The Bible tells us to recount the story of the Exodus annually. The Rabbis have taught that he who expands upon the story of the Exodus is most praiseworthy. This explains why there are more commentaries on the text of the Passover Haggadah than on any other Jewish text. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, possibly the greatest rabbinic sage and thinker of the 20th century, did not write such a commentary. However, throughout his half century of teaching Talmud, writing essays and novellae, delivering lectures, and speaking at various forums in English and in Yiddish, he elaborated on many themes related to the Exodus, to Passover, to the Haggadah, and to cognate subjects.
Rabbi Menachem Genack, a devoted and talented disciple, has gathered and arranged many of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s teachings from disparate sources into a commentary on the Haggadah. Unlike some commentaries which offer pithy observations or brief comments on the text, this commentary is thematic and examines topics a bit more in depth.
Rabbi Soloveichik (“The Rav”) felt strongly that the recitation of the Haggadah should be an exercise in Torah study and his comments are informed by that philosophy. Simple acts such as eating the various seder foodstuffs are analyzed and elevated through the prism of Tamudic and rabbinic debate regarding the nature of the mitzvah, its sources, and its status. In one essay, the Rav analyzes the obligation of women to drink the four cups since they are normally exempt from time bound commandments, and elsewhere he comments on the custom to recite “Next year in Jerusalem” at the conclusion of the seder and the connection this has to a similar custom at the end of the Yom Kippur service.
For those not privileged to have studied with the Rav, or not able to delve into his philosophical and rabbinic writings, this anthology of comments on the Haggadah is a wonderful introduction to the teachings of Rabbi Soloveitchik.