How to choose a Passover Haggadah
April 12, 2019
(MyJewishLearning via JTA)—With thousands of published Haggadahs available for purchase, choosing the one that is best for your seder can be overwhelming. For an overview of the many possibilities, we recommend “HowIs This Haggadah Different?”
Here are some things you might want to consider when selecting a Haggadah:
Remember, you’ll need a copy of the Haggadah for each guest (or every two guests, if people are comfortable sharing). Unless you plan to buy one copy and then do some extensive photocopying—we should note, that’s illegal for copyrighted publications—you’ll have to multiply the book’s price by the number of guests.
There are also many free downloadable PDF versions online, like at mezuzahstore.com and chabad.org, or you could choose to make your own.
If your guests are expecting the traditional seder, complete with Hebrew, they might be uncomfortable with an abridged Haggadah, an LGBTQ Haggadah or one that emphasizes contemporary examples of oppression and slavery. On the other hand, if many are first-time seder-goers or lack the patience for a really long seder, something like “The 30-Minute Seder” or a book that relates the Exodus to modern social issues might be just the thing.
Since children generally don’t like sitting still at the table for long, we recommend an abbreviated or child-oriented Haggadah. There are many great children’s and “family” Haggadahs that engage adults as well as kids. Be sure to check out this list on Kveller for the best Haggadahs for kids. For the older kids, think about acting out skits from the seder.
The first two days of Passover are yom tov, days like Shabbat, when traditional Jewish observance forbids activities like writing and using electronics. If this is not an issue for you, however, a number of Haggadahs are now available as e-books and apps, usually at lower prices than printed versions (with the added advantage that you will not need to find a place to store them after the seder). While many are just digital versions of printed Haggadahs, others incorporate multimedia features.
A free one from JewishBoston.com has music and other materials in addition to the standard text. One on iTunes has text and music, plus interactive commentary and games.
Haggadahs come in an array of designs and styles, with art ranging from contemporary to ancient. The downside of a gorgeous tome, however, is that there’s a good chance one of your guests will spill wine all over it. (That can happen with any Haggadah, but you probably won’t mind so much if it’s inexpensive or more about function than aesthetic.)
For a beautiful (and modern) Haggadah, check out the New American Haggadah and The Bronfman Haggadah. The Syzk Haggadah, created in the 1930s, features illustrations in the style of illuminated manuscripts.
Julie Wiener is managing editor of MyJewishLearning.