Like pretty much everyone of my generation in the United States, I grew up using some free Hagaddah; it had easy to follow instructions. The idea that there were choices of Hagaddot with commentary was something we didn’t know. Around the time I became religious, I think that Reform and/or Conservative Jewish groups began to produce their own.
Neither my husband nor I grew up in a family that “did the Seder” the way it should have been done. My husband’s grandfather would just drone on, quickly reading the Hebrew text, everything except when he allowed the youngest to say the four questions. There were no discussions, explanations, fun, games, songs. There was just the break for eating.
In my family we took turns reading the English translation, with the exception of the Hebrew four questions by the youngest, but we didn’t really discuss anything. We didn’t know we were allowed to, certainly didn’t know that it was actually required. We sang a song or two and then we ate. We didn’t resume the actual Seder after the meal, so we somehow missed out on singing the songs I had learned in Hebrew School. It wasn’t until I did my first full Seder at friends that I discovered when the songs were to be sung.
We made aliyah right after we got married and discovered that people had very interactive, fun, participatory s’darim. We weren’t all that good at making ours great adventures, but I always encouraged the kids to break into song whenever we got to words they knew a tune to. And I also instructed them to interrupt whenever they had something to contribute. I tried to make a “no drone” rule, but couldn’t enforce it on my own.
I absolutely love the Carlebach one and find myself reading it during the Seder, just for fun. It’s full of the stories he was so well-known for telling. The Nechama Leibowitz one is just too academic for me during a Seder, tired and drinking wine. Her Hagaddah would be perfect if I were to study the text before the Passover Holiday.
And what’s your favorite Hagaddah and why?
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