The Haggadah (Hebrew: הַגָּדָה, "telling"; plural: Haggadot) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder. According to Jewish practice, reading the Haggadah at the Seder table is a fulfillment of the mitzvah to each Jew to tell their children the story from the Book of Exodus about God bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.
According to Jewish tradition, the Haggadah was compiled during the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods, although the exact date is unknown. It could not have been written earlier than the time of Judah bar Ilai (circa 170 CE), who is the latest tanna to be quoted therein. Abba Arika and Samuel of Nehardea (circa 230 CE) argued on the compilation of the Haggadah, and hence it had not been completed as of then. Based on a Talmudic statement, it was completed by the time of "Rav Nachman". There is a dispute, however, to which Rav Nachman the Talmud was referring: according to some commentators, this was Rav Nachman bar Yaakov (circa 280 CE), while others maintain this was Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak (360 CE).
However, the Malbim, along with a minority of commentators, believe that Abba Arika and Samuel were not arguing on its compilation, but rather on its interpretation, and hence it was completed before then. According to this explanation, the Haggadah was written during the lifetime of Judah ha-Nasi (who was a student of Judah bar Ilia and the teacher of Abba Arika and Samuel) the compiler of the Mishnah. The Malbim theorized that the Haggadah was written by Judah ha-Nasi himself.
One of the most ancient parts is the recital of the "Hallel," which, according to the Mishnah (Pesachim 5:7), was sung at the sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem, and of which, according to the school of Shammai, only the first chapter shall be recited. After the Psalms a blessing for the Redemption is to be said. This blessing, according to Rabbi Tarfon, runs as follows: "Praised art Thou, O Lord, King of the Universe, who hast redeemed us, and hast redeemed our fathers from Egypt."
Another part of the oldest ritual, as is recorded in the Mishnah, is the conclusion of the "Hallel" (up to Psalms 118), and the closing benediction of the hymn "Birkat ha-Shir," which latter the Amoraim explain differently, but which evidently was similar to the benediction thanking God, "who loves the songs of praise," used in the present ritual.
These blessings, and the narrations of Israel's history in Egypt, based on Deuteronomy 26:5–9 and on Joshua 24:2–4, with some introductory remarks, were added in the time of the early Amoraim in the third century CE.
In post-Talmudic times, during the era of the Geonim, selections from midrashim were added; most likely Rabbi Amram Gaon (c. 850) was the originator of the present collection, as he was the redactor of the daily liturgy in the siddur. Of these midrashim one of the most important is that of the four children, representing four different attitudes towards why Jews should observe Passover. This division is taken from the Jerusalem Talmud and from a parallel passage in the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael; it is slightly altered in the present ritual. Other rabbinic quotes from the aggadah literature are added, as the story of Eliezer ben Hurcanus, who discussed the Exodus all night with four other rabbis, which tale is found in an altogether different form in the Tosefta.
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 little goat" (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.
The text of the Haggadah was never fixed in one, final form, as no rabbinic body existed which had authority over such matters. Instead, each local community developed its own text. A variety of traditional texts took on a standardized form by the end of the medieval era on the Ashkenazi (Eastern European) and Sephardi (Spanish, North African, and Middle Eastern) communities.
The Karaites and also the Samaritans developed their own Haggadot which they use to the present day.
During the era of the Enlightenment the European Jewish community developed into groups that reacted in different ways to modifications of the Haggadah.
The oldest surviving complete manuscript of the Haggadah dates to the 10th century. It is part of a prayer book compiled by Saadia Gaon. It is now believed that the Haggadah first became produced as an independent book in codex form around 1000 CE. Maimonides (1135–1204) included the Haggadah in his code of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah. Existing manuscripts do not go back beyond the thirteenth century. When such a volume was compiled, it became customary to add poetical pieces.
The earliest surviving Haggadot produced as works in their own right are manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries, such as the Golden Haggadah (probably Barcelona c. 1320, now British Library) 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, Lombardy 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 to 1960 alone, over 1,100 Haggadot were printed. It is not uncommon, particularly in America, for haggadot to be produced by corporate entities, such as coffee maker Maxwell House – see Maxwell House Haggadah – serving as texts for the celebration of Passover, but also as marketing tools and ways of showing that certain foods are kosher.
The earliest Ashkenazi illuminated Haggada is known as the Birds' Head Haggadah, made in Germany around the 1320s and now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The Rylands Haggadah (Rylands Hebrew MS. 6) is one of the finest Haggadot in the world. It was written and illuminated in Spain in the 14th century and is an example of the cross-fertilisation between Jewish and non-Jewish artists within the medium of manuscript illumination. In spring and summer 2012 it was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in the exhibition 'The Rylands Haggadah: Medieval Jewish Art in Context'.
The British Library's 14th century Barcelona Haggadah (BL Add. MS 14761) is one of the most richly pictorial of all Jewish texts. Meant to accompany the Passover eve service and festive meal, it was also a status symbol for its owner in 14th-century Spain. Nearly all its folios are filled with miniatures depicting Passover rituals, Biblical and Midrashic episodes, and symbolic foods. A facsimile edition was published by Facsimile Editions of London in 1992.
Published in 1526, the Prague Haggadah is known for its attention to detail in lettering and for 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 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".
Other illuminated Haggadot include the Sarajevo Haggadah, Washington Haggadah, and the 20th-century Szyk Haggadah.
Main article: Passover Seder
Kadeish is the Hebrew imperative form of Kiddush. This Kiddush is a blessing similar to that which is recited on all of the pilgrimage festivals, but also refers to matzot and the exodus from Egypt. Acting in a way that shows freedom and majesty, many Jews have the custom of filling each other's cups at the Seder table. The Kiddush is traditionally said by the father of the house, but all Seder participants participate by reciting the Kiddush and drinking at least a majority of a cup of wine. On Shabbat, it is preceded by a reading from the Book of Genesis recounting God's rest on the seventh day of creation and includes an extended doxology on the blessings of Shabbat.
Partakers wash their hands in preparation for eating wet fruit and vegetables, which happens in the next stage. Technically, according to Jewish law, whenever one partakes of fruit or vegetables dipped in liquid, one must wash one's hands, if the fruit or vegetable remains wet. However, this situation does not often arise at other times of the year because either one will dry fruits and vegetables before eating them, or one has already washed one's hands, because one must also wash one's hands before eating bread.
According to most traditions, no blessing is recited at this point in the Seder, unlike the blessing recited over the washing of the hands before eating bread. However, followers of Rambam or the Gaon of Vilna do recite a blessing.
Further information: Karpas
Each participant dips a sprig of parsley or similar leafy green into either salt water (Ashkenazi custom said to serve as a reminder of the tears shed by their enslaved ancestors), vinegar (Sephardi custom) or charoset (older Sephardi custom; still common among Yemenite Jews).
Three matzot are stacked on the seder table; at this stage, the middle matzah of the three is broken in half. According to the custom of the Vilna Gaon and others, only two matzot are used, and the top one is broken. The larger piece is hidden, to be used later as the afikoman, the "dessert" after the meal. The smaller piece is returned to its place between the other two matzot.
The story of Passover, and the change from slavery to freedom is told. At this point in the Seder, Sefardic Jews (North African) have a custom of raising the Seder plate over the heads of all those present while chanting: Moroccan Jews sing "Bivhilu yatzanu mimitzrayim, halahma anya b'nei horin" (In haste we went out of Egypt [with our] bread of affliction, [now we are] free people), Algerian Jews sing "Ethmol 'ayinu abadim, hayom benei 'horin, hayom kan, leshana habaa bear'a deYisrael bene 'horin" (Yesterday we were slaves, today we are free, today we are here -in exile-, next year we will be in Israel free".
Main article: Ha Lachma Anya
The matzot are uncovered, and referred to as the "bread of affliction". Participants declare in Aramaic an invitation to all who are hungry or needy to join in the Seder. Halakha requires that this invitation be repeated in the native language of the country.
