The Lieberman Open Orthodox Haggadah: by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfield. Gefen Publishing House 2015. 160 pages
The remaining essays, both those by the guests and by Rabbi Herzfeld, touch on a wide range of topics, such as Fertility Challenges, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a Jewish holiday.
This new Hebrew/English Haggadah is distinguished by a lively and modern English translation, charming pen-and ink illustrations by Caryl Herzfeld, and over twenty short essays on topics both related to Pesach and of generic Jewish interest.
The modern English translation is nicely suited to the English speaking audience for whom a translation makes the Seder more accessible. The English text on the right side of each page is opposite the Hebrew text on the left. This translation uses informal American expressions. For example, the parent of the wicked son is admonished to “take the bite out of him”, as opposed to the usual “blunt his teeth.” The instructions for the Seder ritual are given in both English and the Hebrew, making it easy for even non-Hebrew readers to follow the leader’s progress.
A unique feature of this Haggadah is the use of charming airy pen-and-ink illustrations that precede the steps of the Seder. The only color plate is on the cover, and it makes one wish that more color had been used in the Haggadah. There is a lot going on in each illustration; they are not meant to be absorbed in a quick glance before you turn the page. Each drawing is accompanied by four questions (how apt!) about what is going in the picture. The questions are excellent stepping-off points to describe the fine points of the Seder customs, and sometimes they are simple “why didn’t I think of that” logic questions. The wise leader of the Seder will review the questions, and perhaps the answers to the questions (in the back of the book), before the Seder.
Another addition to the Haggadah are the essays throughout the volume. Most of the essays are connected to the Seder in a clear way, at least thematically, dealing with the plague of Choshekh (darkness), Charoset, or the Afikoman. The essays are each a few pages long, and they appear at the bottom of the pages of the Haggadah text. The reader is not likely to read them during the Seder (unless they are really detached from the goings-on!), so they make the Haggadah a book that will be used both before and throughout the holiday.
There are essays are by five guest authors, men and women, including Rabbi Avi Weiss, Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman, Rachel Lieberman, and Rabbi Asher Lopatin. One truly unique essay is by Michel Martin, the non-Jewish neighbor of Rabbi Herzfeld’s shul who buys the congregations chametz. She describes what it is like to live on the periphery of Rabbi Herzfeld’s community.
Not all of the essays link to Pesach in an obvious way. Some essays are of a generic Jewish nature, and reflect the religious-philosophical viewpoint of Rabbi Herzfeld, who studied with Rabbi Avi Weiss. Rabbi Weiss is an important figure in this Haggadah, so a few words of background are in order: He is the founder of the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School rabbinical school, Yeshivat Maharat Torah academy for women, and the originator of the term Open Orthodox that appears in the title of the Haggadah. Rabbi Weiss has written an introduction about Open Orthodoxy in the Haggadah. Rabbi Herzfeld has written four “Discussions” about Open Orthodoxy interspersed among the other essays.
This book is available through:
eLuna.com and through Gefen Publishing House
Books can be ordered from eLuna.com for delivery in Israel only.