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Passover Preparations in the "Sister Haggadah"

Passover Preparations in the

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&ldquoNow on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, &lsquoWhere will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?&rsquo&rdquo (v. 17).

With the Passover at hand, the disciples come to Jesus to inquire of the place where the meal is to be eaten (Matt. 26:17). This festival, one of the most important feast days on the Jewish calendar, has to be celebrated within Jerusalem proper, and so our Lord and His followers must find a place to eat the Passover meal within the city, for they have been staying in Bethany (v. 6). Christ is able to direct His disciples on how they may find a room in which to eat the Passover, and they then go forth to follow His instructions (vv. 18&ndash19).

Day fourteen of the Jewish month of Nisan is the Day of Preparation for the Passover on which the lambs are slaughtered at twilight (Ex. 12:5&ndash6). The sacrifice occurs in the afternoon, which is the end of the day (Jews consider the setting of the sun as the beginning of a new day). Fifteen Nisan, which begins at sundown immediately following the afternoon the lambs are killed, is the actual feast day (v. 8). Some scholars believe Jesus dies as the lambs are being slaughtered on the fourteenth of Nisan, in which case our Lord and His disciples eat the Passover one day in advance. Others say that Christ and His followers follow the traditional schedule, meaning that Jesus dies on fifteen Nisan, a day after the lambs are sacrificed. Either way, the Last Supper is a Passover meal, which will help us interpret its meaning properly as our study progresses.

According to custom, Christ and His apostles will begin the Passover meal with a prayer of thanksgiving over the first of four cups of wine. A course of herbs follows, along with the Passover haggadah (recollection of the exodus events) and the singing of the first part of the Hallel (Pss. 113&ndash114). A second cup of wine begins the main course of lamb, after which is the third cup, the cup of blessing. A prayer of thanksgiving, the rest of the Hallel (Pss. 115&ndash118), and the fourth cup of wine round out the celebration. All of this will take time to prepare, which accounts for the disciples&rsquo concern to get things started early.

Jesus follows the Passover customs, but He guides all the events. He determines where He will eat the supper and makes provisions. He sovereignly lays down His life, no one takes it from Him unwillingly (John 10:11&ndash18).

The Golden Haggadah

The preparation for the Passover festival: upper right: Miriam (Moses’ sister), holding a timbrel decorated with an Islamic motif, is joined by maidens dancing and playing contemporary musical instruments upper left: the master of the house, sitting under a canopy, orders the distribution of matzoh (unleavened bread) and haroset (a sweet made from nuts and fruit) to the children lower right: the house is prepared for Passover, the man holding a candle searches for leavened bread on the night before Passover and the woman and girl clean bottom left: sheep are slaughtered for Passover and a man purifies utensils in a cauldron over a fire. From the Golden Haggadah, c. 1320, northern Spain, probably Barcelona (British Library, MS. 27210, fol. 15 recto)

On the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, a child traditionally asks a critical question: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This question sets up the ritual narration of the story of Passover, when Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt with a series of miraculous events (recounted in the Jewish Bible in the book of Exodus).

Four plagues (clockwise from top left): painful boils afflict the Egyptians, swarms of frogs overrun the land, pestilence kills the domestic animals and wild animals invade the city. From the Golden Haggadah, c. 1320, northern Spain, probably Barcelona (British Library, MS. 27210, fol. 12 verso)

For the last and most terrible in a series of miraculous plagues that ultimately convinced the Egyptian Pharaoh to free the Jews—the death of the first born sons of Egypt—Moses commanded the Jews to paint a red mark on their doors. In doing so, the Angel of Death “passed over” these homes and the children survived. The story of Passover—of miraculous salvation from slavery—is one that is recounted annually by many Jews at a seder, the ritual meal that marks the beginning of the holiday.

The plague of the first-born: in the upper-right corner, three scenes: an angel strikes a man, the queen mourns her baby, and the funeral of the first-born upper left: Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave Egypt, the Israelites, holding lumps of dough, walk with hands raised illustrating the verse: “And the children of Israel went out with a high hand” bottom right: pursuing Egyptians are shown as contemporary knights led by a king bottom left: the Israelites’ safely cross the Red Sea, Moses takes a last look at the drowning Egyptians. From the Golden Haggadah, c. 1320, northern Spain Plagues (clockwise from top left), probably Barcelona (British Library, MS. 27210, fol. 14 verso)

A luxurious book

The book used to tell the story of Passover around the seder table each year is a special one, known as a haggadah (haggadot, pl). The Golden Haggadah, as you might imagine given its name, is one of the most luxurious examples of these books ever created. In fact, it is one of the most luxurious examples of a medieval illuminated manuscript, regardless of use or patronage. So although the Golden Hagaddah has a practical purpose, it is also a fine work of art used to signal the wealth of its owners.

