Richard Codor­’s Joy­ous Hag­gadah: The Illu­mi­nat­ed Passover Story

Richard and Lio­ra Codor
  • Review
By – April 20, 2012
In the begin­ning was Maxwell House.

For tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans the Maxwell House hag­gadah — first pub­lished in 1934 to pro­mote kosher-for-Passover cof­fee— was as much a part of the hol­i­day as matza and gefilte fish. Its plain pipe-rack pre­sen­ta­tion was the req­ui­site pre­lude to the culi­nary extrav­a­gan­za that con­sti­tut­ed the high­light of the evening. Over the past sev­er­al decades, how­ev­er, there has been a pro­lif­er­a­tion of hag­gadot cen­tered on the mean­ing of the hol­i­day and direct­ed, like these new ver­sions, at engag­ing all the par­tic­i­pants in the seder. In addi­tion to new hag­gadot, there are two new com­men­taries, with the full text of the seder, dis­cussing the devel­op­ment and deep­en­ing the mean­ing of this most observed of Jew­ish rituals.

In A Night to Remem­ber: The Hag­gadah of Con­tem­po­rary Voic­es, the father and son team of Mishael Zion and Noam Zion draw every mem­ber of the fam­i­ly into the seder. The sequel to the live­ly and high­ly imag­i­na­tive hag­gadah A Dif­fer­ent Night (1997), A Night to Remem­ber brings togeth­er games, songs, thought­ful quo­ta­tions, var­ied col­or illus­tra­tions, and help­ful sug­ges­tions and expla­na­tions that run along­side the tra­di­tion­al text. The for­mat allows the leader to tai­lor the seder to all the par­tic­i­pants, young and old. The empha­sis on con­tem­po­rary voic­es, from Rab­bi Joseph Soloveitchik and Amos Oz to Toni Mor­ri­son and Leonard Cohen, under­lines the uni­ver­sal mes­sage of the Exodus.

Richard and Lio­ra Codor drew on their own very dif­fer­ent seder expe­ri­ences to cre­ate a hag­gadah for their fam­i­ly. Richard remem­bers hors­ing around with his cousins under the table while his uncle droned on; Lio­ra drew on the spring fes­ti­val that was part of her kib­butz seder. Although con­cise, Richard Codor’s Joy­ous Hag­gadah retells the full Passover sto­ry in a brisk nar­ra­tive, incor­po­rat­ing expla­na­tions of the rit­u­als as it goes along and cap­tur­ing the fes­tiv­i­ty of the sea­son. The car­toon-style illus­tra­tions and translit­er­a­tion make this an excel­lent choice for fam­i­lies with young chil­dren. For the tra­di­tion­al- mind­ed the min­i­mal Hebrew may pose a problem.

Over the past five cen­turies it is esti­mat­ed that 3,000 hag­gadot have been pub­lished, many mem­o­rable for the out­stand­ing qual­i­ty of their cal­lig­ra­phy and art. Hag­gadah Illu­mi­nat­ed by Even Care­dio and illus­trat­ed by Guglielo­mo Bigi Bena­já fol­lows this tra­di­tion. The ele­gant text, in Hebrew only, is dec­o­rat­ed with rich illus­tra­tions inspired by medieval art. It is a delight to read for both the clar­i­ty of the text and the grace and joy of the illustrations.

A hag­gadah is only the begin­ning of the eight-day Passover cel­e­bra­tion. With the dark of win­ter behind us and our homes fresh with spring air and spring clean­ing, each night of the hol­i­day can be enriched with sto­ries for chil­dren and new dish­es from a vari­ety of tra­di­tions. Just check out the shelves at your local library or book­store for ideas that you can make part of your Passover cel­e­bra­tion and fam­i­ly traditions.

Addi­tion­al Titles Fea­tured in Review

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions