What to Look for in a Haggadah
We didn’t originally set out to make our own Haggadah. We wanted to replace the ones we started with, with Haggadot that truly reflected who we are, and who we imagine Seder Box owners to be. We were hoping to find a suitable one to include in our Seder Box that was inexpensive enough that the box could still be affordable. And so we began looking at other Haggadot. The times being what they are, we looked mainly at Haggadot that are available for download. Haggadot.com was a good starting point, but a quick Internet search revealed many others as well.
Clearly, we decided to make our own, but in the process, we’ve developed a sense of what to consider when choosing a Haggadah, whether virtual or physical. There’s really a lot to consider. This is probably a less-than-exhaustive list, but here we go:
How is God referred to? Here’s a start: if it’s raising your hackles to see this word spelled without a hyphen in the middle, that’s an important consideration. Do you like the majesty of Thee and Thou, or do you prefer You? Are you comfortable with gendered language like Lord or Shechinah, and His or Her and He or She, do you prefer the gender-neutral use of God as name and pronoun? Do you prefer the imagery of God as Ruler, or as Creator?
Your background: Shepardic, Ashkenazic, Mizrachi? Reform? Orthodox? Conservative? Reconstructionist? Secular Humanist?
Length: Do you and those you’ll celebrate with prefer a quick jaunt through the Haggadah, or a longer, more leisurely journey?
Longevity: Are you expecting the Haggadah you choose to become a treasured tradition, or is it a stop-gap until normal times return? In other words, if you’re going to buy it, will the Haggadah be a short-term purchase or an investment?
Hebrew: What is the balance between English and Hebrew? Is the Hebrew transliterated? Is the English a faithful translation?
Choice: Some Haggadot are replete with extra and alternative readings; some are meant to be followed pretty much from start to finish
Tone and Language: Should your Haggadah be easily understood by children? Will your Seder be an adult-only affair? Consider the complexity and sophistication of the language.
Leadership: Some Haggadot very explicitly lay out leader and participant roles. Others are more fluid.
Role of Women: Some Haggadot include Miriam to make the story and the ritual more inclusive; others do not.
Inclusivity and focus: Every Haggadah, of course, has a focus, but some are more explicit or intentional.
There are explicitly LGBTQ+ Haggadot. Some are symbol-rich for those with learning differences. There are some specific to a culture or an experience. There are Haggadot that focus on social issues such as immigration, refugees, climate change, justice, liberation, gender issues….if your community has a passion, there’s probably a Haggadah that reflects it.
The Arts: Is artwork important to you? Is the artwork appealing? Serious or playful? Are there many opportunities to sing? Would your group prefer a YouTube Haggadah? It’s all out there.
Cherished Traditions: If it’s inconceivable to have a Seder without a certain reading or song, either look for it, or supplement!
Of course, if after looking at all the options you decide you like ours best (as we do), you can buy a printed version here, or you can email us to request a pdf copy in return for being on our mailing list.