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My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries Volume 1 Hardcover – February 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Here's everything you ever wanted to know about the Passover haggadah, from multiple perspectives: biblical, historical, theological, legal, rabbinic, mystical, feminist—and then some. The editors don't take anything for granted, even defining basic terms like haggadah itself and discussing the translation of barukh, the first word of every blessing. But this comprehensive two-volume handbook is not for the cursory reader or even for light use at the seder table. It opens with a collection of scholarly essays reflecting all denominations of Judaism, then segues into the text, presented cleverly in Talmudic format (in Hebrew with a new English translation) and surrounded by commentaries. Contributors include Lawrence Kushner, Arthur Green, Carole Balin and Neil Gillman as well as Hoffman (My People's Prayer Book) and Arnow (Creating Lively Passover Seders). The plurality of voices lends richness to the reader's understanding of the familiar text, but it can be confusing to follow the flow of the commentaries, which continue beyond the text and even overshadow it. Still, this illuminating resource provides a myriad of in-depth answers to the why? in why is this night different from all others? (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

David Arnow, PhD, a psychologist by training, is widely recognized for his innovative work to make the Passover Seder a truly exciting encounter each year with Judaism's most central ideas. He has been deeply involved with many organizations in the American Jewish community and Israel and is a respected lecturer, writer and scholar of the Passover Haggadah. He is author of Creating Lively Passover Seders: A Sourcebook of Engaging Tales, Texts & Activities and coeditor of the two-volume My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries, with Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD (both Jewish Lights).



Dr. Marc Zvi Brettler is the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University. He contributed to all volumes of the My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries series (winner of the National Jewish Book Award) and to My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries; Who by Fire, Who by Water―Un'taneh Tokef; All These Vows―Kol Nidre; May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism―Yizkor and We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism―Ashamnu and Al Chet (all Jewish Lights). He is coeditor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament and The Jewish Study Bible, which won the National Jewish Book Award; coauthor of The Bible and the Believer and author of How to Read the Jewish Bible, among other books and articles. He has also been interviewed on National Public Radio's Fresh Air by Terry Gross.



Neil Gillman, rabbi and PhD, is professor of Jewish philosophy at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he has served as chair of the Department of Jewish Philosophy and dean of the Rabbinical School. He is author of Believing and Its Tensions: A Personal Conversation about God, Torah, Suffering and Death in Jewish Thought; The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and a Publishers Weekly "Best Book of the Year"; The Way Into Encountering God in Judaism; The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians; Traces of God: Seeing God in Torah, History and Everyday Life (all Jewish Lights) and Sacred Fragments: Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew, winner of the National Jewish Book Award.



Arthur Green, PhD, is recognized as one of the world's preeminent authorities on Jewish thought and spirituality. He is the Irving Brudnick professor of philosophy and religion at Hebrew College and rector of the Rabbinical School, which he founded in 2004. Professor emeritus at Brandeis University, he also taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where he served as dean and president.

Dr. Green is author of several books including Judaism's Ten Best Ideas: A Brief Guide for Seekers; Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow; Seek My Face: A Jewish Mystical Theology; Your Word Is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer and Tormented Master: The Life and Spiritual Quest of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (all Jewish Lights). He is also author of Radical Judaism (Yale University Press) and coauthor of Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from around the Maggid's Table. He is long associated with the Havurah movement and a neo-Hasidic approach to Judaism.



Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, has served for more than three decades as professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He is a world-renowned liturgist and holder of the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Chair in Liturgy, Worship and Ritual. His work combines research in Jewish ritual, worship and spirituality with a passion for the spiritual renewal of contemporary Judaism.

He has written and edited many books, including All the World: Universalism, Particularism and the High Holy Days; May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism―Yizkor; We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism―Ashamnu and Al Chet; Who by Fire, Who by Water―Un'taneh Tokef and All These Vows―Kol Nidre, the first five volumes in the Prayers of Awe series; the My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries series, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; and he is coeditor of My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries (all Jewish Lights), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.

Rabbi Hoffman is a developer of Synagogue 3000, a transdenominational project designed to envision and implement the ideal synagogue of the spirit for the twenty-first century.

