With the full moon of Nissan, a week from today, we will recall our exodus from the narrow place of Mitzrayim/Egypt to the expansive freedom of Midbar/wilderness.
Since 1934, the Maxwell House Haggadah has been the world’s most-used version of the Passover story. It is the Haggadah of choice at The White House. Distributed for free as a promotional tool, there are 45 million Maxwell House Haggadahs currently in print in America.
In 1969 Rabbi Arthur Waskow changed the face of Passover celebration by creating an original version of the Haggadah. It was used for a Freedom Seder held on the third night of Passover and the first anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King in the basement of a Black church in Washington DC. About 800 people took part only about half of them Jews.
The Freedom Seder became the model that transformed the traditional exodus message into an affirmation of the liberation for all kinds of celebrants for all kinds of causes. Today, there are 7,000 plus versions in existence, ranging from the short utilitarian, to political to environmental to highly embellished works of art.
This year, Jonathan Safran Foer published The New American Haggadah with a new translation by Nathan Englander, commentary by Jeffrey Goldberg, Lemony Snicket, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, and Nathaniel Deutsch and illustration by Israeli artist, Oded Ezer. It also uses a timeline of how Exodus has appeared throughout Jewish history that ends with space to include personal Seder memories.
Once again it is time to reframe our user’s manual for the Passover Seder to engage every one at the table as slaves being liberated from Egypt.