Creating An Intellectual Passover Seder

Rabbi Gil Student writes: To date, three Haggadahs have been published that purport to be collections of insights of R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik: Haggadah Si’ach Ha-Gerid by his grandson, R. Yitzchak Lichtenstein; Haggadah for Passover With Commentary Based on the Shiurim of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik by R. Yosef Adler; and The Seder Night: An Exalted Evening: The Passover Haggadah: With a Commentary Based on the Teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik edited by R. Menachem Genack. Each Haggadah is different and I’d like to discuss briefly their respective strengths and weaknesses.

R. Lichtenstein’s is mainly a collection of his grandfather’s halakhic insights. It is written in rabbinic Hebrew with the traditional style of question/contradiction and then neat resolution. Interspersed throughout the halakhic discussions are occasional explanatory comments that offer insight into the meaning of phrases or the underlying theological intent of the Haggadah.

R. Adler’s is a presentation of his notes from R. Soloveitchik’s lectures. There is a certain lack of polish to the notes which I think is intentional, to make it clear that they are not R. Soloveitchik’s words. There is a surprising amount of passages in the Haggadah that have no commentary, presumably because R. Adler had no notes on them. That makes for a relatively short book. Additionally, everything in this book is in R. Adler’s words, so the language is not too formal but, on the other hand, they aren’t the words of the master.

JOEL RICH WRITES: Last year I used Festivals of Freedom cross referenced to the Hagada. It’s interesting, having listened to some of the tapes that these are based on, how imho each iteration away from the original formulation (I’ll have one in next weeks audio roundup IY"H) , while valuable, loses some of the intensity and force of insight.
This year IY"H I’ll be using R’ Genack’s version which I think was quite good (I would quibble with some of his choices for alignment of the comment with a particular part of the text).

They all imho require annotating prior to the seder if you are going to use them (especially if you run the seder) but especially R’ Genack’s because of the volume of material – also need to know if your audience is into halacha or hashkafa.

IY"H I’m giving a class (if anyone shows up) in the Vilna of Essex county next Tuesday PM on R’ Genak’s volume and I intend to make up a cheat sheet with some haskafic points. FWIW my favorite (tonight anyway) quote is "Provoking children to ask and arousing their curiosity does not mean working with them for weeks before Pesach to memorize a text. The Mizvah is that the child should ask spontaneously, not be coached in advance"

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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