Main article: Ma Nishtana
The Mishnah details questions one is obligated to ask on the night of the Seder. It is customary for the youngest child present to recite the four questions. Some customs hold that the other participants recite them quietly to themselves as well. In some families, this means that the requirement remains on an adult "child" until a grandchild of the family receives sufficient Jewish education to take on the responsibility. If a person has no children capable of asking, the responsibility falls to the spouse, or another participant. The need to ask is so great that even if a person is alone at the seder he is obligated to ask himself and to answer his own questions.
Why is this night different from all other nights?
The traditional Haggadah speaks of "four sons—one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not know to ask". The number four derives from the four passages in the Torah where one is commanded to explain the Exodus to one's son. Each of these sons phrases his question about the seder in a different way. The Haggadah recommends answering each son according to his question, using one of the three verses in the Torah that refer to this exchange.
The wise son asks "What are the statutes, the testimonies, and the laws that God has commanded you to do?" One explanation for why this very detailed-oriented question is categorized as wise, is that the wise son is trying to learn how to carry out the seder, rather than asking for someone else's understanding of its meaning. He is answered fully: You should reply to him with [all] the laws of pesach: one may not eat any dessert after the paschal sacrifice.
The wicked son, who asks, "What is this service to you?", is characterized by the Haggadah as isolating himself from the Jewish people, standing by objectively and watching their behavior rather than participating. Therefore, he is rebuked by the explanation that "It is because God acted for my sake when I left Egypt." (This implies that the Seder is not for the wicked son because the wicked son would not have deserved to be freed from Egyptian slavery.) Where the four sons are illustrated in the Haggadah, this son has frequently been depicted as carrying weapons or wearing stylish contemporary fashions.
The simple son, who asks, "What is this?" is answered with "With a strong hand the Almighty led us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage."
And the one who does not know to ask is told, "It is because of what the Almighty did for me when I left Egypt."
Some modern Haggadot mention "children" instead of "sons", and some have added a fifth child. The fifth child can represent the children of the Shoah who did not survive to ask a question or represent Jews who have drifted so far from Jewish life that they do not participate in a Seder.
Four verses in Deuteronomy (26:5–8) are then expounded, with an elaborate, traditional commentary. ("5. And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God: 'A wandering Aramean was my parent, and they went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. 7. And we cried unto the LORD, the God of our parents, and the LORD heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders.")
The Haggadah explores the meaning of those verses, and embellishes the story. This telling describes the slavery of the Jewish people and their miraculous salvation by God. This culminates in an enumeration of the Ten Plagues:
With the recital of the Ten Plagues, each participant removes a drop of wine from his or her cup using a fingertip. Although this night is one of salvation, the sages explain that one cannot be completely joyous when some of God's creatures had to suffer. A mnemonic acronym for the plagues is also introduced: "D'tzach Adash B'achav", while similarly spilling a drop of wine for each word.
At this part in the Seder, songs of praise are sung, including the song Dayenu, which proclaims that had God performed any single one of the many deeds performed for the Jewish people, it would have been enough to obligate us to give thanks. After this is a declaration (mandated by Rabban Gamliel) of the reasons of the commandments concerning the Paschal lamb, matzah, and maror, with scriptural sources. Then follows a short prayer, and the recital of the first two psalms of Hallel (which will be concluded after the meal). A long blessing is recited, and the second cup of wine is drunk.
The ritual hand-washing is repeated, this time with all customs including a blessing.
Two blessings are recited. First one recites the standard blessing before eating bread, which includes the words "who brings forth" (motzi in Hebrew). Then one recites the blessing regarding the commandment to eat Matzah. An olive-size piece (some say two) is then eaten while reclining.
The blessing for the eating of the maror (bitter herbs) is recited and then it is dipped into the charoset and eaten.
The maror is placed between two small pieces of matzo, similarly to how the contents of a sandwich are placed between two slices of bread, and eaten. This follows the tradition of Hillel, who did the same at his Seder table 2,000 years ago (except that in Hillel's day the Paschal sacrifice, matzo, and maror were eaten together.)
The festive meal is eaten. Traditionally it begins with the charred egg on the Seder plate.
Main article: Afikoman
The afikoman, which was hidden earlier in the Seder, is traditionally the last morsel of food eaten by participants in the Seder.
