’t even have the same four questions anymore. Kal vehomer the same editorial comments. (Moreover, even the four questions as questions are a late innovation).


    OJ · April 17th, 2007 at 4:05 pm
  11. OJ, do we know each other?


    BZ · April 17th, 2007 at 4:33 pm
  12. Aaron wrote:

    Good point, Nathan. I especially disagreed with BZ when he said “The only way to properly honor the profusion of different Haggadot is to make sure that even within a single seder, no two people are using the same Haggadah. For everyone at the table to read from the same book is reactionary and totally lame!”

    Oh, he didn’t say that? Then I am not sure I see the relevance of your example.

    I would offer that my example was targeted to the proper point, the one made by Mr. Oppenheimer, which is that radical changes in the text can lead to discontinuity and confusion. His example was between generations, mine was over the course of a single evening. Those of us with Hagadot using the traditional core text had no problem keeping up with each other as we read around the table, even with the additional text/commentary/poems inserted in the various books.

    Amit wrote:

    really? I do not recall translation recorded by anybody. The assumption was people can understand enough hebrew to understand the core text. Especially if the “core text” you referring to is Tannaic.

    Thanks for your comments. I’m a fan of Hebrew text, even as I struggle to improve my comprehension of Biblical and modern Hebrew. As a friend points out, a generally standardized liturgy in Hebrew allows Jews from anywhere in the world to join together for weekly and Shabbat prayer services. That’s a powerful unifying principal.

    The core text and mandates are indeed from Mishnah Pesachim X, 1-8. That text, as well as the additional instructions, and most certainly the songs, have been translated in several of the Hagadot featured in the incredible book by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, “Haggadah and History” (JPS). While the book focuses on the art and text of the front covers, there are also sample pages from within for some of the books examined. Most still contain the Hebrew text as well – but not all! Here is a sampling of Hagadot that feature some/all translation:

    Tunis, Tunisia, ca. 1941: Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, and French)
    Nitre, Czechoslovakia, 1934: Slovak
    Istanbul, Turkey, 1932: Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish (Ladino)
    Cairo, Egypt, 1931: Arabic in Arabic characters
    Basil, 1816: Hebrew, German

    There are many more featured in the book.

    mhpine wrote:

    Oppenheimer’s piece is a reminder to those of us who rejected the tired suburban Judaism we were raised with that many Jews prefer to keep the mediocrity they know rather than explore a meaningful Jewish experience. Some people actually prefer rabbi-cantor performances replete with responsive readings and paternalistic hand signals to partipatory minyanim.

    This comment is particularly ironic and funny given that the shul that Mark and I belong to as members is held up as a bastion of the latter description. It is a “traditional egalitarian” Conservative shul, even though there is nothing traditional about egalitarian Jewish worship, but that’s another debate for another time. There is no professional cantor (BTW, I’ve heard some great ones that lead with kavanah), and the laity leads most services and does most of the leining; the rabbi encourages this dynamic with dignity and respect for all. Perhaps people should stop making assumptions about the background and practice of others involved in this discussion?

    O.J. wrote:

    In sum, I am perplexed by people who take issue with BZ. Perhaps he is wrong to call Oppenheimer a ‘hater’, but perhaps he does so because he takes offense at

    The diversity of Haggadot is a symptom of the unease that many Jews feel about Judaism.

    Yes, the unfortunate tone of BZ’s writing was offensive, especially since he may or may not understand Mark’s position in the original article and beliefs about Judaism. Already, several comments prove how quick some are to incorrectly assign various beliefs and practices to someone they don’t know personally.


    . BZ’s seder is alive and vibrant. Everyone brings or is given his or her own haggadah. It is one of the best seder’s I’ve been to, if one judges seders by their ability to tell the pesah story and keep people interested and involved in the dialogue of generations.

    I think ours was too – second night went until 2:30 AM – and as I wrote we used a variety of Hagadot, but all that preserved the core text. We checked the Mishnaic text and ideas against the various books to better understand the variety of approaches. There was plenty of room in between the unifying core text for people to ask and answer questions on both traditional and current issues seen as relevant to Pesach.

    By the way, to you MH people, we don’t even have the same four questions anymore. Kal vehomer the same editorial comments. (Moreover, even the four questions as questions are a late innovation).

    It is correct that the current four questions have one substitution to make up for the inability to perform the Qorbon Pesach post second temple destruction. As for your thought that the four questions are a late innovation, I suppose “late” is a relative term of course, but in this case the questions/answers are specifically codified by 200 C.E. with the closing of the Mishnah. Did you mean something else that I’ve misunderstood?


    Nathan · April 17th, 2007 at 8:18 pm
  13. Nathan writes:
    I think ours was too – second night went until 2:30 AM – and as I wrote we used a variety of Hagadot, but all that preserved the core text.

