Making your Haggadah unique
The website haggadot.com offers numerous template options.
The Hebrew word haggadah means narration or telling. As the Passover seder’s instruction manual, the Haggadah is perhaps the most important tool for fulfilling the Passover mitzvah of telling the story of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt – a mitzvah that is mentioned six times in the Torah.
The Rambam (Maimonides) in his Mishneh Torah explains that relating the miracles and wonders that were done for our ancestors in Egypt on Passover night is a positive commandment, and that it is a mitzvah to inform our children about it. Many interpret this to mean that telling the Passover story is actually two mitzvot: a mitzvah to tell the story among adults and a mitzvah to teach children about the story.
ArtScroll and Maxwell House have done their parts to make a simple seder manual accessible and inexpensive. But sometimes just reciting the words of the seder isn’t enough to engage seder participants – or even to help them understand the Passover story.
“What I learned is that my family had never really understood the service they had been using for many, many years,” said
Barbara Bayer of Overland Park, Kan., who about 30 years ago decided to write a Haggadah, which she continues to revise each year. “I went to simple sources that told the story simply and succinctly and the family loved it and still does.”
Making your own Haggadah is not as complicated as one might think. For starters, there are many web platforms that allow you to create a customized seder manual by providing curated sources from across the Jewish community. Haggadot.com, for instance, offers readings, artwork and video clips to enliven the seder. The clips can be assembled in one of the website’s templates.
Other sites, such as livelyseders.com, allow users to download an English translation of the complete traditional Ashkenazi Haggadah text, which can be cut and pasted to create your own piece. Jewishfreeware.org carries a range of editions of Haggadot, each one directed to specific interests and needs, in terms of the Haggadah’s length and rituals of choice. All the files are downloadable and some are editable.
Once you’ve found your base, personalizing the Haggadah for your seder experience can be loads of fun and really creative, according to those who do it.
Renee Goldfarb of Solon, Ohio, said one year she set up a laptop, projector and screen at the Passover table and showed a relevant video for each of the 15 steps of the seder.
Suzanne Levin-Lapides, on the other hand, compiled her family Haggadah from the texts of various seders for women she had attended in her Baltimore community, adding an orange to her seder plate as a symbol of feminism, as well as the inclusion of LGBT individuals and other marginalized groups within the Jewish community.
At the Katz family home in Kemp Mill, Md., the Passover seder has been turned into a play by their 12-year-old daughter, Abigail.
Read more at jns.org.