Jew­ish Text

Vayaged Yehonatan, The Eybeshitz Hagad­dah: Expe­ri­enc­ing Redemption

Rab­bi Shalom Hammer
  • Review
By – January 9, 2012
The great 18th cen­tu­ry rab­bini­cal sage, Rab­bi Yehonatan Eybeshitz, was a pro­lif­ic author who com­posed dozens of vol­umes on all areas of Jew­ish knowl­edge, but espe­cial­ly in homilet­ics, Tal­mud, and mys­ti­cism. While all but one were pub­lished posthu­mous­ly, nev­er­the­less, his teach­ings had a great impact on the Jews of his gen­er­a­tion and every gen­er­a­tion since. 

In a fas­ci­nat­ing com­pendi­um, Vayaged Yehonatan: The Eybeshitz Hag­gadah, Rab­bi Shalom Ham­mer gath­ers mate­r­i­al from across Rab­bi Eybeshitz’s works, and presents them for the first time to an Eng­lish-read­ing audi­ence. This is not an easy task, since much of the orig­i­nal mate­r­i­al is com­plex, con­sist­ing of long dis­cours­es of Tal­mu­dic log­ic of mys­ti­cal ref­er­ences. Yet, Rab­bi Ham­mer has suc­cess­ful­ly dis­tilled the infor­ma­tion, and pre­sent­ed it in a man­ner that a broad audi­ence can tru­ly appreciate. 

This is not to sug­gest that this work is shal­low or easy, or even the source for short, pithy com­ments on the hag­gadah — because it isn’t. Rather, this work offers the read­er a bal­ance between com­plex and sim­ple thoughts, often expand­ed upon by Rab­bi Ham­mer, who adds his own insights and appli­ca­tions to cur­rent issues. 

Of course, for those seek­ing an more in-depth study of Rab­bi Eybeshitz’s views on the hag­gadah, the only course of action is to con­sult the orig­i­nal Hebrew lan­guage edi­tions of his works, such as his mys­ti­cal com­men­tary on chad gadya or the cur­rent­ly out-of-print Hebrew lan­guage com­pi­la­tion, Eybeshitz Hag­gadah.” But, for a very good addi­tion to a col­lec­tion of hag­gadot to con­sult in prepa­ra­tion for the seder, Vayaged Yehonatan: The Eybeshitz Hag­gadah is an impor­tant work.
Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D., serves as asso­ciate super­in­ten­dent of the Asso­ci­at­ed Tal­mud Torahs of Chica­go, direc­tor of its Mor­ris and Rose Gold­man Com­put­er Depart­ment for Jew­ish Stud­ies, dean of Ida Crown Jew­ish Acad­e­my, and rab­bi of Con­gre­ga­tion K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park (Chica­go).

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