Sunday, April 30, 2017

Haggadot 2017 update

Haggadot Shel Pesah 2017 update

”As many of you know, I collect Haggadot shel Pesah[1].”  That is how I started my last update on my Haggadah collection in April 2003.  In 1998 I reported that I owned 75 and in 2003 I reported that I own more than 100 Haggadot. My original goal was to get just enough to equal one for each year of my life.  I now own about 187 Haggadot.  In the past few weeks I added 6, making the number added since last Pesah at 12.   While some have a monetary value of more than $10, I bought very few from booksellers.  The previous owners were glad for me to take them.  Many came from closed libraries.

As one looks through the shelves you will see a size variance from less than 14 cm (5 inches) to more than 41 cm (16 inches.)  Some of thin and have fewer than 60 pages while others are hardcover volumes with more than 200 pages.  Some were giveaways from food companies and others are works of art valued at several hundred dollars.  Most are ordinary paper or hardcover bindings, but one is bound in leather with an artistic metal plate on the front cover. Some are plain text and some are works of art.  Not all of them have the full traditional text.

The origin of the Haggadah comes from the book of Shemot 13:8  "וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר..."   We are required to tell our children the story of what God did to take us out of Egypt. The word הגדה means to retell. This Biblical text is connected directly to the ritual of the seder night on the 15th of Nisan.  The rest of our daily and Shabbat prayers have a smaller connection to Torah texts.  Much of the Haggadah text is from Mishnah in the 9th chapter of Pesahim.  The hallel is from the book of Tehilim (Psalms), goes back to Biblical times and is a direct connection to the service in the Temple. The earliest compilation of the Haggadah is not exactly known.[2]  It is possible it was written in mishnaic times.  Saadia Gaon (882-942) has a version in his siddur that differs our traditional text. There are a few manuscript Haggadot from the Middle Ages[3].  There are only a few editions of the Haggadah printed before the 17th century.

A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation about the large number of Haggadah editions in the Library of Congress.  The discussion said that Library of Congress (LOC) has the largest collection of Haggadot in the world.  They thought LOC has a copy of every Haggadah ever printed. I had to step in and tell them they were mistaken.  I own Haggadot that are not in the LOC collection. LOC receives the copyright depository copy of every book published in the United States.  They do not get every book published in other countries and they don’t get Haggadot that were not submitted as a copyright deposition copy.  Not every Haggadah is commercially printed.  Some are ephemeral i.e. mimeographed or photocopied for one time use.  There is no exact way to know how many editions have been produced because the definition of “edition” is a moving target.  Sometimes publishers call a new printing a new edition.  A new printing in the bibliographic world (i.e. libraries) is not a new edition. Significant changes are required to call it a new edition. Sometimes a publisher makes very minor corrections and calls the next printing a new edition.  A publisher could publish the same text in several bindings.  No other book presents this kind of challenge to collectors and bibliographers.

Yosef Hayim Yerushlami in his 1975 book[4] claims there were 3500 editions in 1975. In 1960 Abraham Yaari[5] published a bibliography of all the editions of the Haggadah that he found.  I did a library search of Library of Congress, Jewish Theological Seminary, Harvard University, Jewish National Library, and Yeshiva University libraries with the term “Haggadah” in the title. Now in all fairness this would also match a Haggadah that is not for Pesah.  I did not weed out those non-Passover books.  I did select only books.  Harvard’s numbers may be bigger because they have a huge number of electronic texts and I did not differentiate between physical and electronic books.  I have no exact idea as to why the Jewish National Library numbers are so much higher than the other libraries.

