Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review: 'Tis the Season for Haggadot

Ah Passover! What a time of year, right? You get to spend hours cleaning your house of all that chametz (leavened goods made of barley, wheat, spelt, rye, and oats) and other shmutz that might have accumulated over the past year, while also meal planning the most amazing chametz-free week of food that won't fill you full of potato starch, potatoes, and more starch.

Preparing for the season, I've lamented that our books are all packed up and leaving on a barge for America today. I also don't have all of the haggadot that I used when I was living in the U.S. (because I sold them ... sigh). We don't have many things laying around that offer Pesach-season inspiration, unfortunately, so I've been blessed with the most amazing seasonally inspiring books from Mosaica Press, including Darkness to Destiny: The Haggadah Experience by Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein.

I'll admit right off the bat: The cover is cheesy in the style of so many pieces of Judaica these days, which is off-putting if you don't spend a time reading books of the Feldheim/Artscroll variety. But please, give it a chance!

One friend commented that the haggadah "seems a bit 101," which in truth is the way you want a haggadah to be. Sitting at a Passover seder table is not the place to be knee-deep in midrash, folks. It's small morsels of awesome, inspirational thought that will get you through the seder and allow you the option of participating by providing the other guests with some fun facts, tidbits, and takes on different aspects of the seder "service."

Reading through Darkness to Destiny, I was inspired to pursue a few topics and even wrote about them on About.com. I had zero clue that the four cups of wine were in any way remotely related to the dreams that Joseph interpreted in the Pharaoh narratives. Curious by this morsel shared in the commentaries in the beginning of the haggadah, I ended up writing up a look at the different reasons for the four cups of wine at the Passover seder for About.com. That led me to considering the three matzot and the reason for having three instead of, say, four (as is the theme of the seder with the cups of wine, the sons, and so many other things).

And this, folks, is what you want in a haggadah: Questions that raise more thought-provoking questions. The theme of Passover is, of course, "Why is this night different than all other nights?"

So if you're still considering what haggadot to have at your seder, may I suggest this mix-and-match selection for the diversity of your guests that includes this very easy-to-read take on the classic.

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