Librarian's Lobby
April 2003

by Daniel D. Stuhlman

Haggadot Shel Pesah

As many of you know, I collect Haggadot shel Pesah. In 1998 in this column I reported that I owned 75 and now I own more than 100 Haggadot. My original goal was to get just enough to equal the years of my life. They vary in size from less than 14 cm. (5 inches) to more than 41 cm. (16 inches.) Some are giveaways from food companies and others are works of art valued at several hundred dollars. This past year I acquired some Haggadot from a closed library. Others were given to me for review or gifts.

One Haggadah has a padded brown imitation leather cover with a copper sculpture of Moshe receiving the ten commandments. This Haggadah, printed in 1955, is about 25 cm. tall and valued about $90. It has a cover that is almost the same as a much bigger Haggadah printed in 1959 that was already in my collection. I found a bookseller offering this Haggadah for $450. Both covers have the same Bezalel style brown imitation leather, but the copper sculpture of Moshe is slightly different. One has the Hebrew name, Moshe in the bottom right; the other is missing the name. Moshe's figure has different faces and the tablets of the Ten Commandments are different. Both are published by Sinai. The title pages are totally different. The smaller one has an English translation and illustrations by Zeev Raban(1890-1970). (1)

The larger one, "with a revised English translation and copious explanatory notes by Joseph Loewy and Joseph Guens." It has color illustrations that are tipped in (that is pictures on separate pieces of paper that are glued on pages of the book.) The illustrations are unattributed. However, I have another Haggadah published in 1971 by Sinai with the same illustrations. In the 1971 Haggadah the illustrations are by Zeev Raban, the same person as the 1955 edition.

There are Haggadot just for show. These have beautiful pictures and fine bindings, but one would not want to risk spilling wine on them. Others are meant to be used at the seder.

Here are reviews of two recent publications.

Haggadah. 2002. Haggadah shel Pesah = Freedom of the soul, David Goldwasser. [Brooklyn, New York, Judaica Press, 2002] 157 p. (ISBN 1-880582-86-4) $17.95.

This is a traditional Haggadah that includes the Hebrew text, English translation, and a perush (commentary). The name, 'Freedom of the Soul' comes from a 1981 visit by the editor to the former Soviet Union. He met a refusnik, Ari. Ari devoted his life to the Torah. Rabbi Goldwasser was struck by the poverty and hardship in Ari's life. Ari devoted his life to Torah. Rabbi Goldwasser said, "I can't wait for you to be free!" Ari cried and said, I am already, for no one is free except one who is occupied with Torah study."

For example after the bracha (blessing) of ga-'al Yisra'el immediately before the second cup of wine, Goldwasser tells a story of longing for the messiah in Lublin, Poland. This is not connected to the text.

Rabbi Goldwasser's commentary is sometimes far removed from the Haggadah text. For example after the bracha of ga-'al Yisra'el immediately before the second cup of wine, Goldwasser tells a story of longing for the messiah in Lublin, Poland. This is not connected to the text.

In the 'four sons' section the commentary says that, all Jewish boys and girls can find Hashem. This is connected to the text.

As part of the commentary on Dayanu, Goldwasser quotes the following story, "R. Nahman of Breslov offers a profound insight in the challenge of guarding our tongue, 'When we are little we learn to talk. When we are old, we learn to be quiet. That is one of the shortcomings of human beings; we learn to speak before we learn to be quiet.'"

As part of the commentary on Dayanu, Goldwasser quotes the following story, "R. Nahman of Breslov offers a profound insight in the challenge of guarding our tongue, 'When we are little we learn to talk. When we are old, we learn to be quiet. That is one of the shortcomings of human beings; we learn to speak before we learn to be quiet.'" Many other stories of famous rabbis are told on these pages.

If you would attempt to use this Haggadah at a seder, you would have a hard time finishing because the perush (commentary) is interesting and engaging. The print is easy to read, but this is a Haggadah for study, not for use at the seder. It is worth buying for those who want many Haggadot for study.

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser is heard daily on the radio in New York, writes a Jewish Press column, is the spiritual mentor of Congregation Bais Yitzchok in Brooklyn, NY and principal of the Bais Yaakov of Midwood Seminary in Brooklyn, NY. He is an acknowledged expert in educational concerns. He has also written Something to Say (Mesorah, 1998), a book of insights into the weekly Torah portions and Living on the Edge (Judaica Press, 2001), features inspirational stories from his many travels.

Haggadah. 2002. The Haggadah; transliterated & translated with instructions & commentary. [Brooklyn, New York, Judaica Press, 2002] 93 p. (ISBN 1-880582-60-0) $9.95.

Since haggadot are difficult to catalog and arrange on the shelf, I am disappointed to find no editor's name or other attribution of responsibility on the title page. The verso(back of the title page) does thank Shimon Apisdorf for permission to use his commentary. This Haggadah is aimed at intelligent adults who want to participate in the Hebrew reading, but how are not fluent in reading the Hebrew letters. The page arrangement includes the traditional Hebrew text with parallel columns of English translation and Israeli pronunciation transliteration. The publisher supplies a transliteration key. Directions for the seder and commentary fill the rest of the page. This arrangement makes a clear and usable Haggadah for the seder. The commentary in shaded boxes adds to the understanding of the Haggadah and the Pesah holiday.

On the page with the bracha (blessing) for matzah the commentary is as follows:

Matzah is the soul. When pared of external trappings and physical interests, something yet remains of the human being. The longing of the soul. The basic nucleus of the self. Likewise, a loaf of bread--when denied all of its additives, of sugar, and salt, and even the time to rise, an essence still remains. Stripped-down bread is matzah, and the essence of a stripped-down human being is a soul.

In the section to eat the matzah and marror the commentary is as follows:

If matzah represents spiritually and marror connotes physicality, then Korech really presents us with the perfect symbolism for a human being--the physical and the spiritual bound up together, the essential duality that the Torah tells us defines the human condition. Our challenge is to master this duality, to achieve a spiritually driven balance, to live like a soul while dressed in a body.

This deep commentary, comparing matzah to the soul is for adults not children. This Haggadah respects the intelligence of its readers and makes them think about the deeper meanings of the seder symbols and rituals. While not every page has commentary, the commentaries here make one think about many aspects of the seder and how they relate to the soul and the body of the reader.

I recommend this Haggadah to anyone who needs the transliteration to feel comfortable at the seder. The book opens the English (left to right) way. Directions and commentaries are clear and easy to understand.


Endnotes

1. Ze'ev Raban was born Wolf Rawicki in Lodz in 1890 and died in Jerusalem, 1970. He illustrated books, playing cards, and silver objects.


Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit the web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~DDStuhlman/liblob.htm. Reach him via e-mail at: DDSTUHLMAN@earthlink.net.

Links
Librarian's Lobby Jewish Library Network of Metro Chicago Stuhlman Management Consultants Stories by Stuhlman

 ©2003 by Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
Last revised April 20, 2003