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The Passover Haggadah

The Haggadah, the liturgy recited at the domestic ritual on the eve of the Passover holiday, is one of the most popular texts in Jewish tradition and has been printed as an independent book, in thousands of editions, since the beginning of printing. Recounting the tale of the Exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egypt and intended for children as well as adults, the Haggadah has as often as not been issued with accompanying illustrations, always reflecting the cultural milieu of the period and place of publication. Sundry philosophical, theological, and mystical commentaries are also to be found in many editions. Similarly, for the sake of the entire family's participation, translations (Judeo-German and Judeo-Italian among the first) have often supplemented the original text of the Haggadah in Hebrew and Aramaic. Published in every country of Jewish settlement, the Haggadah is itself a symbol of the continuity and renewal of the Jewish people in every age. The ubiquitous wine stains on the leaves of old Haggadahs, such as those here, are ancient reminders of a living tradition.

Isaac b. Judah Abravanel, of Lisbon
and Naples, 1437-1508
Graphical element
[ Zevah Pesah ]
Constantinople: David and Samuel
Ibn Nahmias, 1505-1506.

One of the earliest printed Haggadahs known to exist, this edition is the first published with Abravanel's lengthy commentary, later reprinted many times. This was the third book ever printed in Constantinople.

Hag- gadah 1722
Liturgy and Ritual. Passover Haggadah
Graphical element
[ Hagadah shel Pesah im perush Avodat ha-Gefen ]
Offenbach: Israel b. Moses Halle,
through Bonaventura de la Naye,

The text of this Haggadah is accompanied by a double commentary, half-mystical, written by Judah Leyb b. Elijah, rabbi of Horodetz, and his son Ze'ev Wolf, rabbi of Pinsk. The primitive woodcuts by an unknown artist imitate the copper engravings in the 1695 Amsterdam Haggadah, which were executed by Abraham b. Jacob, a former Protestant pastor who converted to Judaism. The latter himself had copied biblical engravings by the Swiss artist Merian.

Hag- gadah 1763

Hag- gadah 1763
Liturgy and Ritual. Passover Haggadah
Graphical element
[ Hagadah shel Pesah ]
Manuscript: Altona, 1763.

This manuscript Haggadah follows the textual format and imitates many copper engravings of the 1695 Amsterdam Haggadah. Written and illustrated (in colour) by the scribe-artist Elkanah "Pituhei Hotam" b. Meir Malir of Altona, the Haggadah includes, as does its prototype, the commentary of Abravanel in the margin, and table songs with Yiddish (Judeo-German) translation at the end.

Hag- gadah 1763

Liturgy and Ritual. Passover Haggadah
Graphical element
[ Hagadah Seder shel Pesah ]
Fuerth: Itsik b. David, 1787.

As in editions of the Jewish liturgy, very often only instructions or brief notes in the vernacular accompany the Hebrew text of the Haggadah, without any translation of the text itself. In this edition the instructional notes in Yiddish, meant for women and children, appear in the special script known as vayber-taytsh (Weiber-Teutsch), typical of the period.

Go to Chap. 11 Go to Chap. 13


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