As people gather around a Passover Seder table, they are usually guided by a Haggadah, which explains the significance of the holiday and its rituals. Selecting a Haggadah is an important part of the celebration because it sets the tone for the meal, ranging from a modern telling of the stories to a more traditional celebration. The New American Haggadah offers a beautifully illustrated traditional translation sprinkled with commentaries from Jewish writers and scholars and additional trivia that provides some unique insight into the holiday, its traditions, and the Jewish culture.
This Haggadah includes the Hebrew text and its English translation of the prayers one would expect to see. The margins include clear and concise explanatory directions (while reclining, drink at least most of the cup of wine) that will be easily followed by even the most novice Seder leaders. Different ways of following some rituals are also discussed, allowing families to establish their own traditions. For example, in explaining the tradition of the afikoman, the text explains that some people utilize one piece of matzah which is found and held hostage until a ransom is paid, while others hide counterfeit afikomans, so that everyone will have a chance to claim a reward.
Additionally, the historical trivia found through the book provides a wealth of interesting information such as the fact that as of 1939 New York remained the world’s largest Jewish city, and while the majority of Jews stilled lived in Europe, the United State still had the largest population of any country in the world. Another interesting fact mentioned is that the Dalai Lama was the guest of honor at a 1997 Seder (along with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch) at which time he declared that matzah was “very tasty” and he clapped along to one of the more recognizable Passover songs entitled ‘Dayenu.’
Families that plan to host a Seder this year will likely enjoy this new Haggadah, which will introduce guests to new traditions while remaining loyal to those that predated it. The beautiful illustrations found throughout the book further enhance its appeal.