Congratulations on deciding to prepare a seder for Passover! The Passover seder (ritual meal; literally means “order,” that is, the order in which the meal takes place) is one of the most commonly practiced Jewish rituals.
One of the most important parts of the seder is the haggadah. The haggadah (which means “telling”) is the book used on Passover during the seder. The main purpose of the haggadah is to guide the order of the seder. Your experience will be greatly guided by the haggadah you use.
(Click Here to read our "Preparing for Passover" blog series, which featured stories from Mothers Circle participants about what it's like for someone of another religious background to prepare for the Passover holiday.)
A Bit of History
It is thought that the first haggadah was compiled during the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods (200 CE-500 CE). The oldest complete and legible manuscript of a haggadah exists in a prayer book compiled by the Jewish philosopher and leader Saadia Gaon in the 10th Century CE. Although there have been alternate haggadot published in recent years, the main components of the ritual have remained the same. There are specific steps and ritual acts that compose a traditional seder, and most haggadot outline them as follows:
- Kadesh (the Kiddush, the blessing over wine)
- Urchatz (washing hands)
- Karpas (eating herbs dipped in saltwater)
- Yachatz ("dividing" the middle matzah)
- Maggid (the "narration" of the Exodus story)
- Rochtza h (washing hands for the meal)
- Mozi-matzah (the blessing over the matzah)
- Maror (eating bitter herbs)
- Korech (eating bitter herbs with matzah)
- Shulchan Orech(the meal)
- Tzafun (eating of the afikoman – the "last matzah,” which is usually hidden and then found),
- Barech (the blessing after meals)
- Hallel (recitation of the second part of Hallel, a collection of songs of praise and thanks)
- Nirtzah(the closing statement).
Most haggadot include all of these steps, but you may find variations in the language, appearance, or additional readings that accompany these rituals.
Check out the various sections below for staff reviews and advice about which haggadot your family might enjoy.Traditional Haggadot and Translations
Kid Friendly Haggadot
GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender) Haggadot
Personal Reflection Haggadot
Haggadot with Alternate Translations
Additional Websites Resources
Traditional Haggadot and Translations
Some haggadot are only in Hebrew and Aramaic and include the blessings for each stage but may omit instructions for how to perform the accompanying ritual act. There may be additional commentary to supplement and explain each stage of the seder, but these types of haggadot will most likely not include alternative or modern additions. These are sometimes referred to as “traditional” haggadot.
If you are interested in a traditional progression but would like translation and transliteration, here are two options:
The Haggadah: Transliterated and Translated with Instructions and Commentary. Judaica Press, 2003
This offers a transliteration and translation of every word of the traditional haggadah in addition to the Hebrew text, step-by-step instructions, and limited but insightful commentaries. The text is well-arranged on the page and easy to follow, although there are no illustrations or pictures. This haggadah might be a good choice if some participants are not familiar or comfortable with Hebrew. It is also a great resource if you want to conduct parts of the Seder and recite passages in Hebrew, but are unfamiliar with Hebrew letters.
The Passover Haggadah, Delux Edition. Maxwell House Coffee, 1965
Although this haggadah includes translation and some transliteration, it follows the very traditional Ashkenazi text. Rabbinic commentaries and illustrations are the main source of supplementary material provided.
Differences between denominations within Judaism have influenced the elements included in movement-endorsed haggadot and their interpretations of Passover. Listed below are examples of some of the haggadot published under the auspices of different movements. If you’re curious about the differences between them, you might enjoy looking at a range of haggadot side by side.
Rachel Anne Rabbinowicz, The Feast of Freedom. United Synagogue Book Service, 1982
Thishaggadah is composed of traditional “basics” and includes straightforward, traditional directions for setting a seder table and preparing for Passover as well as minimal italicized directions at key points of the seder. This might be a good choice if your seder guests include a mix of those familiar with Hebrew and those who prefer to only use English, as the text is only in English and Hebrew and there is no transliteration. In addition to the traditional steps and text of the seder, this haggadah also provides small paragraphs of commentary to enrich discussion and the seder experience. Along the side of each page are corresponding traditional explanations, insights, and thoughtful questions. The haggadah has lovely, but minimal collage artwork throughout.
