Passover Haggadah

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What is the Passover Haggadah?

The Passover Haggadah is the "instruction manual" for conducting the Passover Seder which is the festive meal that opens the Passover holiday. "Haggadah" means "telling" or "narration" in Hebrew. The Passover Haggadah "tells" or "narrates" the 15 steps that are performed at different points in the Passover Seder. Judaism encourages various versions of the 15 steps in order to encourage interest in adults and children and so there are over 3,000 different types of Passover Haggadahs in print today.

Who reads the Passover Haggadah?

The Passover Haggadah is usually mostly read by the Passover Seder leader, but, like different versions of the Passover Haggadah, there are many ways that Jewish families in different countries use to read from the Passover Haggadah. For some families, the Passover Haggadah is only read by the Passover Seder leader; for other families, each person at the Passover Seder table takes turns reading from the Passover Haggadah; still for other families, there is a mixture of reading from the Passover Haggadah by the Passover Seder leader and by the participants at the Passover Seder table.

When was the Passover Haggadah first created?

The elements of the Passover Haggadah were put together in Talmudic times (circa 10 B.C.E. to about 200 C.E.) and were based on the Passover Seder conducted by five rabbis in Bnai Brak in Palestine during Roman times. This is told in the tractate (essay) called "Pesachim" in the Mishnah, which is part of the Talmud (also known as the Mishnah Talmud). The rituals contained in the Passover Haggadah are discussed in Pesachim 10 of the Mishnah Talmud. Although the Passover Haggadah was formed in Talmudic times, its contents changed over time. The contents of the Passover Haggadah only became stable in the 9th and 10th centuries when the great rabbis (also known in Hebrew as the "Geonim") in the Jewish academies of learning in Babylonia, established a stable Passover Haggadah text, starting with the Passover Haggadah text of Sa'adiah Gaon in Sura, Babylonia. The first printed Haggadah came from Guadalajara, Spain circa 1482 and Italy in 1505, respectively.

Where was the Passover Haggadah first established?

The Passover Haggadah was first established in its stable form in Sura, Babylonia, by Rav ("Rabbi" in Hebrew) Sa'adiah Ben Joseph (also known as Sa'adiah Gaon), who was the head of the Jewish academy of learning in Sura, Babylonia, in the 10th century C.E.

Why was the Passover Haggadah created?

Oy, that's a good one! The Passover Haggadah was created to bring structure, symbolisms, meaning, and clarity to an event like the Passover story that merited such attention! Furthermore, G-d commanded the Jewish people in the Book of Exodus to commemorate the Passover event, so such a commandment from the Almighty merited bringing order to such a holy favor that G-d did for the Hebrews in leading them out of slavery in Egypt. It's all about everlasting gratitude, people! :)

How does one use the Passover Haggadah?

One uses the Passover Haggadah in an orderly fashion. The 15 steps outlined in the Passover Haggadah are coded in a structured manner, and these steps are meant to be followed in the order that they are written. So, actually it is not difficult at all to conduct a Passover Seder as long as one has a copy of a Passover Haggadah to guide them through it! :) All one needs is a Passover Haggadah that represents one's beliefs according to one's Jewish denomination (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, or Humanistic), and also represents one's geographic/cultural background, for instance, a Sephardic (Spanish-Jewish) Passover Haggadah, usually of the Orthodox tradition according to Spanish-Jewish customs I.E. the Spanish rite; an Ashkenazic (German-Jewish) Passover Haggadah according to the Polish-Jewish rite or Russian-Jewish rite, etc.; or a Yemenite Passover Haggadah according to the Jews of Yemen, as well as Passover Haggadahs from other cultures where Jews live or have lived in the world.

Over the last 7 centuries, there have been many beautifully illuminated Passover Haggadahs created in order to demonstrate the holiness of the Passover holiday. Such a favor granted by G-d to free the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt merits everlasting gratitude and representation of this gratitude and recognition of the holiness of G-d's favor by creating beautifully illustrated Passover Haggadah books. The Passover Haggadah down through the ages has served as a symbol of continuity and structure for maintaining and fulfilling G-d's commandment to celebrate the Passover holiday in past, present, and future generations.

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