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Haggadah of Pesach

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Haggadah 14th cent

Illuminated Haggadah for Passover (fourteenth century).

The Haggadah (Hebrew: הגדה‎, "telling") is a Jewish religious text that sets out the order of the Passover Seder. Reading the Haggadah is a fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to each Jew to "tell your son" about the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus in the Torah. ("And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt. " Ex.  13:8)

According to Jewish tradition the Haggadah was compiled during the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods (c. 200 CE-500 CE), although the exact date is unknown. As of 2006, the oldest complete readable manuscript of the Haggadah is found in a prayer book compiled by Saadia Gaon in the 10th Century CE. By the end of the sixteenth century, only twenty-five editions had been printed. This number increased to thirty-seven during the seventeenth century, and 234 during the eighteenth century. It is not until the nineteenth century, when 1,269 separate editions were produced, that a significant shift is seen toward printed Haggadot as opposed to manuscripts. From 1900–1960 alone, over 1,100 Haggadot were printed.[1]

While the main portions of the text of the Haggadah have remained mostly the same since their original compilation, there have been some additions after the last part of the text. Some of these additions, such as the cumulative songs "One Kid" ("חד גדיא") and "Who Knows One?" ("אחד מי יודע"), which were added sometime in the fifteenth century, gained such acceptance that they became a standard to print at the back of the Haggadah. In more recent times, attempts to modernize the Haggadah have been undertaken primarily to revitalize a text seen by some as "no longer expressing their deepest religious feelings nor their understanding of the Passover festival itself".[2] However, it should be noted that Orthodox Judaism does not approve of this "modernization" and still uses the historical texts.[3]

Sephardi and Oriental Jews also apply the term Haggadah to the service itself, as it constitutes the act of "telling your son."

Authorship

According to Jewish tradition the Haggadah was compiled during the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods, although the exact date is unknown.

The Haggadah could not have been written earlier than the time of Rabbi Yehudah bar Elaay (circa 170 CE) who is the last tanna to be quoted in the Haggadah. According to most Talmudic commentaries Rav and Shmuel argued on the compilation of the Haggadah,[4] and hence it wasn't completed by then. Based on a Talmudic statement, it was completed by the time of Rav Nachman (mentioned in Pesachim 116a). There is a dispute however to which Rav Nachman, the Talmud was referring. According to some commentators this was Rav Nachman bar Yaakov[5] (circa 280 CE) while others maintain this was Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak (360 CE).[6]

However the Malbim,[7] along with a minority of commentators believe that Rav and Shmuel were not arguing on its compilation but on its interpretation and hence was completed before then. According to this explanation; the Haggadah was written during the lifetime of Rav Yehudah haNasi,[8] the compiler of the Mishna. The Malbim theorizes that the Haggadah was written by Rav Yehudah haNasi himself.

History

As of 2006, the oldest complete readable manuscript of the Haggadah is found in a prayer book compiled by Saadia Gaon in the tenth century. The earliest known Haggadot (the plural of Hagaddah) produced as works in their own right are manuscripts from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries such as "The Golden Haggadah" (probably Barcelona c. 1320) and the "Sarajevo Haggadah" (late fourteenth century). It is believed that the first printed Haggadot were produced in 1482, in Guadalajara, Spain; however this is mostly conjecture, as there is no printer's colophon. The oldest confirmed printed Haggadah was printed in Soncino, Italy in 1486 by the Soncino family.

Although the Jewish printing community was quick to adopt the printing press as a means of producing texts, the general adoption rate of printed Haggadot was slow. By the end of the sixteenth century, only twenty-five editions had been printed. This number increased to thirty-seven during the seventeenth century, and 234 during the eighteenth century. It is not until the nineteenth century, when 1,269 separate editions were produced, that a significant shift is seen toward printed Haggadot as opposed to manuscripts. From 1900–1960 alone, over 1,100 Haggadot were printed.[9]

Published in 1526, the Prague Haggadah is known for its attention to detail in lettering and introducing many of the themes still found in modern texts. Although illustrations had often been a part of the Haggadah, it was not until the Prague Haggadah that they were used extensively in a printed text. The Haggadah features over sixty woodcut illustrations picturing "scenes and symbols of the Passover ritual; [...] biblical and rabbinic elements that actually appear in the Haggadah text; and scenes and figures from biblical or other sources that play no role in the Haggadah itself, but have either past or future redemptive associations".[10]

While the main portions of the text of the Haggadah have remained mostly the same since their original compilation, there have been some additions after the last part of the text. Some of these additions, such as the cumulative songs "One Kid" ("חד גדיא") and "Who Knows One?" ("אחד מי יודע"), which were added sometime in the fifteenth century, gained such acceptance that they became a standard to print at the back of the Haggadah. In more recent times, attempts to modernize the Haggadah have been undertaken primarily to revitalize a text seen by some as "no longer expressing their deepest religious feelings nor their understanding of the Passover festival itself".[11] However, it should be noted that Orthodox Judaism does not approve of this "modernization" and still uses the historical texts.[12]

Notes and references

  1. Yerushalmi pp. 23–24
  2. Yerushalmi p. 66
  3. Yerushalmi p. 98
  4. pesachim 116a
  5. see tosafos bava batra 46b who states that every time the Talmud says Rav Nachman it is Rav Nachman bar Yaakov
  6. see Rashi there
  7. Taub, Jonathan; Shaw, Yisroel (1993). The Malbim Haggadah. Targum Press. ISBN 1-56871-007-0. 
  8. As Rav Yehudah haNasi was a student of Yehudah bar Elaay and the teacher of Rav and Shmuel
  9. Yerushalmi pp. 23–24
  10. Yerushalmi p. 34
  11. Yerushalmi p. 66
  12. Yerushalmi p. 98

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