Rabbi Shalom Meir Wallach, Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters. Artscroll/Mesorah, 1999
This haggadah provides the traditional text in Hebrew and English translation (no transliteration provided), step-by-step directions, and an abundance of commentary and insight from Chassidic leaders (in English). A brief introductory essay covers the history of Chasidic movement and helps put some of the commentaries in context. This is an Orthodox Ashkenazi text and translation (G-d is translated and referred to as ‘Hashem’, Shabbat as ‘Shabbos’). While the voices of the Chasidic rabbis certainly provide intricate explanation, this haggadah does not provide general explanations or commentaries and as such might be best to use if those at your seder have some familiarity with Passover and the concept of a seder. This might be enjoyed by a group that has familiarity with Hebrew and prefers traditional stories, exegesis, teachings, and commentaries. You might also be interested in the Chabad.org free online haggadah.
Rabbis Joy Levitt and Michael Strassfeld, illustrated by Jeffrey Schrier, A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah. Reconstructionist Press, 1950
This haggadah is grounded in tradition, but presented very accessibly. It provides the traditional texts and prayers (Hebrew, translation, and transliteration), and is filled with historical notes, traditional and modern commentaries, poems, song lyrics and plays for children to perform. Step-by-step instructions and guidelines for seder rituals are also included. This haggadah also features four suggested outlines that each emphasize different parts of the seder and optional readings in order to create a seder for older children, young children, those who grew up with different religious traditions, and one that focuses on the role of women in the Passover story. Collage artwork illustrates key moments in the Exodus story and provides visual commentary on the text.
The official Reform movement Haggadah, edited by Sue Levi Elwell, The Open Door: A Passover Haggadah. Central Conference of American Rabbis, 2002.
This haggadah includes passages and songs in Hebrew, transliteration, and English, and provides both technical and spiritual instructions for Passover preparation and the steps of the seder. The Open Door provides additional, optional commentaries, supplemental readings, and activity suggestions from many different generations and communities. Marked text passages provide explanation and questions for discussions as well as poems, songs, and quotations from such influential figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Anita Diamant, and Martin Buber. Artwork is not the focus of this haggadah, but there are some pictures that correspond to significant moments in the text. This is a haggadah that can be accessible and enriching for participants with a range of prior experience. You can download this haggadah for free by clicking here.
You may also be interested in A Growing Haggadah, edited by Rabbi Mark Hurvitz of Congregation Etz Chaim, which can also be accessed for free online.
Rabbi Peter Schweitzer, The Liberated Haggadah: A Passover Celebration for Cultural, Secular, and Humanistic Jews. Center for Cultural Judaism, 2006
This haggadah approaches the celebration of Passover from a secular point of view, emphasizing the holiday’s connection to other springtime festivities and honoring it’s status as one of the first established celebrations of freedom. There is strong emphasis put on modern day issues of slavery and freedom. The “Four Questions” are accompanied by questions to ask of modern society and the list of plagues are supplemented with modern-day afflictions. This is a good haggadah to use if you want to stimulate discussion and observe Passover as a cultural celebration of freedom.
Haggadot are not only published by Jewish movements. Scholars, artists, authors, community groups, and even you can write your own haggadah to explore different aspects of Passover.
Although the basic rituals are the same in each haggadot, the commentary, instructions, images, translations, and additional readings (such as poems, activities, or songs), may vary widely.
Below you’ll find a list of some of the types of “themed” haggadot you might encounter. This is an opportunity for your family to choose a version that reflects your individuality and values. You might wish to try different haggadot each year, or combine several to make a unique hybrid.
Kid Friendly HaggadotSeders can feel long to children, and choosing a haggadah written with young people in mind is a great way to help them connect to the story. Haggadot written for children are often colorfully illustrated, use simpler language, or draw on themes of childhood.
Richard and Liora Codor,
Richard Codor's Joyous Haggadah:A Children and Family Cartoon Haggadah for Passover Seder. Loose Line Productions, 2008
Written predominantly in English, this haggadah also has blessings and passages in Hebrew, transliteration, and translation. It also includes humorous and insightful cartoon drawings depicting the steps of the seder and the story and themes of Passover. Though it is certainly written for kids, adults will learn from and enjoy it as well. This might be a good choice for a seder attended by a range of ages; children who can read and want to participate will be drawn in, younger children will enjoy the drawings, and adults will appreciate the creativity. You may want to supplement with adult readings, but all of the seder rituals are included.
