How is this haggadah different from all others?
The story of PassoverEach version of the haggadah has its own message

How is this haggadah different from all others?

It is said that there are more variations of the haggadah than any other Jewish text. With so many options, how can you choose just one for your seder?

Some Passover books used by staff of the Chronicle. (Photo by Lauren Rosenblatt)
Some Passover books used by staff of the Chronicle. (Photo by Lauren Rosenblatt)

When you open up most haggadahs, you are likely to read something in the introduction about how the story of Passover is one of the most widely known — and widely told — stories of Jewish history. It’ll be followed by something about how there are more variations of the haggadah than any other Jewish text.

Such assertions don’t seem to be wrong. An Amazon search for “haggadah” returns more than 2,000 results. Art Scroll, a leading seller for the Orthodox Jewish community, has 40 options. One Pittsburgh Judaica site, — affiliated with the Pinskers store in Squirrel Hill — has nearly 100. A quick walk through a local bookstore, Amazing Books, reveals five different options published from the 1970s to ’90s.

Each version of the classic book strives to answer the question: How is this haggadah different from all others?

Some market the illustrations that accompany the text as their own works of art. Others focus on the languages the book offers, from English and Hebrew to Spanish and Russian. Others boast about cost and durability of the book itself — which can often fall victim to wine stains or horseradish residue as the pages are turned and discussed during an altogether messy meal.

Still others draw connections between the story of Passover and current events, linking to social justice causes or pushing a political agenda. (Amazon lists a political parody about President Trump as one of its best sellers.)

Lastly, some haggadahs focus on the fun — notably, there’s a Harry Potter-themed Hogwarts haggadah and “Haggadah in Another Dimension,” which celebrates the holiday through the use of 3-D images.

With so many options, the task of choosing which haggadah you will use for your seder certainly is daunting. To add another layer to the already confusing labyrinth of available haggadahs, there are websites, such as, where you can design your own. Add in family traditions passed down over the generations and the task becomes twice as overwhelming.

I have used the same haggadah each year, a beautifully illustrated version from the Central Conference of American Rabbis that my grandparents seem to have in never-ending supply. A colleague of mine said his family still uses the same version that his great-grandparents used around their seder table.

After researching all the available options to choose from, I regret to report that I did not discover the secret to choosing the right haggadah. What I did find, though, is that despite all the differences, they all have a common goal: to tell the story of Passover in a way that is meaningful to its readers, whether that’s through connections to feminist issues and the Black Lives Matter movement or to Israel or to a beloved world of wizards.

“In each generation, every individual should feel personally redeemed from Egypt. Therefore, each of us must tell about the personal Exodus in a language that we understand, in the metaphors we use and with the knowledge we have acquired,” reads the foreword of the “Metsudah Linear Passover Haggadah,” published in 1993. “This haggadah seeks to enable this generation of Jews to tell about the Exodus.”

So when deciding which haggadah to use, after spending countless hours looking at all the available options of course, focus on one question — and one follow-up — for yourself as well: How is this seder and the people that are celebrating with me different from all others? What message do I want them to take away and how can my haggadah help get that message across? PJC

Lauren Rosenblatt can be reached at

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