Jewish Theological Seminary                    3802
Harvard University                                     6077
Library of Congress                                   2642
Yeshiva University                                     1673
Jewish National Library                              8765
There are so many haggadah versions for several reasons – 1) The Haggadah is a small book that is used in home.  Every home needs a Haggadah that fits the needs of that family. Every sedar participant needs a copy; 2) Since everyone is required to tell the story of the leaving from Egypt, there are many commentaries.  Many editors wanted to tell their interpretation of the events; 3) The Haggadah presents an opportunity for artistic expression.  From the very first illustrated Haggadah to the editions produced by great artists, the pictures tell the story with an interpretation or the artist; 4) The Haggadah itself tells us “In every generation it is one’s duty to regard himself as if he personally left Egypt.”  What better was to express this duty than to produce one’s own Haggadah.[6]

I collect Haggadot for all the reasons editors and publishers create them.  They are a window into the history of the time; they present a wide variety of points of view, and yet they are all published to enable us to retell the story of freedom and the exodus from Egypt.  Because of my position as a librarian[7], I obtain Haggadot for little cost.  I fully catalog them in order to keep a record of exactly what I own.  I am not interested in having a comprehensive collection or in gathering rare and costly editions.  I just want a large variety that have commentaries, art, or a purpose that reflects a time, place or idea.

Selected Items from My Collections


These two items are the oldest and most recent of the Maxwell House Haggadot in my collection.  Originally produced as a way to advertise that Maxwell House coffees are indeed kosher for Passover, they have become a standard for many families. The first Maxwell House Haggadah was produced 1932.  The company claims to have printed more than 50 million copies over the years. Perhaps because they are free, perhaps because they are available in the grocery story, or perhaps because getting them is a “no brainer” they have become a defacto Passover tradition. However, in homes with parents and children who are more involved, the Maxwell House Haggadah is looked down upon.  Those homes want haggadot with commentaries or a presentation aimed at children and families.

The early one, published in 1936, is small and contains the Hebrew text with English translation in parallel columns.  The print is hard to read, yet the editor writes in the introduction, “… presenting this new, up-to-date edition of the Hagadah, arranged in a simplified and attractive form.”  There are black and while woodcuts illustrating the text by an unnamed artist.

The 2017 edition has a bright color cover and has few illustrations.  The size is 22 cm. vs 14 cm. for the 1936 edition, making the print bigger and more legible.  Other than a date change, it looks like the 2016 edition.  The Hebrew and English are on facing pages.  The translation has none of the archaic words (such as canst, thou, or art) that appear in the 1936 edition.  It is a very usable Haggadah if you don’t want commentaries or explanations.

For a fuller story of Maxwell House marketing and history of their haggadah see, “101 Years of the Maxwell House Haggadah” by Anne Cohen.[8]     

The Prince of Egypt Family Haggadah[9] with illustrations from the movie, The Prince of Egypt, is the most impressively illustrated Haggadah in my collection.  The editors did a beautiful job of selection and integrating scenes from the movie with the traditional text.  There are also questions for family discussion.  The illustration of the actual exodus is a two page illustration of the splitting of the sea opening to a four page fold out of the Children of Israel marching on dry land.  The colors are brilliant and are sure to make a lasting impression on the children. 

[1] The Haggadah is the book used on the first nights of Passover for the family seder.  This book has all the prayers and ritual instructions for this special night.

[2]  Since Rav and Shmuel argued about the compilation of the Haggadah, we conclude it had not been completed as of then. Based on a Talmudic statement, it was completed by the time of Rav Nachman (mentioned in Pesachim 116a). There is a dispute, however, to which Rav Nachman, the Talmud refers--  Rav Nachman bar Yaakov[circa 280 CE) or Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak (360 CE). 

[3] A example is the Golden Haggadah.  See my 2011 blog article on this haggadah , Golden Haggadah  Kol Safran December 2011.

[4] Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. Haggadah and history: a panorama in facsimile of five centuries of printed Haggadah from the collections of Harvard University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1975

[5] Yaari, Abraham. Bibliography of the Passover Haggadah: From the Earliest Printed Edition to 1960. Jerusalem: Bamberger and Wahrman, 1960.  The Yaari number is a standard way to identify pre-1960 editions.

[6] As you can see my collection is tiny compared to these major collections, but that does not mean I don’t have some unique or special items.  For example, I have the Haggadot that my children produced in early elementary school.

[7] People know I collect books and frequently they let me see books they want to give away.

[9] Full citation:   The Prince of Egypt family haggadah = hagadah shel pesah / Design and supplemental art work by Michael S. Schwartz.  Notes by Reuvan Frank.  New York : CIRCA Press, 1999.  This book is out of print.  The only one listed on Amazon costs $106.  If you find one under $25, grab it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Children In the Synagogue

I found this article that I wrote in 1996.  It is still valid today.  I only made minor edits and corrections.