Sylvia A. Rouss, Sammy Spiders First Haggadah. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2006
This haggadah is written for children ages three through seven. Although it is possible to use as the main haggadah for a seder, it does not include all of the traditional rituals and might better serve as “seder preparation” to read to children in the weeks before and during Passover. If your children already know the Sammy Spider series, they may enjoy the familiar illustrations and characters. If your goal is to create a seder that your younger children can fully participate and engage in, this could be a fun supplementary text as well.
Reuven Frank, The Prince of Egypt Family Passover Haggadah. Circa Publications, 2000
This hagaddah incorporates stills from the animated film, The Prince of Egypt. If your children enjoyed the film, they might appreciate seeing characters that they recognize during the seder. Full-page illustrations taken directly from the film provide visual explanations for sections of the seder in addition to illustrated instructions for seder rituals. The text of this haggadah is traditional and in Hebrew and English without transliteration. Directions for conducting the seder are provided, as are age-appropriate questions and ideas for discussion and contemplation. This haggadah can help you engage a range of ages: adults can read the traditional text while kids are entertained by pages of full-color images.
Robert Kopman, 30 Minute Seder: The Haggadah that Blends Brevity with Tradition.
Another option if you have young (or impatient) children is to choose a haggadah that provides an abbreviated outline.This haggadah features colored illustrations and easy-to-read, adapted English versions of the rituals. Key blessings and passages are in Hebrew, transliteration, and translation. Preview it here: http://www.30minuteseder.com/sample_page.html
A Children's Haggadah, by Howard Bogot
Other Kid-themed Haggadot you might Enjoy:
The Seder Activity Book, by Judy Dick This book includes activities that children can prepare and present during the seder.
The Energizing Haggadah For Children, by Janet Zwebner An interactive children’s book.
Feminist HaggadotFeminist haggadot emphasize the role of women in the Passover story or discuss Passover themes through the lens of modern feminism. This might include information about the history and present struggles of the women in society, advocacy for equality and empowerment, or a seder designed to encourage support or reflection between female participants.
Tamara Cohen, The Journey Continues: The Ma'yan Passover Haggadah. Ma'yan, The Jewish Women's Project, 2006
This haggadah tells the story of the Exodus in the voices of both men and women and reflects a vision of a world in which freedom belongs to all people. Instead of the traditional ”Four Sons” this haggadah presents the “Four Daughters” and concentrates on honoring women’s role in Jewish history, spirituality, and community. It weaves together traditional and modern texts to create a seder that will be familiar to those with past experience, but also comfortable and enriching to those who have little or none. The Journey Continues is predominantly in English and deviates a bit from a "traditional" haggdah in that it offers responsive, insightful readings in place of some Hebrew passages. Blessings and significant passages are in Hebrew, adapted Hebrew, translation, and transliteration. Directions are also given throughout the text and songs are indicated by a small tambourine icon. This haggadah is written for an adult audience but can certainly be adapted or supplemented to engage a younger group.
Martha Shelley, Haggadah: A Celebration of Freedom. Aunt Lute Books, 1997
Written predominately in English with key prayers provided in Hebrew, this haggadah celebrates women’s liberation throughout history. It features an in-depth, informative introduction to Passover and provides clear seder instructions. Although the traditional rituals are included, the main focus is on modern interpretations and presentations of traditional components of the seder from a feminist perspective.
Other Femenist Haggadot you might Enjoy
The Women’s Haggadah, by E.M. Broner and Naomi Nimrod
Women at the Seder: A Passover Haggadah, by Joel B. Wolowelsky
For even more haggadot for women, visit http://www.ritualwell.org/resources/bibliography/bibliographyitem.2005-06-06.6018434236
Nancy Cronk, Orangs and Olives: A Moder, Interfaith Family Passover Haggadah. 2006
This haggadah is predominantly in English and certain prayers and songs are in Hebrew and transliteration in addition to the English. It also includes tips and guides for preparing for the seder, and Passover in general. If you are looking for a haggadah that allows all people—from different faiths, backgrounds, and with different Jewish experiences—to feel comfortable and included this might be a good choice for you, providing that are you comfortable with an untraditional text. It is also “kid-friendly,” in that it includes children’s songs and explains the central story of the Exodus at a child’s level. The commentary emphasizes the relevance of Passover in modern life, especially the need to work for freedom for all people. Click here to download the free printable PDF file.
