Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Initial Bibliography of Important Haggadah Literature

Initial Bibliography of Important Haggadah Literature
by Eliezer Brodt

All are aware of the proliferation of Haggadahs. Every year more and more are published thus making it difficult to know which versions are worthwhile. Thus, in this post I intend to focus on a listing a small bibliographical list of seforim relating to the Haggadah that are, in my mind, some of the most important ones.

In light of the fact I am going to select a few Haggadahs from the many, a caveat of sorts is in order. When discussing the "best" books it is good to keep in mind the comments of R. Eliyahu ben Avrohom Shlomo HaKohen (d. 1729) in his Shevet Mussar (ch. 28) who writes the following regarding affinities towards particular seforim:

ותראה בני אדם שלומדים ענין אחד מדרוש או ממוסר בספר אחד ואין טועמים ממנו ואין נרשם הדבר בשכלם. והענין או דברי המוסר בעצמו לומדים אותו בספר אחר הבא בשינו לשון ובמלות שונות וטועמים ממנו ונרשם הענין בדעתם ומגדלים ומשבחים אותו ענין. ובהפך אם אחד למד ענין בספר שלמד זה וטעם הוא אינו טועם כטעם הספר שלא טעם חבירו. טעמו של דבר שכל הטועם מענין הספר שלמד יש לו איזה שורש לנשמתו בנשמת מחבר הספר כיון שהם משורש אחד לכן טועם לשונו ונרשמים הדברים בליבו. לא כן מספר שלמד ולא טעם אף על פי שהענין אחד משום שאין לנשמתו שום קורבה ואחיזה בנשמת המחבר אותו ספר.

Basically, according each persons taste of a sefer could be different and the reason has to do with some sort of connection with the author of the sefer. Further, when it comes to the Haggadah and specifically the importance of the Haggadah the comments of the Sefer Hamaskil are instructive (p. 70):

מה טוב ומה נעים לעיין תמיד דבר בעתו בכל שבוע ושבוע בפירוש חומש ומחזיר וסליחות... ואגדת פסח

His basic point being that one should try to prepare before each occasion the tefilos we specific to that occasion – and for Pesach that is the Haggadah. (For more information regarding the Sefer Hamaskil see the excellent article from Rabbi M. Honig in Yerushcanu vol. 1).

One final point regarding the study of the Haggadah. The seder is at most two nights and thus some complain that they have no time to discuss or learn all the torah written about the seder in such a limited time. Many years ago I came across a interesting Netziv who writes that one should discuss Yetzis Mitzrim all Pesach not just the seder night [Hemaek Davar shimos 13:8]. Therefore, according the the Netziv, there is plenty of time to delve into the Haggadah and the seder.

As I have written before there is no other sefer which has more written on it than the Haggadah Shel Pesach. This year, on top of all the Haggadahs printed, Chaim Rosenberg has just added to his website of hebrew books 1000 more Haggadahs ! Moreover, the JNUL also has many rare Haggadahs online as well. Below are some of my recommendations of some good works on the Haggadah with some small points about them. I really should have a individual post about each one of these seforim but due to lack of time this should suffice for now.

Haggadahs discussing the historical development of the Haggadah & the Seder:

Many volumes have been written and will continue to be written about the Haggadah and its development. In 1954, R. Menachem M. Kasher had R. Shmuel Askenazi put together a Haggadah, Haggadah Shelama. [Virtually all of the work was done by R. Ashkenazi not by R. Kasher.] This Haggadah has an excellent introduction of forty chapters comprising 224 pages that discuss all aspects relating to the seder including much about the development of the Haggadah as we have it. As is the case with all R. Ashkenazi's works, this work is very well written and organized. It’s based on a very wide range of sources including manuscripts and genizah fragments. These introductory chapters have formed the bases for virtually all good Haggadahs printed since then. The second half of the Haggadah has an excellent collection of pirishim from many of the classic commentaries. This work has been reprinted many times, and is currently in print.

Another important Haggadah was edition by Professor D. Goldschmidt. This is a critical edition of the Haggadah [this is a updated version of previous editions that he had written] it also has much useful information on the development of the Haggadah and is a bit more scientific than Haggadah Shelama. But it is not nearly extensive as the Haggadah Shelama in what topics and information that it covers.

Another interesting work on the Haggada is called Haggadah and History by Professor Yosef Yerushalmi. This work contains 494 pages printed beautifully, describing five centuries of the Haggadah through facsimilie plates. Yerushalmi deals with many points of the particular Haggadahs. He also shows how the Haggadah is a mirror of Jewish history in general.

Another important volume was printed in 1998 by professors [father & son] Shemuel & Zev Safrai, Haggadah's Chazal. This Haggadah is excellent. In the past fifty years, since the printing of Haggadah Shelama, many more manuscripts and genizah fragments have come to light. The Safrai Haggadah makes prodigious use of this new information. It is well written and very user friendly. The Safrais deal with each part of the seder discussing at length the development of the Haggadah from times of Beis Hamikdash onwards. They also go through the entire text discussing various readings, sources, etc. In all, it is more scientific Haggadah then the Haggadah Shelama but less comprehensive. In the U.S. it is available here.