Children In the Synagogue?
Daniel D. Stuhlman
September 1996

I. Introduction

Elul, the month before Rosh HaShanah, is the time we prepare for high holiday season. In the daily
services we hear the shofar. In school children learn about the holidays and their special customs and ceremonies. Adults especially those who have or know children are wondering, “What are the children going to do when I’m in shul?” We examine our feelings toward prayer and the services. Some of us wonder about the hazzan; some wonder “Am I going to be stirred or bored?”


       II. What is Prayer?

Tefilah (Jewish prayer) is a very complex process because the nature of tefilah is multifaceted. Prayer is a communication with that which is beyond human experience. Jewish prayer is a blueprint for every part of daily activity from the time of waking until one falls asleep. Tefilah consists of blessings, selections from psalms, hymns (or poems), quotes from the Tanach, systems or groups of blessings, words of thanksgiv­ing, requests, and outpourings of emotion.

The Siddur (prayer book) is one of the crowning achievements of Pharisees. They took the abstract teachings of the prophets, the liturgy and ritual of the Holy Temple, the living experience of their day and transformed them into the worship of the synagogue. In the Torah we have the spontaneous song of Miriam. In the book of Samuel we have the request of Hannah for a son. The prophets taught about the approach of the Jewish people toward God. The Siddur is a treasure house of the Jewish spirit and a guide to prayer. The Siddur is contains prayers in a particular order, but it is not tefilah. The Siddur brings us in contact with Jewish history and experience.

Tephilah is a vague esoteric term that is hard to define. We have a popular notion of what prayer is in our society, but the definitions change with time. Prayer is not the invention of rabbis or religious leaders, but they may write prayers. Prayer preceded revelation at Sinai. Prayer is communication between the heart and soul with God. The longing to pour out one’s heart to God is not a uniquely Jewish experience. One who believes in God and creation needs to show respect and admiration for his creator. Prayer is a search for all good and ultimate perfection--God.

Prayer comes from a person’s sense of wonder and awareness of creation. For example, the morning blessings (berkhot ha-shahar) thank God for every day events. Barukh she’amar is an appreciation of creation. Some prayers connect us to history (ex. remembering that we were slaves in Egypt). Some prayers are petitions asking for healing of the sick or welfare for the country.

Our challenge is how do we share a concept or feeling that is so indefinable? We can explain the words, the tunes, customs and laws for prayers, and order of the prayers, but that is not the same as prayer.

            III. Saying Prayers

The act of saying of reciting prayers is often called “davaning”. The word “davaning” is not the same as “praying”. Davaning is uniquely Jewish act. Davaning is an action that one performs. Getting ready and participating in “davaning” is a learned discipline. One must be encouraged at a young age to say prayers regularity. The act of praying is not the same everyday. Not only are one’s feelings different, but also everyday we have variations on the prayers said. Each day we have a different psalm and on Mondays and Thursdays we read the Torah. Each day people have different reactions to the words.

We teach children the words and mechanics of the prayers. As part of the teaching process schools and parents may enforce attendance at services. The teaching process must be repeated until it is internalized. We teach the routines and halakha for saying prayers. However, saying prayers is not the same as praying. Saying prayers comes from the mouth; praying comes from the heart. To encourage children to learn to say prayers, adults must set the example. The example of seeing adults at services is a powerful re-enforcement of what we teach children.

            IV. Children in the Synagogue

In the Talmud (Hagigah 3a-b) Rabbi Eleazar asked, “Why do people assemble for prayer?” The answer is that the men come to learn, the women to hear and children to bring reward to those who bring them.

In the middle ages[1] children had an over privileged position in the synagogue. His description is not very different than our synagogue. The medieval synagogues accepted the role to both train and nurture the children. The synagogue is an extension of the school and home. As soon as the child was old enough he was taught to answer amen. He was taught to hold the siddur with reverence. Gradually the parents would teach the words and process of the prayers and service. On Friday night the child would be give the privilege of drinking some of the wine of kiddish. On Shabbat morning he would be encouraged to kiss the Torah as it passed. On Sukkot he may be given the lulav and etrog to hold. Finally, at bar mitzvah the boy would be called to the Torah as a sign the he is a part of the congregation.

We often balance conflicting demands of children, community, and personal davaning during this season. I offer my own guidelines based on my experience as a teacher, parent, and gabbal for the position of children in the synagogue.

1.   The Bet Knesset (synagogue’s sanctuary) is a makom kodesh (holy place). It is better to davan with a minyan in a Bet Knesset than to pray alone. Every person who attends the Bet Knesset has the right to pray with the congregation. Everyone deserves to hear the hazzan, rabbi, or Torah reader and follow the services.

2.   Everyone has a right to recite prayers to the best of their ability or to listen to others recite prayers.

3.   No one has the right to intentionally or unintentionally disturb others who are trying to concentrate on the service or their individual prayers.

4.   Children should be encouraged to attend services and participate to the best of their ability. While children are the primary responsibility of their parents, the synagogue should make provisions for babysitting or children’s services. Children should be taught about the sanctity of the Bet Knesset and respect for others. Children need an environment to learn how to davan. Some children do best sitting next to one of their parents. For others, babysitting or children’s services are the best places. All adults should set good examples for the children in the sanctuary. 

        5.   A fine line exists between child participation, play, and disturbances. A child who is yelling, screaming, or crying does not belong in the sanctuary. A child should not be using furniture or fixtures in the sanctuary as climbing toys. A child with a dirty diaper that can be smelled should immediately be removed from the sanctuary. Running from place to place in the sanctuary should be limited. If the children are playing in such a manner that they are disturbing people, they should be removed. Remember that parents come to daven, too. They may need some extra support or compassion to help them cope with a difficult child.

        6.   Children who are trying to daven should be encouraged. Opening a siddur and saying words is their form of prayer. Greeting people at shul is one way children learn to be members of the kahal (congregation).

           V.  How children learn

John Holt has been a big influence on my theory of education. Here are some examples from Holt’s book.

There is an old story of two men passing some naked looking sheep in a field. The first one said, “The sheep have just been sheared.” The second one said, “They seem to be on this side.”

We have to be cautious how we judge the events in front of us. We have to be careful before we judge the inner workings of the mind. Holt describes games and experiments that children use for learning. Little children love games and can make anything into a game. Holt asks, “How can you tell what the children are learning, or even that they are learning anything? The answer is simple. We can’t tell. We can’t be sure. What I [Holt] am trying to say about education rests in a belief .. I cannot prove .. call it faith.” [2]

Children learn by observing the world around them. They try experiments. We teach children the words of brakhot and when to say amen. Sometimes they learn how to go beyond the words and pray from the heart. Often the words are said and ideas are not internalized. When the words and ideas are internalized we have kavanah (or intention). Without kavanah words are merely mechanically reproduced. Orekh Hayyim 98:2 tells us that we should not pray in a place where there is interference with kavanah.

Music and chants are aids to achieving kavanah. Since music has a power to stir the soul we have certain laws and customs for chanting prayers. The nusah (ritual chant) varies on weekdays, Shabbat and holidays. The hazzan has a certain amount of latitude to vary the tunes. This helps to keep the interest of the congregation. The wrong nusah will upset the kavanah and mood of many members of the congregation.

           VI. Conclusion

Dr. Heschel tells us that services need life. No one will attain new perspectives into the life he lives without life. Children are our future and our life. While we prepare for the upcoming holidays, make a place for children.

            VII.       Bibliography

Dembitz, Lewis N. Jewish services in the synagogue and home. Philadelphia, 1898.

Donin, Hayim Halevy. To pray as a Jew. New York, 1980.

Heschel, Abraham Joshua. “The spirit of Jewish prayer,” in Proceedings of the
Rabbinical Assembly of America. v. 17 (1953) p. 151-177.

Holt, John. How children learn. New York, 1969.

Kohn, Eugene. “Prayer and the modern Jew,” in Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly
of America. v. 17 (1953) p. 179-191.

Milgram, Abraham. Jewish worship. Philadelphia, 1971.

Petuchoski, Jakob J. Understanding Jewish prayer. New York, 1972.

 [2] Holt, J. How Children learn. p. 189.