A breathtaking collection of thousands of Pesach Haggadahs spanning centuries and global cities has been on display for the past several week in Jerusalem, recounting the Passover story from every possible angle.
The collection belongs to one owner who acquired the haggadhas over a period of decades, creating a collection as diverse as the Jewish world itself.
Among those found in the collection are handwritten haggadahs, Chassidic haggadahs, first editions, ancient and rare printed versions, those first editions with important commentaries, ancient and rare printed haggadahs, translations into different languages, illustrated haggadahs created by artists and more.
Up to 1960, approximately 4,730 different types of haggadahs were printed around the world. The explosion of new versions that came after obliterated that figure, however, and it is nearly impossible to estimate the number that exists today.
During the First World War, more than a million Jewish soldiers served in the armies of the UK, France, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia and the United States. Almost every national army issued special editions of the Passover haggadah to their Jewish troops.
This collection includes numerous such “war haggadahs” – including one published in 1918 by the Jewish War Services Committee for India in Calcutta, India, which includes a special prayer for the UK Royal Family.
The traditional text – seen in each and every haggadah in this collection — explains the saga of the Egyptian slavery and subsequent flight and rescue of the People of Israel by the Hand of God, led by Moses.
The text does not vary in any haggadah, regardless of style although each is presented very differently, based on origin and population for which it was published – similar to the authenticity of the sacred, unvarying text of the Torah scrolls that have been handed down through the millenia.
A Haggadah for Children with Ladino translation was published in 1865 in Salonika.
The Zevach Pesach Haggadah, published by the Marco Antonio Giustiniani Printing House in Venice is dated 1545.
A more modern Haggadah, one created by the Israeli artist Ya’acov Agam, is comprised of a silk-screened album of some of his finest work, published by Atelier Arkai in Paris, 1985.
And the list goes on.
The extensive collection of haggadahs will be offered at an online auction Wednesday in Jerusalem at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem. As is customary in such cases, the owner’s name has been withheld.Hana Levi Julian