Another excellent work on the seder is Pessach Doros by R. Yosef Tabory published by Kibitz Hameuchad. This work focuses on many aspects of the seder and Haggadah. But this work does not only focus on the Pesach seder instead it discusses and provides sources for everything remotely touching on the seder – including, among others, the development of kiddish, lechem mishna, nitlas yadm on vegetables, and drinking wine in general this work to has a wealth of information on all these topics.

Turning now to non-scientific works on the seder. The first such work is Vayaged Moshe by R. M. Katz. This sefer is full of valuable information and is one of the first collections of all the halachah aspects of the seder. But since its printing there have been many more and better works written.

One such work written a few years back is R. Weingarten's three volume Seder Ha-aruch. The first volume is all about the halachaic aspects relating to the seder. The second volume discusses the aggadic parts relating to the seder. And the third volume is an excelent edition of the Haggadah. This third volume is based on many of the Haggdahs and includes all kinds of torah. It focuses on peshat based on rishonim and includes many other styles of learning as well including chassidius and kabalah. It is very easy to use and if one is leading a seder and has no time to prepare he will certainly find what to say. In general, this work it is very well researched and organized. It basically became a classic. A few works have come out since than I have not seen one done as well.

Another work on the seder is R. Ovadiah Yosef's Chazon Ovadiah. Many years back he printed two volumes under the same title but that was merely a bunch of articles on random topics. More recently, he printed a new edition of the Chazon Ovadiah where he goes through all the halachas of peasach in his encyclopedic style.

A Few Works on the Haggadah:

A few years back Mossad Harav Kook printed a beautiful edition of the Haggadah, Toras Chaim. This Haggadah contains 12 different prisushim of rishonim on the Haggadah based on manuscripts and contains many excellent notes on the texts. It is well worth one's time to study these commentaries which provide the Haggadahs simple peshat. It does, however, take much time and patience (and is confusing) to go through them all at the same time. Instead, it may be easier to divide it up pick one or two commentaries each year. These peshatim are very important as these are the main rishonim and how they understand each part of the Haggdah. They deal with many of the questions one has on the Haggadah but they are not full of sharp crowd catching stuff if one is trying to get the whole seder table into it. That is, when one learns the Haggadah there are many questions he will have as he has when learning any chazal these rishonim deal with many of those problems but they stick straight to peshat not dealing with fancy things or mussar points that people enjoy saying over to the crowd but they are extremely important to learn and in helping one understand the whole Haggadah.

Two minor complaints I have with this edition. Although the print is beautiful the layout is not. I find it a little annoying to use as when one is reading a particular pirish he has to keep on turning pages which is understandable but they are not all in the same place on each page which makes it kind of confusing. For example, some times the Ritvah you are in middle of you have to turn two pages etc. The best would have been to divide the sefer in half and make six pirushim per section making it much easier to use and easier to follow the notes. Another complaint is they should have printed a separate section of the halachos of the seder of these rishonim. This would make an excellent idea for a future work on Pesach and to include all the halchaic works of the rishonim on Pesach already printed by R. S. Stern.

The next Haggdah well worth ones time is the Abarbnel's Zevach Pesach. This Haggadah was the first printed in 1505 and is the first Haggadah printed with a commentary. Since then this Haggadah has been printed well over hundred times including in English. Last year Mossad Rav Kook printed a beautiful edition of this Haggadah.

This Haggadah provides excellent peshat in the well-known Abarbenel style. He begins by asking 100 questions on the Haggadah and than proceeds to answer each one in his clear manner. This Haggadah was and still is one of the most famous and most quoted in the various seforim. The Me'am Loaz Haggadah is heavily based on this Haggadah.

As far as other works of rishonim on the Haggadah, in the past few years, many have been printed by Professor Yakov Speigel. Speigel's editions are based on manuscripts and providedin critical editions. Recently Rabbi David Holzer printed a collection of rishonim from manuscript some of which had been printed by Professor Speigel and some never printed before.

Another work of rishonim printed is called Haggadahs Balei haTosfos also based on manuscripts of the Balei haTosofos on the Haggadah. This year a critical edition based on manuscripts was R. Yosef Gikatilla's Haggadah including many parts never printed before.

This year Mechon Yerushalim issued a new Haggadah, Otzar Mefrshi Haggadah. This collection is beautiful, well done and well organized. It has loads of information on the Haggadah. The style is the same as their Otzar Mifarshei Hatalmud. The editors write in the introduction that they intend to focus on peshat which they do a great job of it. They write they do not intend to bring down everything good as that would fill volumes but they are trying to put together what they could in a usable fashion. They use many hagdas of rishonim and achronim and they are not embarrassed to quote who they use - many times they quote from Seder Haruch etc. Although I think they did a great job and it is worth the money but I think if not for their time dead line the yarzheit of R. Buxbaum. It could have even been better (this is my opinon one can argue of course). For more on this see here.


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