Left: Taking his family back to Egypt, Moses meets Aaron on the way and Zipporah, holding two babies in her arms, rides a mule right: an angel appears above the bush that burns but is not consumed and on divine instructions, Moses takes off his shoes and hides his face when he hears the voice of God. Upper part of a page from the Golden Haggadah, c. 1320, Northern Spain, probably Barcelona (British Library, MS. 27210, fol. 1o verso)

A hagaddah usually includes the prayers and readings said during the meal and sometimes contained images that could have served as a sort of pictorial aid to envision the history of Passover around the table. In fact, the word “haggadah” actually means “narration” in Hebrew. The Golden Haggadah is one of the most lavishly decorated medieval Haggadot, containing 56 miniatures (small paintings) found within the manuscript. The reason it is called the “Golden” Haggadah is clear—each miniature is decorated with a brilliant gold-leaf background. As such, this manuscript would have been quite expensive to produce and was certainly owned by a wealthy Jewish family. So although many haggadot show signs of use—splashes of wine, etc.—the fine condition of this particular haggadah means that it might have served a more ceremonial purpose, intended to showcase the prosperity of this family living near Barcelona in the early fourteenth century.

Gothic in style

Moses and Aaron come before Pharaoh, from the Golden Haggadah, c. 1320, Northern Spain, probably Barcelona (British Library, MS. 27210, fol. 1o verso)

The fact that the Golden Haggadah was so richly illuminated is important. Although the second commandment in Judaism forbids the making of “graven images,” haggadot were often seen as education rather than religious and therefore exempt from this rule. The style of the manuscript may look familiar to you—it is very similar to Christian Gothic manuscripts such as the Bible of Saint Louis (below). Look, for example, at the figure of Moses and the Pharaoh (above). He doesn’t really look like an Egyptian pharaoh at all but more like a French king. The long flowing body, small architectural details and patterned background reveal that this manuscript was created during the Gothic period. Whether the artists of the Golden Haggadah themselves were Jewish is open to debate, although it is certainly evident that regardless of their religious beliefs, the dominant style of Christian art in Europe clearly influenced the artists of this manuscript.

Blanche of Castile and King Louis IX of France (detail), Dedication Page with Blanche of Castile and King Louis IX of France, Bible of Saint Louis (Moralized Bible), c. 1225–1245, ink, tempera, and gold leaf on vellum (The Morgan Library and Museum, MS M. 240, fol. 8)

Cross-cultural styles

So the Golden Haggadah is both stylistically an example of Jewish art and Gothic art. Often Christian art is associated with the Gothic style but it is important to remember that artists, regardless of faith, were exchanging ideas and techniques. In fact, while the Golden Haggadah looks Christian (Gothic) in style, other examples of Jewish manuscripts, such as the Sarajevo Haggadah, blend both Christian and Islamic influences. This cross-cultural borrowing of artistic styles happened throughout Europe, but was especially strong in medieval Spain, where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together for many centuries. Despite periods of persecution, the Jews of Spain, known as Sephardic Jews, developed a rich culture of Judaism on the Iberian Peninsula. The Golden Haggadah thus stands as a testament to the impact and significance of Jewish culture in medieval Spain—and the rich multicultural atmosphere of that produced such a magnificent manuscript.

Additional resources:

Beṣalel Narkiss, The Golden Haggadah A Fourteenth-Century Illuminated Hebrew Manuscript in the British Museum (London: Eugrammia Press, 1970).

Joseph Gutmann, Hebrew Manuscript Painting (New York: Braziller, 1978)

Marc Michael Epstein, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

Katrin Kogman-Appel, “Coping with Christian Pictorial Sources: What Did Jewish Miniaturists Not Paint?” Speculum, 75 (2000), pp. 816-58.

Katrin Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain. Biblical Imagery and the Passover Holiday (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006).

Katrin Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art Between Islam and Christianity: the Decoration of Hebrew Bibles in Medieval Spain (Lieden: Brill, 2004), pp. 179-85.

Julie Harris, “Polemical Images in the Golden Haggadah (British Library Add. MS 27210),” Medieval Encounters, 8 (2002), pp. 105-22.

UChicago Library to preserve ‘unique portrait’ of Jewish history in Passover Haggadot collection

Stephen Durchslag’s family began teaching him to love Passover practically from birth, when they gave him the middle name of Pesach—the Hebrew word for the Jewish holiday. Throughout his childhood, his relatives would gather around a large table, each holding a Haggadah—the book that guides participants through the rituals of the holiday and tells the biblical story of the redemption of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

“The evening was magical—a time of family support, warmth and tradition,” Durchslag, AM’14, recalled. “The Haggadah encapsulated it all.”

Those memories formed the foundation of what has become a decades-long intellectual labor of love. Since 1982, Durchslag has obtained more than 4,500 Passover Haggadot (the plural of Haggadah, or “the telling”) from across the world, with the oldest dating back more than five centuries. Now, he has established a bequest that will leave the vast majority of this remarkable collection to the University of Chicago Library.

“The University of Chicago has been such an exciting place intellectually and so informative to me in all aspects of my Jewish scholarship,” said Durchslag. “It seemed to be a logical place to continue my legacy.”

Shortly before retiring in 2013 from a 46-year career as an attorney—having led the intellectual property department at Winston and Strawn—Durchslag enrolled as a graduate student at UChicago’s Divinity School. He is planning to write a dissertation on parody Haggadot, created by writers to explore the political, economic and social conditions of their times. His studies inspired him to preserve his collection at UChicago Library’s Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, where they will be accessible to future generations of scholars, students and the Jewish community.

Durchslag is also bequeathing funds to support the care, curation, study, exhibition and expansion of the collection.

“Stephen Durchslag’s exceptionally generous and very substantial bequest includes the largest known collection of Haggadot in private hands,” said Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian. “It will be a treasure trove for faculty, students and visiting researchers seeking to explore Jewish religion, history and culture and will significantly enhance our important academic collection in Jewish studies. We could not be more pleased that he has chosen us as the right home for his collection.”

Recited at the Passover feast (Seder), the Haggadah is meant to encourage reflection and commentary on the meaning of the Exodus story and liberation from oppression. It can explore the theme of freedom through many facets, including labor, housing or the basic desire for a better life.

For celebrations in his own household, Durchslag typically makes copies of pages from his rare Haggadot as supplements for the main Haggadah used at the dinner table and Seder: The Order of Retelling, by his partner Annette Turow. This year, he is planning an online Seder focusing on refugees in the United States and Africa.

Durchslag’s collection holds immense scholarly value, containing Haggadah texts in 31 languages—from medieval Italian, Hebrew and Yiddish to Marathi, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Tat, spoken by the Jewish community in the remote Caucasus Mountains.

“His collection also includes commentaries representing multiple Jewish theological traditions as well as a wide range of modern secular interpretations, from socialists and Israeli kibbutzim,” said Paul Mendes-Flohr, the Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor Emeritus of Modern Jewish History and Thought. “The Durchslag Haggadah collection may thus be said to represent a unique portrait of the spiritual biography of the Jewish people.”

The earliest Haggadah in Durchslag’s collection, printed in 1485, was published as part of a larger prayer book in Soncino, near Milan, Italy, and documents the rites of the region. Other copies from across the centuries offer scholars a way to trace the development of literary innovations, and to examine the tensions of life in the Jewish diaspora. A Haggadah published in 1546 in Venice, for example, responds to the demands of the Counter-Reformation.

Also among Durchslag’s treasures is a lithographic manuscript of the Deventer Haggadah, published in Holland in 1940. At their Seder, a group of young Jews preparing to emigrate to the Land of Israel used the Haggadah, which features a map of where they planned to settle and farm. This copy was saved from destruction by the Nazis when it was mailed out of Holland before the German occupation.

“The Durchslag collection is impressive for its scope and depth, containing Haggadot from the incunable period of Western printing to modern and contemporary works,” said Elizabeth Frengel, Curator of Rare Books at the University of Chicago Library. “The range of Haggadot hold important evidence about traditional iconography and printing and illustrating practices.”

The collection also contains more personal connections for Durchslag: One Haggadah protesting sexual exploitation was written by his daughter, Rachel Durchslag, AM’05, an alum of the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

Several other members of the family also attended the University of Chicago. Durchslag’s parents, Elizabeth (Betty) Durchslag, PhB’29, and Milton L. Durchslag, PhB’28, JD’30, got married on campus. His father and uncle, Harold Durchslag, PhB’32, JD’34, both received scholarships that allowed them to attend the University of Chicago Law School during the Depression. Stephen Durchslag stewards the Harold and Milton Durchslag Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships and loans to Law School students. When Stephen married his former wife, Ruth Mayer, they established a scholarship fund for the Divinity School to support the study of Judaism.

“My family has long ties to the University of Chicago on many levels in terms of scholarship and care,” said Durchslag. By leaving his collection to the University of Chicago Library, he said, “this bequest will allow a legacy that will continue to breathe in future generations.”