GLBT Passover Haggadah. Developed by JQ International in collaboration with Hebrew Union College’s Institute for Judaism & Sexual Orientation, 2008
This haggadah weaves GLBT Passover traditions (such as a reading of the timeline of the GLBT Jewish community and a unique GLBT seder plate) with a traditional, user-friendly haggadah. The text is predominantly in English with specific blessings, songs, and lines in Hebrew and transliteration. This haggadah fosters participation, provides clear and unobtrusive directions, and encourages discussion with the commentary imbedded in the text. This haggadah is written for adults, although children’s activities and voices could be incorporated. Click here to download this haggadah.
Shoshana Silberman, The Jewish World Family Haggadah. I Books, 2005
This is the first contemporary haggadah “featuring photographs from Jews around the world.” The text is primarily in English with specific prayers and passages provided in Hebrew and transliteration. This haggadah includes beautiful photos, as well as discussion-provoking questions, tips, and activity suggestions (from Jewish cultures all over the world) at the bottom of many pages. While young children might not understand all of the symbolism intended by the photography, they might enjoy the children’s songs. It may be difficult to lead a seder for the first time using this haggadah, as there is not an extensive amount of explanation and direction. It can be a great addition to the seder table, though, for its insightful visual contributions.
Other Haggadot you Might Enjoy:
A Different Night, The Family Participation Haggadah, by David Dishon and Noam Zion
WHY ON THIS NIGHT? A Passover Haggadah for Family Celebration , by Rahel Musleah.
Michael L. Kagan, The Holistic Haggadah: How Will You be Different this Passover Night. Urim Publications, 2005
This haggadah combines traditional rituals with original English commentary. For each step of the seder, Kagan provides four levels of understanding: “The Level of Doing” (the practicalities of what we do at that step), “The Level of Saying” (the blessings and texts we read), “The Level of Being” (intellectual commentary), and “The Level of Deepening” (the meditative level of moving beyond personal comfort zones and engaging in a spiritual journey). The essential texts are in Hebrew and modern translation.
Ari Goldman and Joseph Telushkin, In Every Genderation: The JDC Haggadah. Devora Publishing, 2010
A traditional haggadah that portrays the Passover story through modern-day images of deliverance and social responsibility in action.
Wonders and Miracles Illustrated with Art Spanning Three Thousand Years. Orchard Books, 2004
As the introduction states: “This book was created to give people of all ages a fuller, richer understanding of what Passover means. The book should be read before the Seder, and used during the Seder together with the Haggadah, to answer questions participants might have.” This beautiful book holds an impressive collection of images and artwork related to Passover from around the world and throughout history. It includes poems, songs, modern stories, rabbinic stories, instructions for the seder, and the author’s commentaries. Prayers and seder vocabulary are printed in Hebrew, transliteration, and in English. Although accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds, this book looks more deeply at the history of the seder. It sometimes references central Jewish texts such as the Pirke Avot (the “Ethics of the Fathers,” which are chapters of ethical teachings), but clearly explains what those books are and their role in Jewish tradition.
I Dvorkin, The Lenningrad Children's Haggadah. Petersburg Jewish University, 1996
This is a traditional haggadah featuring artwork by children from Leningrad. The text is in Hebrew with Russian translation.
Mendle Metzger, La Haggadah Enluminee. Calmann-Levy, 1998
This haggadah features a complete French translation of the traditional Hebrew text (no English or transliteration). It also includes colored prints of images found in haggadot from the 15 th and 14 th centuries.
Murray Spiegel and Ricky Stein, 300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions. Spiegel-Stein Publishing, 2008
This is an amazing book that includes a CD recording of native speakers reciting the “Four Questions”. Each page features the “Four Questions” written in a different language, information about that language, a transliteration, an English translation, information about the speaker and translator, and other interesting facts. This is a great resource for children interested in world languages. Visit the website at http://www.whyisthisnight.com/.
The Jewish Virtual Library: An extensive, dictionary-like explanation of the haggadah.
MyJewishLearning.com: A helpful and entertaining article about making a seder memorable.