Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rabbi Eliezer Brodt on Haggadah shel Pesach: Reflections on the Past and Present

Haggadah shel Pesach:
Reflections on the Past and Present

by Eliezer Brodt

Perhaps the topic which has engendered the most commentary in Jewish literature is the Haggadah shel Pesach. There are all kinds, in all languages, and with all types of commentary, pictures, etc. Whatever style one can think of, not one, but many Haggadahs have been written. So, whether it’s derush, kabbalah, halakha, mussar or chassidus there are plenty of Haggadahs out there. Then, there are people who specialize in collecting haggadahs although they do not regularly collect seforim. In almost every Jewish house today one can find many kinds of Haggadahs. In 1901 Shmuel Wiener, in A Bibliography of the Passover Haggadah, started to list all the different printings of the Haggadah. Later in 1960, Abraham Yaari, in his work titled A Bibliography of the Passover Haggadah, restarted the listing and reached the number 2700. After that, many bibliographers added ones which Yaari omitted. In 1997, Yitzchak Yudlov printed his bibliography on the Haggadah, entitled The Haggadah Thesaurus. This thesaurus contains a beautiful bibliography of the Pesach Haggadahs from the beginning of printing until 1960. The final number in his bibliography listing is 4715. Of course ever since 1960 there has been many more printed. Every year people print new ones; even people who had never written on the Haggadah have had a Haggadah published under their name, based on culling their other writings and collecting material on the Haggadah. When one goes to the seforim store before Pesach it has become the custom to buy at least one new Haggadah; of course one finds themselves overwhelmed not knowing which to pick!

Every year, besides for the new Haggadahs being printed, old ones are reprinted, some in photo off-set editions, others with completely retype set. One such Haggdah that has been reprinted and retype-set is the Haggadah Marbeh Lesaper. The author is R. Yididiah Tiyah Weil the son of R. Nesanel Weil, the author of the well-known commentary on the Ro”SH – the Korbon Nessanel. This Haggadah was first printed in 1791 and until 2002 it was never reprinted. See Yudolov, The Haggadah Thesaurus pg. 32 #355). Others point out an interesting bibliographical note, specifically that there is no mention of the author on the title page. There is, however, a haskamah (letter of approbation) from Reb Yididiah Weil to the sefer. However, we know that aside from giving a haskamah, he is also the author. R. Eliezer Fleckeles in his sefer Teshuva MeAhavah (vol. 2 siman 239) writes that Reb Yididiah Weil is the author. R. Fleckeles points out that in the Haggadah, the author cites from his father the Korbon Nessanel. Additionally, today we can be certain that R. Yididiah is the author as we have the original manuscript of this work in R. Yedidyah's handwriting is sitting at the Jewish National and University Library on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Ms. Heb. 8°2744).

A bit of biographical information about R. Yedidiah. He was born in 1722 and died in 1806 at the age of 84. He was a student of both his father the Korban Nesanel, and R. Yonason Eibyshutz, and served as the Rav of Karlsruh, and as the Rosh Yeshiva. He wrote much, however, aside for this Haggadah nothing else of his was printed until 1977.[1] And, although some has been published, much of his work remains in manuscript as is apparent here.

The style of this Haggadah is not limited to peshat, rather he includes much in the style of derush and remez. It has many original and interesting explanations on the Haggadah. He also quotes a few things from his father the Korbon Nessanel. Additionally he cites to “old manuscripts” which he found as well.

