Librarian's Lobby 
by Daniel D. Stuhlman

Collecting Haggadot shel Pesah

February 1998
Put your own verb in this question "Why publish [read, buy, use, collect, catalog] another Haggadah shel Pesach?" No other book, including books of the Tanakh and prayer books, has so many editions published in such a large variety of places. There is probably a translation into every language Jews have used. The text itself has its roots in the Talmud (chapter 9 of Mesechet Pesach). Without commentary and illustrations, the text could be printed in fewer than 20 8.5" x 6" pages.

When I started to collect haggadot, I wanted to have at least one for every year of my life. (1) I now have over 75 in my personal collection and I'm not 75 years old yet. The Saul Silber Memorial Library has over 250. In 1960, Abraham Yaari, in his exhaustive bibliography of the Haggadah, listed 2717 editions. A year later the addenda to Yaari's work listed another 174. Harry Hirschorn in his Mah Nishtana Haggadah (1964) (2) lists 118 editions. Theodore Wiener (3) lists 31 editions in Library of Congress not listed in any of the previous bibliographies. Tzivia Atik (4) lists 63 more editions that the other bibliographies missed. By now there are probably over 3500 published editions. So far no one has compiled a comprehensive bibliography of editions published from 1961 to the present.

Cataloging and retrieving a particular Haggadah presents an interesting challenge. Generally books in library catalogs are listed by title and author. The title for every edition is not unique. This hardly makes the job of searching easy. According to the rules of library cataloging, this book needs a uniform title. We use: Haggadah. [date] as the uniform title, arranging the titles by date. (5) This works well except when the publisher did not put a date on the book. Occassionally the publishers neglected to print the date and place of publication.

Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (Professor of Hebrew at Harvard University) wrote a 1975 book (6) containing 250 facsimiles of pages from Haggadot from the beginning of printing. This was a systematic attempt to document editions of the Haggadah from many perspectives. Included are examples respected for their graphics and art, traditional Haggadot, experimental editions, and well as those produced under the adverse conditions of war. Haggadot are described and put into a historical perspective. All facsimiles were photographed from the originals.

Here are a few interesting Haggadot from the Saul Silber Library collection :

The Passover Haggadah : with a traditional and contemporary commentary / by Shlomo Riskin (New York, 1983). This book did not start out as a Haggadah. It began as a series of lectures which Rabbi Riskin gave at several models sedarim at Lincoln Square Synagogue. Sermon length comments are included for some sections including kiddush , the four sons, washing, eating, and birkat ha-mazon. The seder songs have little or no comment.

Why is This Night Different? : the family Passover Haggada : a complete guide to Passover and the Haggada / Zev Schostak (Brooklyn, 1994) takes a rather traditional approach to the haggadah. Schostak starts with explanations of the laws and symbols of the seder. The top of the pages contains the Hebrew text with English translation while the bottom of each page has commentaries selected from over 30 sources. The print and graphics make for a readable, but not distinguished presentation. The unique title of this edition makes it special.

The Palace Gates Haggadah : Parables for the Pesach Seder / compiled by Shalom Wallach (Jerusalem / New York, 1995) uses the idea that parables is the way to inspire strength and conviction into the seder . The text of the commentary is in larger print than the haggadah Hebrew text and English translation.

Mesorah Publications wants readers to have a large selection of Haggadot to use. Their catalog has 20 editions which range from the compact to the full size. Editions include one for children, others with commentaries from Ramban, Abarbanel, The Vilna Gaon, Abraham Twerski and one that includes the halachic decisions from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

This year HTC Press is publishing a Haggadah, Tiferet Asher, in honor of Rabbi Oscar Z. Fasman, edited by Rabbi Ben Zion Rand. Tiferet Asher includes clear, readable Hebrew texts, an English translation, English commentaries on every page, and several scholarly articles at the end. Rabbi Milton Kanter was the project chairman. Copies will be available by mid-March.

Why read another Haggadah shel Pesach? Because everyone has the obligation to retell the Exodus story. From the rabbis of the past to the scholars and artists of the future, all are ready to share their ideas of the seder and Pesach for us.

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Notes:

1. An auction in Nov. 1997 sold some rare and unusual Haggadot for hundreds of dollars. A Haggadah from Venice, 1599 went for $4600. Several 19th century editions went for $200-600. Some of the Haggadot in my collection as well as the Library's collection were "rescued" from shamot boxes. Two items in the recent Library exhibit for Hebrew Theological College's anniversary were found in discard piles. Please spread the word that complete books should be donated to a place that can use them.

2. Hirschhorn, Harry. Keren Hahagadot ... 118 Addenda to Yaari's Bibliography, Highland Park, IL, 1964.

3. "Addenda to Yaari's Bibliography of the Passover Haggadah from the Library of Congress" in Studies in Jewish bibliography, history and literature in honor of I. Edward Kiev p. 511-516, New York, Ktav, 1971.

4. "Addenda to Bibliographies of the Passover Hagadah" in Studies in Bibliography and Booklore. v. 12; 1979, pp. 29-36.

5. Earlier library cataloging rules used Jews. Liturgy and ritual. Haggadah. [date] as the uniform title. Some Judaica libraries used: Tephilot. Haggadah or Liturgy and ritual. Haggadah.

6. Haggadah and History : a panorama in facsimile of five centuries of the printed Haggadah ... / by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. Jewish Publication Society of American, 1975.


Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/liblob.htm. He can be reached via e-mail at: DDStuhlman@earthlink.net.

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