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, is available to speak on the following topics:

  • A Day of Wine and Moses: The Passover Haggadah and the Seder You Have Always Wanted
  • Preparing for the High Holy Days: How to Appreciate the Liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
  • The Essence of Jewish Prayer: The Prayer Book in Context and Worship in Our Time
  • Beyond Ethnicity: The Coming Project for North American Jewish Identity
  • Synagogue Change: Transforming Synagogues as Spiritual and Moral Centers for the Twenty-First Century

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Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is one of the most widely read authors by people of all faiths on Jewish spiritual life. He is the best-selling author of such books as Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary; God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning; Honey from the Rock: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet; The Book of Miracles: A Young Person's Guide to Jewish Spiritual Awareness; The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk; Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader; I'm God, You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion and Other Disguises of the Ego; Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians; The River of Light: Jewish Mystical Awareness; The Way Into Jewish Mystical Tradition and coauthor of Because Nothing Looks Like God; How Does God Make Things Happen?; Where Is God?; What Does God Look Like? and In God's Hands (all Jewish Lights). He is the Emanu-El Scholar at San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El and an adjunct professor of Jewish mysticism and spirituality at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Jewish Mystical Imagination
  • Rymanover's Silent Aleph: What Really Happened on Sinai
  • Zohar on Romance and Revelation
  • What Makes Kabbalah Kabbalah
  • Sacred Stories of the Ordinary: When God Makes a Surprise Appearance in Everyday Life


Rabbi Nehemia Polen is professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew College. He is the author of The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto and The Rebbe's Daughter, recipient of a National Jewish Book Award. He is also a contributor to the award-winning My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries (Jewish Lights).



Rabbi Daniel Landes is the director and rosh hayeshivah of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Pardes brings together men and women of all backgrounds to study classical Jewish texts and contemporary Jewish issues in a rigorous, challenging and open-minded environment.Rabbi Landes is also a contributor to the My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries series, winner of the National Jewish Book Award and My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award; Who by Fire, Who by Water―Un’taneh Tokef; We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism―Ashamnu and Al Chet and All These Vows―Kol Nidre (all Jewish Lights).



Dr. Wendy Zierler is professor of modern Jewish literature and feminist studies at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, New York. She is translator and coeditor with Rabbi Carole Balin of To Tread on New Ground: The Selected Writings of Hava Shapiro (forthcoming) and a Behikansi atah (Shapiro's collected writings, in the original/Hebrew). She is also author of And Rachel Stole the Idols and the feminist Haggadah commentary featured in My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries (Jewish Lights), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She contributed to May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism―Yizkor, Who by Fire, Who by Water―Un’taneh Tokef, All These Vows―Kol Nidre, and We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism―Ashamnu and Al Chet (all Jewish Lights).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights; 1 edition (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580233546
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580233545
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 7.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,162,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By TravelMod on February 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lawrence Hoffman is a leading scholar and writer in the Reform Jewish movement, though he pays due attention to Orthodox traditions for the historical perspective. He has a series of "My People's...." books which examine the practice and evolution of Jewish ritual and prayer.
His "My People's Haggadah" is published in two volumes and is a detailed commentary on the content of the traditional Haggadah, the book that in various forms (there are thousands of versions) is used to structure the Seder service and meal that Jews participate in during the holiday of Passover. His insights are illuminating, scholarly, and in some cases, provocative, but always worthwhile. My only caveat would be that this is not the casual reader's guide to the Haggadah, nor a simple summary of the Reform observance of Passover. This book requires a certain amount of commitment to study. Highly recommended, if this is your area of interest or curiosity.
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This is a very detailed, informative addition to the traditional Haggadah, a valuable tool for anyone who wants to understand the Haggadah. The Haggadah (meaning, telling or retelling) is a volume that Jews read in the special Seder (meaning, "order" of the ceremony) on the first night (or for some Jews, first two nights) of the Passover. The editors offer so much information that they had to divide their presentation into two volumes of 267 and 297 pages, a total of 564, even though an average unannotated Haggadah would have no more than 35 pages. Eleven people, men and women, comment and add keen insights on the ancient Haggadah.

The nine articles in the Introduction, comprising almost ninety fact filled, interesting, and easy to read pages, discuss subjects such as: "What is the Haggadah Anyway," "Passover in the Bible and Before," "Passover for the Early Rabbis: Fixed and Free," "This Bread: Christianity and the Seder," and other subjects, such as feminist questions about the Haggadah and how different Jewish denominations understand Passover, the Seder, and the Haggadah.

The reminder of this first volume has the text of the Haggadah in Hebrew, a modern English translation, instructions on how to perform the many ceremonies, and extensive commentaries by different scholars. The commentaries include "Modern Haggadot" (plural of Haggadah), ways that modern Jews perform the Seder; "Our Biblical Heritage," explaining the sources of most of the readings and practices; "Medieval Commentators," opinions about the Haggadah from many authorities; "Translation," why the translator of this volume translated a passage as he did; "History," "Chassidic Voices," Feminist Voices," and a section on the Jewish law on the issues.
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Brilliant and eminently readable scholarship. I incorporated chunks of both volumes into our Passover Seder. I regard these volumes as "must have" ones for anybody interested in the history of the Haggadah.
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