“Mishkan HaSeder: A Passover Haggadah” by Rabbi Hara Person and edited by Jessica Greenbaum— A New and Timely Haggadah

Person, Rabbi Hara. “Mishkan HaSeder: A Passover Haggadah”, edited by Jessica Greenblatt,  CCAR Press, 2021.

A New and Timely Haggadah

Amos Lassen

Every year at Passover, many new Haggadot are published making it difficult for me to decide which to add to my library— I buy a new one each year. This year I decided on “Mishkan HaSeder” published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. I was already familiar with the other books in their “Mishkan” series. “Mishkan HaSeder” combines age-old texts, fresh insights, inspiring poetry, new translations, and beautiful art and is a welcome addition to my collection. It is a new standard in Passover Haggadot. There are new translations by Rabbis Janet and Sheldon Marder and an extraordinary collection of poetry from a diverse array of poets. The commentary by Rabbis Oren Hayon, Seth Limmer, and Amy Scheinerman runs throughout the book and gives us the historic background of Seder rituals, builds on the social justice issues of our day, and presents contemporary connections to Passover. The full-color art is  from artist Tobi Kahn and it is gorgeous.

The poetry is by Yehuda Amichai, Ellen Bass, Lucille Clifton, Edward Hirsch, Ross Gay, Emma Lazarus, Denise Levertov, Ada Limon, Grace Paley, Dan Pagis, Adrienne Rich, and many others. I love that the Haggadah can be used both at home and for community Seders. It is filled with depth yet the explanations are easy to understand and stimulating.  

“It is “creative, serious, egalitarian, poetic, and inspiring” with many layers of meaning and beauty and has something for everyone— skeptics, seekers, and scholars. We have powerful feminist commentary that illuminates the moral and ethical underpinnings of the Passover Seder and presents new ways of understanding.
It includes the wisdom of the Talmud and what  contemporary Jewish teachers see whether it be ancient practice or a  call for justice.

Every Haggadah “is a reflection of its time.” It makes no assumptions about the level of knowledge anyone at the Seder brings to it yet remains challenging and thoughtful as it invites participants to take the Seder seriously and to bring their full selves to the experience.

The commentary is a reflection of the world, making connections between the text and the challenges of life today, reminding us that the themes of the Seder – like caring for the stranger and the search for justice are relevant today as always.

 One of the major themes running is the “journey” – that as a people, we have always been on a journey, both physical in the sense of moving from place to place, and also spiritually. We make choices about how we live our lives in relationship to other people and these have a lot to do with where we are on that journey. We reflect on how we treat others and we read that our redemption is bound up with those of others. We decide what we do with the call to action is in our hands.

 This Haggadah raises the experience of the Seder and allows people to enjoy the beauty of the experience, in the journey toward freedom, and the lessons we learn along the way. We also become aware of the power of our personal experiences to poet, that they’re ours to have individually. We write ourselves into the story through the power of our imagination.

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