Pesach Post 3 – The People who Love Stories

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The particularity of the way we celebrate Pesach is not through a metaphysical experience but via a story. The haggadah declares: ‘even if we were all wise, all understanding, all experienced and all versed in the torah, we would nevertheless be obligated to recount the story of the departure from Egypt…’

For Maimonides, you must imagine you were a slave in Egypt, that you left and were redeemed.

To remember and relive the redemption, the haggadah provides guidelines but the story will be told differently by and for each of us. Dr William Kolbrener writes: ‘Through the description of the ‘Four Children’ in the seder, the hagada acknowledges that children are different, and that parents must tell the story of the redemption in such a way that their own children can best hear it. Only in this way does telling of the Exodus lead to da’at, a knowing that makes the abstract ideal felt through experience – whether for the wise man alone in his study or for the second grader, part of the seder for the first time.

To ensure a meaningful storytelling, one which provides an opportunity to grow through da’at, it is important to choose and read a haggadah a few weeks before Pesach. Read some of it beforehand: in the doctor’s waiting-room, on the train, in between two assignments, before you go to bed – whatever works for you.

One of my favourite haggadot, for its wonderful and engaging essays, is Rabbi Sacks’ Haggadah – a new version is available form Koren Publishers.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat has two versions of the same haggadah that can be downloaded from her website – one abridged and one expanded. I have used the expanded version over the years and cannot recommend it enough. The e-version also means that you can download it and select what you want to keep.

What haggadah/haggadot are you planning to use?