By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
Over the course of history, countless thousands of editions of the Passover Haggadah – the liturgical text at the heart of the Seder – have been published or produced in manuscript. More become available with each passing year, a blessing for collectors and ordinary Seder celebrants alike.
The word “Haggadah,” together with the “Magid” section of the Seder, is derived from the Hebrew verb meaning “to tell.” We are “to tell” our children of the historic enslavement of our ancestors and of the Exodus that brought us to freedom. “Haggadah” seems to signify that “telling” or “retelling” is the central function of the Seder.
The same verb is used in Deuteronomy 26:3 – “You shall appear before the priest… and say to him: ‘I declare (Higad’ti) this day before God….” This verse introduces the liturgical formula Arami Oved Avi (“My ancestor was a wandering Aramean”), treated extensively in the Haggadah. Targum Yerushalmi translates “Higad’ti” into Aramaic as “odinan v’shabchinan” – “We give thanks and praise.” The verse is thus understood to state: “We offer thanks and praise this day before God….”
This etymology suggests that “Haggadah” may be understood not merely as “The Retelling,” but as… “The Book of Thanksgiving and Praise.”
At our seders, may we recognize the countless thousands of blessings for which we should be grateful.
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)