Each participant receives an at least olive-sized portion of matzo to be eaten as afikoman. After the consumption of the afikoman, traditionally, no other food may be eaten for the rest of the night. Additionally, no intoxicating beverages may be consumed, with the exception of the remaining two cups of wine.
The recital of Birkat Hamazon.
The drinking of the Third Cup of Wine.
Note: The Third Cup is customarily poured before the Grace after Meals is recited because the Third Cup also serves as a Cup of Blessing associated with the Grace after Meals on special occasions.
In many traditions, the front door of the house is opened at this point. Psalms 79:6–7 is recited in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions, plus Lamentations 3:66 among Ashkenazim.
Most Ashkenazim have the custom to fill a fifth cup at this point. This relates to a Talmudic discussion that concerns the number of cups that are supposed to be drunk. Given that the four cups are in reference to the four expressions of redemption in Exodus 6:6–7, some rabbis felt that it was important to include a fifth cup for the fifth expression of redemption in Exodus 6:8. All agreed that five cups should be poured but the question as to whether or not the fifth should be drunk, given that the fifth expression of redemption concerned being brought into the Land of Israel, which—by this stage—was no longer possessed of an autonomous Jewish community, remained insoluble. The rabbis determined that the matter should be left until Elijah comes (in reference to the notion that Elijah's arrival would precipitate the coming of the Messiah, at which time all halakhic questions will be resolved) and the fifth cup came to be known as the Kos shel Eliyahu ("Cup of Elijah"). Over time, people came to relate this cup to the notion that Elijah will visit each home on Seder night as a foreshadowing of his future arrival at the end of the days, when he will come to announce the coming of the Jewish Messiah.
In the late 1980s, Jewish feminists introduced the idea of placing a "Cup of Miriam" filled with water (to represent the well that existed as long as Miriam, Moses' sister, was alive in the desert) beside the Cup of Elijah. Many liberal Jews now include this ritual at their seders as a symbol of inclusion.
The entire order of Hallel which is usually recited in the synagogue on Jewish holidays is also recited at the Seder table, albeit sitting down. The first two psalms, 113 and 114, are recited before the meal. The remaining psalms 115–118, are recited at this point (in the Hallel section, after Bareich). Psalm 136 (the Great Hallel) is then recited, followed by Nishmat, a portion of the morning service for Shabbat and festivals.
There are a number of opinions concerning the paragraph Yehalelukha which normally follows Hallel, and Yishtabakh, which normally follows Nishmat. Most Ashkenazim recite Yehalelukha immediately following the Hallel proper, i.e. at the end of Psalm 118, except for the concluding words. After Nishmat, they recite Yishtabakh in its entirety. Sephardim recite Yehalelukha alone after Nishmat. The minhag of the French Jews in the Middle Ages, as well as Italian Jews until fairly recently was to recite both blessings.
Afterwards the Fourth Cup of Wine is drunk and a brief Grace for the "fruit of the vine" is said. In some Ashkenazic communities following in the tradition of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, the fourth cup is not drunk until after the recitation of some of the piyyutim of Nirtzah.
Main article: Passover songs
The Seder concludes with a prayer that the night's service be accepted. A hope for the Messiah is expressed: "L'Shana Haba'ah b'Yerushalayim! – Next year in Jerusalem!" Jews in Israel, and especially those in Jerusalem, recite instead "L'shanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim hab'nuyah! – Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem!"
Although the 15 orders of the Seder have been completed, the Haggadah concludes with additional songs which further recount the miracles that occurred on this night in Ancient Egypt as well as throughout history. Some songs express a prayer that the Beit Hamikdash will soon be rebuilt. The last song to be sung is Chad Gadya ("One Kid [young goat]"). This seemingly childish song about different animals and people who attempted to punish others for their crimes and were in turn punished themselves, was interpreted by the Vilna Gaon as an allegory of the retribution God will levy over the enemies of the Jewish people at the end of days.
Following the Seder, those who are still awake may recite the Song of Songs, engage in Torah learning, or continue talking about the events of the Exodus until sleep overtakes them.