    Oppenheimer didn’t make any distinction between new haggadot that
    “preserve the core text” (such as A Different Night, as mhpine pointed out) and those that don’t, so I didn’t either. I can’t find any info on whether the forthcoming Jonathan Safran Foer haggadah (which Oppenheimer focuses on) includes the traditional core text, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that it doesn’t.


    BZ · April 17th, 2007 at 10:03 pm
  14. Nathan-

    There’s evidence in the mishnah and talmud that the “four questions” in the mishnah are examples of things a father should prompt a child to notice and ask about at the seder if he or she doesn’t ask on his or her own. The rabbi’s dvar torah before passover mentioned a talmudic story I’ve not heard before of a R’ who cleared the table at some point in the seder so that the guests would ask about it and thereby fulfil the requirement to ask questions.

    Mishnah 10:4îæâå ìå ëåñ ùðé, åëàï äáï ùåàì. àí àéï ãòú ááï–àáéå îìîãå, îä ðùúðä äìéìä äæä îëì äìéìåú: ùáëì äìéìåú, àéï àðå îèáìéï àôéìå ôòí àçú; åäìéìä äæä, ùúé ôòîéí. ùáëì äìéìåú, àðå àåëìéï çîõ åîöä; åäìéìä äæä, ëåìå îöä. ùáëì äìéìåú, àðå àåëìéï áùø öìé ùìå÷ åîáåùì; åäìéìä äæä, ëåìå öìé. ìôé ãòúå ùì áï, àáéå îìîãå.From which it is clear that it is the pouring of the second cup that is supposed to pique the interest of the son and “according to the mind of the child, his father should teach him (to ask questions)”

    However, we all know that only things that you really need to mention are matzah, maror, and pesah (presumably one should discuss them as well). :)


    OJ · April 18th, 2007 at 11:16 am
  15. Here is a sampling of Hagadot that feature some/all translation:
    If one of the haggadot was before the 20th century, the claim might have had some validity. in the years you pointed out, people’s Jewish education was already suffering, and translations were needed. A haggada from, say 1320 in German may have disproved my point, but none exist.


    Amit · April 18th, 2007 at 1:53 pm
  16. See here regarding the Venice Haggadah of 1609

    The haggadah was printed for him in the printing house of Giovanni da Gara. It appeared simultaneously with translations in Judeo-Italian, Judeo-Spanish and Judeo-German, the languages of the Jewish communities living in Venice at the time.


    OJ · April 18th, 2007 at 3:19 pm
  17. Just for fun, I found this while searching the previous links Who Knows One? in various languages


    OJ · April 18th, 2007 at 3:46 pm
  18. My last point before going back to billing. Isn’t the ketubah and kaddish in aramaic (and yekum purkan etc.) because “the people” didn’t understand Hebrew? (and even mishnah yoma says that the later high priests before yom kippur were read the aramaic parts of the bible to keep them awake because they couldn’t understand the hebrew parts)


    OJ · April 18th, 2007 at 3:55 pm
  19. 1. Mishnah Yoma never says they couldn’t understand. They just say Daniel was read. I seriously doubt any aramaic speaker could “not understand” Hebrew.
    2. The Ketubba is in aramaic because many legal documents were. It was the language of the law (like latin used to be). The liturgy might be true, but I’m still not convinced. If the seder was supposed to be in the vernacular there would have been a provision for it, like for the megillah reading, and if there was a longtanding practice of doing so we would have heard about it. The seder is a very Rabbinic ritual, demanding that every participant “expound” (ãåøù) on the appropriate verses in deuteronomy “until the end of the parasha”. Doesn’t sound like something to be done in English if you ask me. and not Greek either.


    Amit · April 18th, 2007 at 4:45 pm
  20. Amit-

    There is evidence the Rabbis weren’t native speakers in Hebrew either. I recall a story of Rebbe that he and other rabbis were discussing a word in the tanakh and they couldn’t figure it out until a slave in the house chimed in that she knew the word.

