Dear God, Why Is There A Naked Lady In My Haggadah?

Rabbi Gil Student writes:

There was always one passage that stuck out in my youthful mind because it refers to a naked woman with a little detail (see below). As I grew older and learned what the passage means from a rabbinic perspective (naked of mitzvos), I still wondered why there wasn’t a way of expressing that which did not include such provocative language.

In the recently published Haggadah from R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (link), he explains this (pp. 68-69):

"Numerous" — as it is said: "I caused you to thrive like the plants of the field, and you increased and grew and became very beautiful, your bosom fashioned and your hair grown long, but you were naked and bare. (Ezek. 16,7)

Gidon Rothstein writes: "I think the original reaction is interesting, since Yehezkel seems not to have worried about that. I ran into this in my recent book, Cassandra Misreads the Book of Samuel, since I included some such sections, almost all of them based on Tanach, and yet readers were surprised and/or offended. Maybe, sometimes, we are sensitive to what Tanach thought was reasonable and appropriate."

Anon writes: "We have the unusual stuff in the beginning for the kids to ask and stay up, when the immature teen start acting up a bit later in the hagada, we put this in to keep them interested, gil we did it for you."

Y. Aharon writes: "R’ Gil: Your question is but a reflection of the great cultural difference between traditional Western or Victorian values and that of ancient times in the Middle East. In the times of Yechezkel or in the late Tana’itic times when the passage was inserted to expand the biblical text for vidui bikurim (Sifrei, Ki Tavo), it would not have been considered problematic or shocking. Prophets do use sexual imagery to convey graphic lessons, comparing Israel to a harlot, etc. Here the imagery is very cogent. The time had come for Ya’akov’s extended family/nation to undergo a dramatic change from abject and oppressed slaves to a free people. Yet, they were unprepared, both physically and spiritually for such a change. They had come of age physically, but their conditions were unpromising and barren. However, the bloody mess that they were in was, yet, the sign that they were being prepared for a new relationship, and the necessary precursor for it."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Passover and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.