Jew­ish Text

The Hyper-Mod­ern Ancient With-It Tra­di­tion­al Haggadah

Tzvi Free­man
  • Review
By – April 1, 2014

Begin­ning with the com­mand that you have to tell the sto­ry of the Exo­dus as if it hap­pened to you, Rab­bi Tzvi Free­man, author and direc­tor of the Ask the Rab­bi fea­ture for Chabad​.org, has cre­at­ed a user-friend­ly total­ly tra­di­tion­al hag­gadah, com­plete with the clas­sic com­men­taries, full Hebrew text, and stan­dard trans­la­tion of the litur­gy, but has framed it in every­day idiomat­ic street lan­guage. So there’s a rap ver­sion of Kadesh, urchatz…,” and tonight the rasha, here the chilled-out kid, asks, Why do you guys do all this?” We’re intro­duced to the embar­rass­ing and shame­ful fact…. Orig­i­nal­ly our ances­tors were idol­a­tors.” The leader tells us, Stop and read this…. We’re about to do the mat­zo thing, and it ain’t sim­ple,” fol­lowed short­ly by the total­ly awe­some mitz­vah eat­ing ceremony.” 

There sure­ly is appeal in this I’m‑one-of-you approach, enhanced by live­ly full-col­or car­toons. For peo­ple unfa­mil­iar with the seder or tired of the same old thing, The Hyper-Mod­ern… might be a refresh­ing change, espe­cial­ly for com­mu­nal seders, where there’s a wide range of knowl­edge and famil­iar­i­ty with the seder. Free­man is rather suc­cess­ful in mak­ing a tra­di­tion­al seder infor­mal and com­fort­able while retain­ing its seri­ous­ness of pur­pose. He also offers a few prac­ti­cal tips on man­ag­ing a well-paced evening. Free­man sug­gests that the lan­guage is so casu­al that guests at the seder might think you’re mak­ing it up as you go along; those lead­ers who like to bring them­selves into the seder — Freeman’s goal — might pre­fer to use their own words. In all, a well-planned effort at out­reach — acces­si­ble, hip, but total­ly tra­di­tion­al and instruc­tive in all the basics. Full Hebrew text and Eng­lish trans­la­tion; min­i­mal transliteration.

Relat­ed Content:

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