Durchslag’s bequest will also include financial support for a number of programs at the University of Chicago Library, including the organization, cataloging and preservation of the books in the Haggadot collection an endowed curatorship in Jewish Studies an endowed collections fund for Jewish Studies focusing on Haggadot and similar materials in Jewish Studies and an endowed fellowship to support visiting researchers coming to the Library to consult materials in the Durchslag Collection.

Passover Preparations in the Sister Haggadah - History

64. Golden Haggadah (The Plagues of Egypt, Scenes of Liberation, and Preparation for Passover). Late medieval Spain. c. 1320 C.E. Illuminated manuscript (pigments and gold leaf on vellum).

- Each image has a golden background

- Resembles Christian gothic

o Small architectural details

- Painted in the Barcelona area of Spain

- 56 miniatures using gold leaf background

- Depict the story of Passover to be read at seder

- Show the wealth of its owner

- Stands as a testament to the impact and signifigance of jewish culture in medieval spain

o The rich multicultural atmosphere that produced such a magnificent manuscript

o Miraculous salvation from slavery

- Late Romanesque / Gothic Period

o Christianity and how Christianity facilitates power is the emphasis now

o Jewish people often patroned work as the Christians and Muslims during this time

o Jewish patrons would often use Christain painters to decorate important sacrad books

Passover Preparations in the Sister Haggadah - History

The Union Haggadah , ed. by The Central Council of American Rabbis [1923], at sacred-texts.com

Preparations for Passover


Though the Bible calls for the observance of Passover for seven days, the changing conditions of Jewish life before the fall of Jerusalem (70 C.E.) produced an eighth day of the Feast. As the calendar was not yet established, the Sanhedrin, exercising its religious authority, proclaimed each New Moon ("Rosh Ḥodesh"), and thereby regulated the dates of the festivals. However, its decisions were not always conveyed to the distant Jewish settlements in time to celebrate the holy days at the right season. To obviate this difficulty, the Jewish communities, outside of Palestine, added an extra day to each festival. When a permanent calendar was finally framed by Hillel II, in 360 C. E., and the dates of the holy days were no longer in doubt, the Rabbis of Babylonia wished to drop the second day of festivals, but they were advised by the Palestinian authorities not to break an established custom. Reform Judaism, recognizing that this custom causes needless hardship to Jewish people, in commercial and industrial centers, abolished the second day of festivals. Accordingly reform Jews, following the biblical law, keep Passover seven days, beginning on the eve of the 15th and ending on the 21st of Nisan. The first and last days are holy days on which divine services are held in the synagogues. The intervening days, known as "Ḥol Hamoed" are half-holy days.


With the cessation of the sacrificial cult the original distinction between the feast of Pesaḥ and that of Matzos disappeared to all practical purposes. The prominent feature of the feast came to be the eating of matzo. "The eating of matzo during Passover, unlike the prohibition against eating ḥometz, is not imperative it is a voluntary act (‘r’shus’). That is, a Jew may abstain from eating both ḥometz and matzo, except on the first eve, when the eating of matzo is obligatory (‘ḥovoh’)". Matzo may be made of flour of wheat, barley, spelt, oats, or rye. Special care must be exercised in kneading and baking to prevent the fermentation of the dough. "In the early centuries matzo-baking was done by the wife daily, for the household use. In the middle ages preparations were made to bake matzos thirty days before Passover, except the Matzo Sh’miroh ('observance Matzo', prepared with special care for use on the Passover eve by men of extreme piety), which was baked in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, at a time when the Passover lamb was formerly sacrificed. Still later, when the community had a communal oven, it was incumbent on the lord of the house to superintend the matzo-baking for his family. . . . About 1875 matzo-baking machinery was invented in England, and soon after introduced into America", where it became an important industry. To keep the matzo from rising and swelling in baking, it was perforated after being rolled into shape, by means of a 'reidel', or wheel provided with sharp teeth and attached to a handle. "The perforator, usually a youth, would run his reidel through the matzo in lines crossed at right angles and about one inch apart. The matzo-machine

has an automatic perforator that makes lines at intervals of a half inch." *


While the law regarding unleavened bread is simple, the prohibitions of the use of leaven, or ḥometz, during the Pesaḥ week, grew exceedingly complex. Rabbinical law forbids not only the eating of leavened bread but also the derivation of any benefit from it. Every trace of leaven has to be removed before the feast sets in. Hence there arose the quaint ceremony of "b’dikas ḥometz—searching for leaven", still observed by orthodox Jews. On the eve of the 14th of Nisan, i.e. on the night before Passover eve, after the evening service, the head of the house deposits crumbs of bread in conspicuous places, on window sills or open shelves, and, taking a wooden spoon in one hand and a few feathers in the other, begins the naive "search for leaven". The children enjoy the privilege of following him with a lighted taper. Blessing God for the command of removing the leaven, he proceeds, in strict silence, to sweep the crumbs into the wooden spoon with the feathers. When the task is done, he makes this solemn declaration, in Aramaic: "All manner of leaven that is in my possession, which I have not seen or removed, shall be as naught, and accounted as the dust of the earth". He then ties the spoon, feathers and leaven in one bundle and deposits it in a safe place. The following morning, after breakfast, he proceeds to burn the bundle of ḥometz. This ceremony, known as "bi‘ur ḥometz—destruction of the leaven", is preceded by a declaration, similar to that

made on the night before, disclaiming responsibility for any leaven that may still be found on the premises.

The Jewish mystics read a higher meaning into this as into all other ceremonies. Regarding ḥometz as the symbol of sordidness and corruption, they beheld in the ceremony of its removal a summons to man to destroy the evil of his heart.


It is also customary among orthodox Jews to put away, for the period of the feast, all dishes and kitchen utensils that are used for the ḥometz, and to replace them with new ones or with such as are especially kept for Pesaḥ. Some vessels are retained for the holiday after undergoing the process of "kashering", i.e. of being made fit for Passover use: glass-ware and porcelain are dipped into boiling water, and iron vessels are passed through fire and made hot.

Reform Judaism does not consider these practices essential to the proper observance of the Passover.


141:* J. D. Eisenstein art. "Mazza" in the Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. VIII, pp. 393-396.

VI. Karpas - The Green Vegetables (Parsley)

Explanation: The Scripture reading for this section of the Seder is taken from the Song of Songs. It is clearly a love song between a man and a woman, which is appropriate for this time of year and the celebration of newness. However, the significance of this reading is the symbolism seen in a husband and wife of the love of God for His people expressed in His willingness to enter into a covenant with them.

Preparation: While Parsley is the traditional green vegetable here, celery or another leafy green vegetable can be used. If they are easily available, fresh Spring flowers can be placed on the table, either before the service begins or at this point. If this is a public service, each family or a representative from each group can be asked to bring flowers from their own yards or gardens to contribute to the atmosphere of newness and rebirth. [Another option is to give each person present a small live Spring flower at this point in the service.]

[Optional Leader Introduction to Karpas: Twice during the Seder two elements representing a mixture of positive and negative experiences or emotions are incorporated into the service. The first is here where we will eat vegetables or herbs with salt water and later when we will eat the sweet charoset with bitter moror. The contrasting elements serve to remind us that life is often a confusing mixture of joy and sorrow, of bitter endings and sweet new beginnings. It is not our goal to eliminate the negative experiences and pretend that life is all sweetness and happiness. That is a futile task and finally dishonest. Rather our goal is to rejoice in the fact that God works in all the circumstances of life, just as he heard the cries of slaves and brought deliverance.]

[Optional Leader Introduction to the Reading: Our Scripture reading for this section of the Seder is taken from the Song of Songs. It is clearly a love song between a man and a woman, which is appropriate for this time of year and the celebration of newness. However, the significance of this reading is the symbolism seen in a husband and wife of the love of God for His people expressed in His willingness to enter into a covenant with them.]

Leader: Passover is a Springtime festival, the season of rebirth, renewal, and new life. The days are filled with more light than darkness. The earth is becoming green with new life.

Action: The Leader takes a sprig of fresh Parsley and holds it up for the people to see.

Leader: This vegetable, called Karpas, represents life, created and sustained by the Lord our God. We are filled with joy at the goodness of God in loving us and caring for us, and bringing into our lives all good things.

Men: Arise my love and come away for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land. Arise my love, my fair one, and come away. [Song 2:10-13]

Women: My beloved is mine and I am his. As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among men. Under its shade I delighted to sit, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banquet house, and his intention toward me was love. [Song 2:3-4, 16]

People: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm for love is strong as death. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned. [Song 8:6-7]

Leader: And yet as good as God intended life to be, it is often mixed with tears.

Action: The Leader lifts up the bowl of salt water so all can see.

Leader: Tonight, we are not simply celebrating Springtime or love. We are celebrating the freedom and wonderful deliverance that God brought to us as slaves in Egypt. But we do not forget that life in Egypt was hard and filled with pain and suffering and tears. Let us never forget that the struggle for freedom begins in suffering, and that life is sometimes immersed in tears.

People: Blessed are you O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

Action: Everyone dips a spring of parsley the salt water and eats it.

[Optional Action: If the Seder is being celebrated as a full meal, and time allows, vegetable hors d’oeuvres and a dip, or a light salad, may be served at this point. If this is done, all of these dishes must be removed from the table before the Matzah is broken.]

The Master's Table, Book

Published in 2017, this streamlined, and beginner-friendly version of the Passover Haggadah titled The Master’s Table: A Passover Encounter for Christians has become a popular resource to for celebrating Passover at home, or as part of large communities.

This English-only Haggadah delivers the whole traditional seder meal with all the steps, but the readings and recitations are truncated to a manageable size, optimized for use in community seders and outreach functions. Easy-to-understand connections to Passover and the Last Supper are made explicit.

Clear, Easy to Follow, and Authentic

The Master’s Table is the perfect resource for Christians who want to go deeper in discipleship and learn about Jesus in his Jewish context. This Haggadah takes participants through each step of the traditional Passover meal. On each page it draws connections between the inspiring story of the exodus from Egypt and the dramatic events on the night Jesus was betrayed.

This booklet is useful whether one is celebrating Passover at home with family or as part of a large demonstration.

  • New Testament passages keep the focus on Messiah
  • People who are not from a Jewish background will feel welcome and included
  • Clear instructions inform you how to set the table and prepare for the evening
  • The English text is easy to follow and understand
  • Readings are sensibly abridged to keep your Seder moving along
  • Customs and procedures are presented in an authentic manner
  • Color artwork and diagrams keep the attention of young and old alike

Item Details

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Preparing for Passover

The Jewish world is preparing for Passover (Pesach), which begins this year at sundown on Friday, April 19. Why is it that there is more preparation for Passover than for all other holidays? In fact, much of the actual holiday is about the ways that we prepare.

So much to consider! There is cleaning and cooking and selecting a Haggadah, the text used at the Seder to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt, and considering the meaning of words that we say each and every year, words that take on new meaning each and every year.

Consider the words: &ldquoLet all who are hungry come and eat.&rdquo How do we honor this tradition? On Passover and every day, what do we do to assure that all who are hungry can come and eat? We can give to our local food pantries, work to support legislation that helps to alleviate hunger, and lest we find the task overwhelming, how about inviting others to our own table. Our restaurant culture cannot replace the breaking of bread together in our own homes. In fact, the very word &ldquocompanion&rdquo comes from the French word for bread, &ldquopain.&rdquo Breaking bread together creates companions. Indeed, there is so much wisdom in the instruction: &ldquoLet all who are hungry come and eat.&rdquo

Cleaning for Pesach is like no other cleaning. Getting rid of all chametz (leaven) requires emptying closets and refrigerators and assuring that not even one bread crumb escapes our brooms and sponges. It is the original &ldquospring cleaning.&rdquo But those who think it is strictly a physical cleaning are mistaken. We rid ourselves of chametz, which are any grains that contain leaven and are therefore &rdquopuffed up.&ldquo So too, it is while on our hands and knees cleaning the floor that we can best consider the ways we &rdquopuff ourselves up&ldquo with pride and an inflated sense of self and lack of awareness about our weaknesses.

How self-protective we are! A little humility goes a long way. None of us is perfect. Our weaknesses help define us as human. Acknowledging those weaknesses is, in this season of freedom, its own kind of liberation.

One of the most important lines in the Haggadah is &ldquoIn every generation we are called upon to see ourselves as though we our own selves escaped from Egypt.&rdquo It is a line that shouts out to us today: Remember where you came from! Remember that you came from slavery! Remember that you are a child of immigrants! And more: Remember that you yourself are an immigrant. Maybe, just maybe, if we can see ourselves as immigrants, we will start treating others with more respect, dignity and welcoming embrace.

And one more final line in every Haggadah: &ldquoNext year in Jerusalem.&rdquo These words were never taken literally. Though it would surely be lovely to make a commitment to spend time in Jerusalem in the coming year, the phrase always reminds us of our hope in something greater than today, greater than the here and now. The Hebrew words Yerushalayim translate as &ldquoCity of Peace.&rdquo Would that we could create that city of peace all over the world. What a soaring conclusion to Passover that would be.

As we anticipate Passover, we greet each other with the Yiddish words: &ldquoA Zissen Pesach!&rdquo May it be a sweet Passover holiday.

A brief history of Passover, which honors resilience amid adversity

On this important holiday, Jews around the world commemorate the Israelites' liberation from enslavement in ancient Egypt.

As the days brighten and spring kicks into full swing, Jews all over the world prepare for Passover, a weeklong holiday that is one of Judaism’s most widely celebrated and most important observances. Also known by its Hebrew name Pesach, Passover combines millennia of religious traditions—and it’s about much more than matzoh and gefilte fish.

The story of Passover can be found in the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, which relates the enslavement of the Israelites and their subsequent escape from ancient Egypt.

Fearing that the Israelites will outnumber his people, the Egyptian Pharaoh enslaves them and orders every newly born Jewish son murdered. One son is Moses, whose birth has been foretold as the savior of the Israelites. He is saved and raised by the pharaoh’s daughter.

In adulthood, God speaks to Moses, urging him to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. But the pharaoh refuses. In return, God brings ten consecutive plagues down on Egypt (think: pestilence, swarms of locusts, and water turning to blood), but spares the Israelites. (Who was the Egyptian Pharaoh who challenged Moses?)

During the final plague, an avenging angel goes door to door in Egypt, smiting every household’s firstborn son. God has other plans for the Israelites, instructing Moses to tell them to slaughter a lamb, then brush its blood on the sides and tops of their doorframes so that the avenging angel will “pass over.” Then they are to eat the sacrificial lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened—without yeast—bread. This is the last straw for Pharaoh, who frees the Israelites and banishes them from Egypt.

Modern Passover celebrations commemorate and even reenact many of the biblical events. The seder (“order”), the ritual meal that is the centerpiece of Passover celebrations, incorporates foods that represent elements of the story. Bitter herbs (often lettuce and horseradish) stand for the bitterness of slavery. A roasted shank bone commemorates the sacrificial lamb. An egg has multiple interpretations: Some hold that it stands for new life, and others see it as standing for the Jewish people’s mourning over the struggles that awaited them in exile. Vegetables are dipped into saltwater representing the tears of the enslaved Israelites. Haroset, a sweet paste made of apples, wine, and walnuts or dried fruits, represents the mortar the enslaved Israelites used to build Egypt’s store cities.

During a traditional seder, participants eat unleavened bread, or matzoh, three times, and drink wine four times. They read from a Haggadah, a guide to the rite, hear the story of Passover, and answer four questions about the purpose of their meal. Children get involved, too, and search for an afikomen, a piece of broken matzoh, that has been hidden in the home. Every seder is different, and is governed by community and family traditions. (This is the crummy history of matzoh.)

Passover observances vary in and outside of Israel. The holiday lasts one week in Israel and eight days in the rest of the world, in commemoration of the week in which the Israelites were pursued by the Egyptians as they went into exile. During those days, many Jews refrain from eating leavened bread some also abstain from work during the last two days of Passover and attend special services before and during Passover week. Orthodox and Conservative Jews outside of Israel participate in two seders Reform Jews and those inside Israel only celebrate one. (See inside an ancient Passover tradition according to biblical law.)

The Passover celebration underscores powerful themes of strength, hope, and triumph over adversity and anti-Semitism. But this year, seders will take place beneath the shadow of a pandemic. In the face of social distancing and closed synagogues, people will be forced to improvise—and the feast of resistance and renewal will take on even more significance as people celebrate apart.


The Golden Haggadah is presumed to have been created sometime around 1320-1330. While originating in Spain, it is believed that the manuscript found its way to Italy in possession of Jews banished from the country in 1492. [2]

The original illustrators for the manuscript are unknown. Based on artistic evidence, the standing theory is that there were at least two illustrators. [2] While there is no evidence of different workshops producing the manuscript, there are two distinct artistic styles used respectively in groupings of eight folios on single sides of the pages. The first noticeable style is an artist who created somewhat standardized faces for their figures, but was graceful in their work and balanced with their color. The second style seen was very coarse and energetic in comparison. [2]

The original patron who commissioned the manuscript is unknown. The prevailing theory is that the first known owner was Rabbi Joav Gallico of Asti, who presented it as a gift to his daughter Rosa’s bridegroom, Eliah Ravà, on the occasion of their wedding in 1602. The evidence for this theory is the addition to the manuscript of a title page with an inscription and another page containing the Gallico family coat of arms in recognition of the ceremony. [2] [4] The commemorative text inscribed in the title page translates from the Hebrew as:

“NTNV as a gift [. ] the honored Mistress Rosa,

(May she be blessed among the women of the tent), daughter of our illustrious

Honored Teacher Rabbi Yoav

Gallico, (may his Rock preserve him) to his son-in-law, the learned

Honored Teacher Elia (may his Rock preserve him)

Son of the safe, our Honored Teacher, the Rabbi R. Menahem Ravà (May he live Many good years)

On the day of his wedding and the day of the rejoicing of his heart,

Here at Carpi, the tenth of the month of Heshvan, Heh Shin Samekh Gimel (1602)” [4]

The translation of this inscription has led to debate on who originally gave the manuscript, either the bride Rosa or her father Rabbi Joav. This confusion originates with translation difficulties of the first word and a noticeable gap that follows it, leaving out the word “to” or “by”. There are three theorized ways to read this translation.

The current theory is a translation of “He gave it [Netano] as a gift. . .[ignores references to Mistress Rosa]. . .to his son-in-law. . .Elia.” This translation works to ignore the reference to the bride and states that Rabbi Joav presented the manuscript to his new son-in-law. This presents the problem of why the bride would be mentioned after the use of the verb “he gave” and leaving out the follow up of “to” seen as prefix “le”. In support of this theory is that the prefix “le” is used in the second half of the inscription pointing to the groom Elia being the receiver, thus making this the prevailing theory. [4]

Another translation is “They gave it [Natnu] as a gift. . .Mistress Rosa (and her father?) to. . . his (her father’s) son-in-law Elia.” This supports the theory that the manuscript was given by both Rosa and Rabbi Joav together. The problem with this reading is the strange wording used to describe Rabbi Joav’s relationship to Elia and his grammatical placement after Rosa’s name as an afterthought. [4]

The most grammatically correct translation is “It was given [Netano (or possibly Netanto)] as a gift [by]. . .Mistress Rosa to. . .(her father’s) son-in-law Elia.”. This suggests that the manuscript was originally Rosa’s and she gifted it to her groom, Elia. This theory also has its flaws in that this would mean the male version of “to give” was used for Rosa and not the feminine version. In addition, Elia is referred to as the son-in-law of her father, rather than merely her groom, which makes little sense if Rabbi Joav was not involved in some form. [4]

Additional changes to the manuscript that can be dated include a mnemonic poem of the laws and customs of Passover on blank pages between miniatures added in the seventeenth century, a birth entry of a son in Italy 1689, and the signatures of censors for the years 1599, 1613, and 1629. [2]

The Golden Haggadah is now in the London British Library shelf mark MS 27210. [5] [6] It was acquired by the British Museum in 1865 as part of the collection of Joseph Almanzi of Padua. [2]

Illuminations Edit

The miniatures of the Golden Haggadah all follow a similar layout. They are painted onto the flesh side of the vellum and divided into panels of four frames read in the same direction as the Hebrew language, from right to left and from top to bottom. The panels each consist of a background in burnished gold with a diamond pattern stamped onto it. A border is laid around each panel made of red or blue lines, the inside of which are decorated with arabesque patterns. This can be seen in the Dance of Marian where blue lines frame the illustration with red edges and white arabesque decorating inside them. At the edge of each collection of panels can also be found black floral arabesque growing out from the corners. [3]

The miniatures of the Golden Haggadah are decidedly High Gothic in style. This was influenced by the early 14th-century Catalan School, a Gothic style that is French with Italianate influence. It is believed that the two illustrators who worked on the manuscript were influenced by and studied other similar mid-13th-century manuscripts for inspiration, including the famous Morgan Crusader Bible and the Psalter of Saint Louis. This could be seen in the composition of the miniatures' French Gothic styling. The architectural arrangements, however, are in Italianate form as evidenced by the coffered ceilings created in the miniatures. Most likely these influences reached Barcelona in the early 14th century. [2] [3]

The Haggadah is a copy of the liturgy used during the Seder service of Jewish Passover. The most common traits of a Haggadah are the inclusion of an introduction on how to set the table for a seder, an opening mnemonic device for remembering the order of the service, and content based on the Hallel Psalms and three Pedagogic Principles. These written passages are intended to be read aloud at the beginning of Passover and during the family meal. These holy manuscripts were generally collected in private handheld devotional books. [7]

The introduction of Haggadah as illustrated manuscripts occurred around the 13th and 14th centuries. Noble Jewish patrons of the European royal courts would often use the illustration styles of the time to have their Haggadah made into illustrated manuscripts. The manuscripts would have figurative representations of stories and steps to take during service combined with traditional ornamental workings of the highest quality at the time. In regards to the Golden Haggadah, it was most likely created as a part of this trend in the early 14th century. It is considered one of the earliest examples of illustrated Haggadah of Spanish origin to contain a complete sequence of illustrations of the books of Genesis and Exodus. [8]

Watch the video: Passover 2018 how to prepare a lamb for passover (August 2022).