I would like to give a few samples of the many interesting points I found throughout this Haggadah not specifically related to Pesach. He brings that he heard Jews have one more tooth then non-Jews, 16 on top and 16 on bottom (pg. 33). While discussing if there was the plague of lice afflicted even the Jews, as it appears from the well known Midrash that Yaakov did not want to be buried in Egypt as he didn’t want his body affected by the lice plague. R. Weil wants to suggest that in fact the lice did enter even Goshen, however, this was limited to the animals and did not affect the people themselves. (pg 58). He has an interesting explanation regarding the Midrash that says Yishai, the father of Dovid haMelech, had planned a relationship with his handmaid which supposedly should have resulted in Dovid haMelech's birth; Dovid's mother having switched places with the handmaid resulted in Dovid haMelech being a suspect mamzer in his father's eyes. [2] (pg 100) He brings from an “old manuscript” that the author of Nishmas was ר' שמעון בן כיפא . (pg 114).[3] Another point which he cites to an “old manuscript” is that Shlomo Hamelech wrote ישתבח.(pg 121).[4] He writes that on Yom tov there is a נשמה יתירה although we do not make a מיני בשמים after Yom Tov (pg 115). He also says there are two types of נשמה יתירה on shabbos, although not everyone gets them (pg 115). He brings an interesting discussion from his uncle R. Avraham Brodie about the possibility that Sarah's pregnancy with Yitzchak lasted 12 months (pg 124- 125).[5] He says that he heard the פיוטים חד גדיא ואחד מי יודע were found on a manuscript from the Beis Medrash of the R. Elazar Rokeach (pg 140 and pg 151).[6] He writes that many do not like to say הרחמן הוא יקים לנו סוכת דוד הנופלת on Shabbos and Yom tov because the Beit Hamikdash can not be built on shabbat and Yom Tov. However he writes they are mistaken because Rashi and Tosafot both write (see Rosh Hashanah 30a) that the third Beit Hamikdash will be built by Hashem Himself, which could be even on shabbat and Yom Tov (pg 138). He poses an interesting question in regard to the minhag brought down in the Shulhan Arukh. On Pesach the custom is to use fancy flatware as well as other fancy utensils. The rest of the year, however, we refrain from doing so due to zecher le-churban. Why then, on Pesach can we ignore the concept of zecher l’churbon. He answers from his father that this is the hidden meaning behind חד גדיא, that we remember the churban of both batei mikdash. He then goes on to explain exactly how it is hidden (pg 148).

Feldheim Publishers is to be commended for their choice in investing to reprint this valuable Haggadah, and making it accessible to the Torah community. I heard the sefer has recently gone out of print; my hopes are that Feldheim will see to make the sefer available once again.

[1] See the Introduction to R. Weil’s Hiddushe Rabbi Yedidiah Weil: Masekhet Niddah (Machon Ahvat Shalom, 2003).
[2] Yalkut Mechiri 118:28. See also Birkei Yosef O"Ch 240:4, Siddur HaYaavetz; Siddur HaShL"H to Hallel, and Pesach Einayim to Sotah 10b and Shivli hamaneuh pg 61; Sefer Kushiyot pg 115 and the notes there and Alpha Bet Kadmitah D’Shumuel Zeira from R. Shmuel Ashkenazi pg 239 and onwards.
[3] See also Elbogen, Ha-Tefillah b’Yisrael, pg 86- 87; M. Bar Ilan, Sisrei Tefilah pg 84 and onwards; Mo’adim l’Simcha volume 5 pg 206 – 209 and the Mispacha, Kulmos, issue 34.
[4] See also the Siddur Rokeach pg 233; Siddur R. Shlomo M’Germazia pg 75 and Abudraham (with pairush Tehilah l’Dovid) pg 153 who say the same thing. See the Sha’ar HaKollel (chap. 6, no. 13) and Siddur Tzlusa d’Avraham (vol 1 pg 238) who bring others that argue. However I found that R. Yitzchak Sagi Nohar (the blind) who was the son of the Raavad writes in his pamphlet titled Sod HaDlakas Neros Chanukah at the end (printed in Sefer Zicharon to Rav Yitzchak Hunter and reprinted in back of the Shvut Yitzchak on Chanukah) that Avraham Avinu was the author. See also Ha-Tefillah b’Yisrael pg. 67 and Mo’adim l’Simcha volume 5 pg 210.
[5] see also the lengthy discussion in the recently printed Sefer Amaros Tohros Chitzonis U’Pnimis from R. Yehuda Ha’Chasid in the miluim at the end of the sefer from R. Stal, #6, pg 328-332.
[6] see also R. Yosef Zechariah Stern in his Haggadah Zecher Yosef (pg 30) who writes that he did not find this piut printed before the Sefer maseo Hashem. See also the Haggadah Shelaimah ad. loc.; Assufot, vol 2 pg 201-226; Mo’adim l’Simcha volume 5 chapter 11; Y. Tabory, Pesach Doros, pg. 341-342 and the note on pg 379.

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