    The Hebrew of shavei bavel was very different from those that remained in eretz yisrael. Just compare the grammar of song of songs to other books of the bible. Or look at the list of names, e.g. yeshua in lieu of yehoshua is an aramacized name. Besides my earlier point of the 1609 publications of translated haggadot (at the beginning of the age of reason) should refute your argument that haggada in the vernacular is recent. I mean, even mishnah sota says that prayers can be done in the vernacular and elsewhere that the holy books can be written in greek (megillah 8b) al ahat kamah ve kama the haggadah

    ãó ç,á îùðä àéï áéï ñôøéí ìúôìéï åîæåæåú àìà ùäñôøéí ðëúáéï áëì ìùåï åúôìéï åîæåæåú àéðï ðëúáåú àìà àùåøéú øùá”â àåîø àó áñôøéí ìà äúéøå ùéëúáå àìà éååðéú:

    åúðéà à”ø éäåãä àó ëùäúéøå øáåúéðå éåðéú ìà äúéøå àìà áñôø úåøä åîùåí îòùä ãúìîé äîìê ãúðéà îòùä áúìîé äîìê ùëéðñ ùáòéí åùðéí æ÷ðéí åäëðéñï áùáòéí åùðéí áúéí åìà âéìä ìäí òì îä ëéðñï åðëðñ àöì ëì àçã åàçã åàîø ìäí ëúáå ìé úåøú îùä øáëí ðúï ä÷á”ä áìá ëì àçã åàçã òöä åäñëéîå ëåìï ìãòú àçú

    à”ø àáäå à”ø éåçðï äìëä ëøùá”â åà”ø éåçðï î”è ãøùá”â àîø ÷øà (áøàùéú è) éôú àìäéí ìéôú åéùëï áàäìé ùí ãáøéå ùì éôú éäéå áàäìé ùí åàéîà âåîø åîâåâ à”ø çééà áø àáà äééðå èòîà ãëúéá éôú àìäéí ìéôú éôéåúå ùì éôú éäà áàäìé ùí:

    Breshit Rabba 79:7 and YT Megillah 2:2

    R Hiyya the Elder and R. Shimon bar Halafta forgot the meaning of several words in the Aramaic version of Scripture and went to a marketplace of Arabs [who spoke Nabatean] to learn from them. They heard a man who meant to say to his companion, “Place this burden on me,” say instead, “Place this yehav on me.” From this they concluded that yehav means “burden,” as in the verse, “Cast yehavekha (thy burden) upon the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55: 23). Then again, they heard a man who wished to say to his companion, “Why do you tread (mevasseh) on me?” say instead, “Why do you meassah on me.” They accordingly interpreted the verse “Ve-assotem (You shall tread down) the wicked” (Mal. 3:21). They then heard a woman say to her companion, “Come and bathe,” and receive the reply, “I am galmudah,” meaning “menstruating.” They accordingly interpreted the verse, “Seeing I have been bereaved and galmudah” (Isa. 49:21). They then heard another woman who meant to say to her companion, “Come, raise your lament,” say, “Come, raise your livyah.” They accordingly interpreted the verse, “Who are ready to raise their livyah” (Job 3:8) . . . [61] 91

    “R. Honi said: The sages did not know what the words serugin, haloglogot, and matate meant, nor which is to be deferred to – one greater in wisdom or one greater in years. They decided: Let us go and inquire at the house of Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]. When they got there, one said to the other, “Let so-and-so go in first.” “No, let so-and-so go in first.” A maidservant of Rabbi’s household came out and said, “Enter according to your seniority in years.” They began entering at intervals. So she asked them, “Why are you entering serugin, serugin?” Among them was a young man carrying purslane, which fell from his hand. The maidservant said to him, “Young man, your haloglogot has scattered all over. I will bring a matate.” And she brought a broom [and swept it up].”[62] 92


    OJ · April 18th, 2007 at 5:28 pm
  21. “Here is a sampling of Hagadot that feature some/all translation:”

    If one of the haggadot was before the 20th century, the claim might have had some validity. in the years you pointed out, people’s Jewish education was already suffering, and translations were needed. A haggada from, say 1320 in German may have disproved my point, but none exist.

    I provided examples that stated didn’t exist, so in response you moved the goalposts to an unobtainable place. My last example was from 1816. Here are some more:

    Prague, 1784: Yiddish with some Hebrew words
    Leghorn, Italy, 1654: Spanish (not Ladino)
    Venice, Italy, 1549: Yiddish with core text in Hebrew
    Frankfurt Am Main, 1512: Qiddush is in LATIN!!!

    I’m going to have to work on that last one for next year; won’t that raise a few eyebrows?


    Nathan · April 18th, 2007 at 7:07 pm
  22. This captured my eternal feelings about how a meaningful passover seder captures the attention of its audience. Being a seder leader is a very important role, I would even compare it to being a Cohen Gaadol for two nights of the year. As a college student who was away from home for passover, I worried how the seder would be. I was use to a wonderful leader (my much older cousin) who was probably born a wise man. He is the man who set the bar for me. I went to the Hillel the first night, got drunk with the school president, had a great time. Sat next to the priest told him the story and some older people at my table (I was late), it was pretty awesome, but no one related it to the kids. I decided to have a seder and I pray and hope that I reached out to many of the people I had there and changed their perception of who they are and how important our heritage is.


    Joshua Niamehr · April 18th, 2007 at 11:59 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik