Will You Need a New Haggadah Next Passover?
Saturday November 05th 2005, 12:56 pm
Filed under: Slices of Life

Defrocked Rabbi
If you’ve been reading this space, you’ve seen the email from my friend r., urging me to “re-frocked just a bit” by creating something rabbinic and literary.

So I have. If you want to see it, just go to www.hagada.com.

But wouldn’t you rather read the backstory first:

Maybe r. is just a little bit psychic.

I’ve been leading Passover Seders (I know, “Sederim” is the correct form) for almost 40 years. With few exceptions, I’ve used the traditional hagada. The traditional hagada is somewhat obtuse. It benefits greatly with a brief but pointed running commentary, explaining the nuances of the rabbinic free-association style in which it is written. It also benefits from a bit of judicious editing; some pieces of it make very little sense on the surface and an adequate explanation stretches the length of the event beyond what normal mortals will consent to.

So over the years, I developed my own style of explaining the text as we use it. My daughters roll their eyes because (without realizing it) I had been giving almost the same word-for-word commentary every year.

But now I’m in the process of writing it down. Creating my own edition. My commentary is laconic: brief, to the point, cutting unnecessary ornamentation. You read it through and the hagada makes sense in a way it probably never did before. And you can do the whole thing in about an hour before the meal and about 45 minutes after. (How long you linger over dinner and afikomon is personal preference.)

Three years ago, in a burst of creative zeal, I edited/translated a first draft of the first half of the hagada. We used it. Got good reviews. Since then I’ve told myself, “One day I’ll finish it.” Two Passovers since have come and gone, and we’ve used that same unfinished beta version. Reviews consistently good, but the urge to finish it, well…

Along the way, I did come up with a business plan for distributing it: you download one copy off the Internet for a modest fee and print as many copies as you like. (Very Internet) So anyway, r’s lovingly supportive note was magic.

It got me working on my hagada once again. In high gear for the first time.
Thank you, r. I love you too.

The website describing Internet Hagada is now a viewable work-in-progress:


Go check it out. The hagada itself should be available there by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile there are samples.


1 Comment so far

Bill – I would think with this amount of information on so many divergent topics, you would have been invited to at least Oprah by now!
I had a question about how you got yourself listed on top of the heap with google searches. I know that is the way to get noticed, but just put up a new web site – feel free to check kellerartglass.com – and am not sure its being searched well by the search engines. Any tips you may have, or if its a longer discussion, I’d be glad to call you sometime about it….
It was good to get together with the gang – hope we can make it a more common occurence.
Jerry 216-381-0705 h 216-721-0314 b 216-906-4680 c

Comment by jerry keller 01.18.09 @ 10:56 pm

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