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When God freed its chosen people from Egypt

The Jewish Journey Haggadah: Connecting the Generations by Adena Berkowitz & Shira Hecht-Koller (Potographer), Gefen Publishing House, US $29.95, Pp 238, March 2019 ISBN 978-9652299123

Each year, at the Passover Seder, the observant Jews ask a familiar question: Why is this night different from all other nights? This question evokes a range of emotions and memories for Jews across the ages and around the world. At the same time, it also evokes many more questions in the minds of younger people. For Jews, the Passover Seder is the special moment to host a meal in the company of family and friends as they recall and retell the Jewish people’s liberation by God from Egypt and try to understand the meaning of freedom and their vow to triumph over adversity. In family user-friendly (with color-coding) The Jewish Journey Haggadah, Rabbanit Dr. Adena Berkowitz asks several important questions and answers them for you.

If you are looking for further insight and explanation of the Haggadah text to make the Passover story come alive, The Jewish Journey Haggadah should be your next stop. Rabbanit Dr. Adena Berkowitz says that this Haggadah has been designed to foster a deeper connection to Passover to enable participants from all backgrounds, from generation to generation, to be comfortable using a Hebrew or transliterated text, together with an inclusive English translation. The Jewish Journey Haggadah provides suggestions for preparing for Passover and internalizing its messages afterward. It also shows the central role played by women in the Passover story. Thus, it will lead the people around the dinner table to have a lively discussion as they share their insights, anecdotes, and stories.

The central question is: What set Passover preparations apart from all other holidays? Rabbanit Dr. Adena Berkowitz says that, unlike the usual hustle and bustle that goes with cleaning for other holidays (or even on a weekly basis for Shabbat), Passover is all-encompassing. She writes, “Ridding one’s house of chametz (leaven) requires much energy and stamina. The process of turning one’s house upside down, with a thorough scouring of the kitchen, means not only getting rid of bread but any leavened product and by extension anything produced in a non-Passover-cleaned kitchen or factory.”

The second big question is: How did the Seder come about and how did it take on the structure we have today? Rabbanit Dr. Adena Berkowitz says that, in the Torah, God commands the Jewish people to bring a Passover sacrifice, mark their doors with the blood of a lamb, and eat the sacrificial animal along with bitter herbs. Jews are ordered to eat unleavened bread for seven days and tell the Passover story to our children. She writes, “As we recall the exodus from Egypt and our escape to freedom, we are also to sing songs of praise. In the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Passover sacrifice would be offered by each head of the family and eaten after the meal along with wine, a vegetable that had been dipped, bitter herbs and matzah.” She continues that the children should be encouraged to ask their questions based on what they had seen including a question about the roasted meat. After the Temple was destroyed, Jews were no longer able to bring and eat the Koban Pesach (the Passover sacrifice). The rabbis realized that an educational initiative was required to keep the Passover story and experience fresh and ever important. The Seder had to be restructured and formalized, taking into account the lack of Passover sacrifice. This is how the renewed emphasis was placed on prayers and discussions, and rituals to engage the participants. The essence of the Seder is seder (order).

If you are looking for a brief introduction of everything about Haggadah, The Jewish Journey Haggadah should be your first stop. It covers most topics from history to rites. Rabbanit Dr. Adena Berkowitz, takes nothing for granted and defines — and gives the background of — everything for you. With Hebrew text and English translation side by side, the author provides commentaries, stories, and topics for discussion as you sit around the dining table. There are Jewish recipes for your table as well. This Haggadah serves people of all backgrounds. It will create a closer connection within the family — and with Passover. You would love it whether you are adult well-versed in Jewish history and traditions or a teenager beginning to learn your history and traditions. Shira Hecht-Koller’s photography makes it a real treat.

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