Passover Haggadah

The Haggadah shel Pesach (Hebrew, Passover Story) is the story of the Israelites' flight from Egypt under their leader Moses. Read during each seder, it is not only the description of the Jews' most important escape from captivity to freedom, but also remains a living link between Biblical times and the present.

Reading the Haggadah aloud together-along with the age-old order of prayers, blessings, and eating of traditional dishes-is meant to enable each family to understand and reenact the story of the Exodus for themselves. The religious significance of this text comes from the commandment in the Bible that the history of this holiday should be told: "On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.'"(Exodus 13:8)

The Haggadah is comprised of extensive passages from the Book of Exodus, as well as psalms, rabbinical sermons, blessings of the matzoth and charoset (a spread made of apples, nuts, honey and wine), and also folk and children's songs-such as Chad Gadya and Dayenu.
The seder evening meal customarily takes place at the home with the family. This is also why Haggadah shel Pesach has always been present in every home. The Haggadah is one of the few Jewish religious books that may be illustrated. This privilege has been used since the Middle Ages to create richly illustrated works of art, both manuscripts and printed. Among the most famous illustrated Haggadoth is the Birds' Head Haggadah (Germany, ca. 1300). Its name comes from its one-of-a-kind drawings of human figures with birds' heads. This was supposed to deflect accusations that the ban on representing human beings had been broken. Another famous Haggadah is the Sarajevo Haggadah, from the fourteenth century. Even today, viewers are awed by its beautiful illustrations depicting the story of the Exodus, texts of the parables and songs are on a gold background, and the richness of colors and the precision of the drawings.

Originally made in Spain, it arrived in the Balkans with Sephardic Jews after they had been exiled from the Iberian Peninsula. During the war in the former Yugoslavia, it was saved by Sarajavan Muslims who protected it during the entire duration of the city's siege. After the battles ended, in 1996 the leader of the Bosnia Muslims, Alija Izetbegović, returned it to the Sarajevo Jews in a ceremony which took place on Passover.
The illustrations in Haggadoth that are currently published often allude to historical models�such as the illuminations of medieval manuscripts, Baroque wood-cuts, or the soft lines of the ornaments in Secession (art nouveau) graphics. Contemporary Haggadoth very often have parallel texts in Hebrew and other languages, to help facilitate understanding of the idea behind the seder.

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