Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Announcement: Gabriel Wasserman's Haggadah

Book Announcement:
הגדה של פסח "אשירה ואשננה בחשיקות"
מאת גבריאל וסרמן

I heartily endorse this. Gabriel is a fine scholar and his Haggadah is very interesting, it is unique and worth owning. Purchase a copy here:
-- S. 
Every year, many haggadot are published, with various features, but almost all of them have the nearly identical Hebrew text. Yes, Ashkenazic haggadot have a few songs at the end that are not in most Sephardic haggadot, and some Sephardic haggadot may have a few kabbalistic passages that are not in Ashkenazic haggadot, but by and large the texts are well-nigh identical.

In the past, various communities had unique passages that they would include at various points in the seder, but hardly any books today include these passages.

Enter Haggada shel Pesaḥ “Ashira Va’ashannena Baḥashiqot”. The author of this haggada, Gabriel Wasserman, has been working on this book for years, assembling texts from various periods and places; first for use at his own seders, and then, due to popular request, also for sale. The haggada includes the text of the haggada as is customary today, but also three types of supplementary additions, at various points in the text: (a) Passages that were once common in the seder rituals of certain communities, and may still be recited in some communities today; (b) passages from rabbinic or piyyuṭic literature, which were never part of the haggada, but are appropriate for innclusion, in the spirit that “all that expand the story are praiseworthy”; and (c) passages that the author has composed himself, mostly piyyuṭim.

But this is not all. The author has included a commentary on the haggada, focusing mostly on the history of the halakhot and rituals of the seder, and on some literary issues of the texts. More detailed discussions are left for essays in back of the volume. Everything – the standard haggada text, the supplemental passages, the commentary, and the essays – is presented in two facing columns, in Hebrew and English; all translations are by the author.

A sample of the English translation is given here, from the Nishmat prayer:

The soul of every living thing renders blessing unto Thee, O Lord our God, and the spirit of all flesh praises and glorifies the mention of Thee, O our King, forever. For all eternity Thou art God, and besides Thee we have no king, redeemer or rescuer, ransomer or releaser, who sustains and has compassion in every time of distress and trouble – we have no king but Thee!

Besides the essays in the back of the volume, there are also sections including recipes (in facing Hebrew and English), and musical notation of some tunes, with discussions of the history of these tunes (again, in Hebrew and English).

One unusual feature of this haggada is that it includes not only texts for seder night, but also for lunchtime on the first two days of Pesaḥ, havdala, and, for the first time, for the night of the seventh and last nights of the holiday, called Yom Vayyosha‘ after the opening word in Exodus 14:30. (The Yom Vayyosha‘ texts, unfortunately, are not translated, but hopefully will be in a future edition.)

You can view some sample pages here.

Available for purchase here.


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