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Why I Published My Own Passover Haggadah

The seder marks a global Jewish event—I wanted a book that felt as diverse

April 01, 2015
Image from 'The Rishoni Illuminated Legacy Haggadah.' (Image courtesy of the author)
Image from ‘The Rishoni Illuminated Legacy Haggadah.’ (Image courtesy of the author)

“So what kind of haggadah is it?”

That was the inevitable question asked whenever it happened to come up in conversation that I was working on a haggadah. And I never really had an answer to that. After all, my haggadah was just a haggadah.

There are so many themed haggadot out there on the market—the Baalei Mussar Haggadah, the Chassidic Masters Haggadah, the Feminist Haggadah, the
Woman’s Haggadah, the LGBT Haggadah, the This Haggadah, the That Haggadah—that it seems people have forgotten that the haggadah (and the seder itself) has always been, and has always been intended as, an inherently inclusive book.

That’s how I tackled my haggadah, and why—to me—it’s “just” a haggadah.

You can’t read Hebrew? It’s transliterated.

You don’t understand Hebrew? It’s translated into English.

You can read Hebrew, but aren’t really literate in all its nuances? The Hebrew text is color-highlighted to differentiate between milra/mileil syllable emphasis and identification of sh’va na, kamatz katan, and patach g’nuva.

Don’t know what you’re doing? There are instructions.

Don’t know why you’re doing it? There’s commentary.

Don’t know how to do it? The laws are explained.

Can’t stay awake? Hopefully the artwork will capture and keep your attention.

Tired of an Ashkenormative or Sephardictated expression of a global Jewish event? It’s got traditions and recipes from literally around the world.

Tired of sneakily flipping to the back to see how many pages are left? The page number is in countdown format.

Today’s Judaism is more diverse than it has been since, well, the Exodus. It’s about time a haggadah came along to reflect that. In the meantime, there’s the Rishoni Illuminated Legacy Hagadah, available at Amazon and Createspace (use ZBWAUDY3 for an 18% discount this week).

Wishing everyone a meaningful Passover.

MaNishtana is the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish blogger, editor-at-large at JN Magazine, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn and Fine, thanks. How are YOU, Jewish? Follow him on Twitter @MaNishtana.

MaNishtana is the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish writer, speaker, rabbi, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn. His latest book is Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi.