the rite of the Passover in the light of “The Passover Haggadah”

The Passover Haggadah[1] – “הַגָּדָה שֶל פֶסַח” –

The cover of  Haggadah

mentions the four ritual cups of wine constituting the basic structure of the rite. “Haggadah” is a liturgical book which contains specific prayers, wisdom teachings, songs, symbolic acts (the washing of hands, the eating of symbolic dishes…), which are performed in order, as being attributed to successive fourteen parts of the rite. “Haggadah” is a Jewish book of liturgy of the Paschal Vigil [2]. For this reason, the analysis of the text of “Haggadah” in its original Hebrew / Aramaic recording will be one of the main exegetical tasks for every one who wants to come to know the logic of the Passover rite.

The text of “Haggadah” came into being gradually, through many centuries [3]. Its first version was compiled probably between the second half of the 2nd century AC and the end of the 4th century AC.

It is believed that although the currently known ancient text of “Haggadah of Pesach” is later than the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (which took place in the 70th year after Christ), however basic part of the Hebrew and Aramaic text and key ideas of the whole book are prior to the Jesus Christ’s coming to the world [4].

Haggadot” (the plural form of “Haggadah”) of the 8th century, preserved in the Genizah in Cairo, are known only in fragments. On their basis, however, it is impossible to come to know the whole text of that period.

The oldest complete readable manuscript of the “Haggadah” is found in a prayer book compiled by Saadia Gaon (the head of the Academy at Sura) in the 10th century.

In the 13th century, Polish or German Jews added final songs to that text [5].

From the 13th century also begins considerable growth of the commonness of custom of the use of “Haggadah” as the separate liturgical book to perform the Passover in Jewish homes [6].

The oldest confirmed printed copy of “Haggadah” dates from 1486 year, from Soncino in Italy.

Since several centuries, “Pesach Haggadot” are widely printed. Often richly decorated and illustrated, this little books contain a description of successive steps of the Passover liturgy: of deeds and word – of the rite. The explanation of these successive holy acts is often added in “Haggadot”. Attention is focused not only on each doing or word of the celebrated Passover, but also on their prescribed order, which in Hebrew is expressed by the word “seder” (סֵדֶר[7].

The same term is also used:

[1]  Or the equivalent translation of the Hebrew title: “Haggadah for Pesach”, “Passover Haggadah”.
[2]  Cf. R. Cantalamessa, Pascha naszego zbawienia. Tradycje paschalne Biblii i pierwotnego Kościoła, Kraków 1998, 35. The author uses also the name referring to the Christian liturgical book: “Ordo hebdomadae sanctae”.
[3]  Cf. C. Adler (red.), The Jewish Encyclopedia (vol. I-XII), New York – London, 1901-1906, vol. I, 141-146: Haggadah (shel PesaH): Ritual for Passover eve: cf. on Internet: Jewish Encyclopedia ← click, please!
See also: K. Kohler, The Yemen Haggadah, “The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures”, vol. 13, No. 3 (1897), 234-239; B. S. Childs, The Book of Exodus. A Critical Theological Commentary, Philadelphia 1974, 208-209.
[4]  Cf. R. Cantalamessa, Pascha naszego zbawienia…, 35: to support this important theses the author as patrologist indicates that the Haggadah text was being used already by some early Christian writers (of the 2nd century AD): Melito of Sardis, Anonymous Quartodeciman. The author also refers to analyses showing the presence of texts from before the Maccabean period (2nd century before Christ) in “Haggadah”. Cf. L. Finkenstein, Pre-Maccabean Documents in the Passover Haggadah, “Harvard Theological Review” 35 (1942), 291-332; 36 (1943), 1-39.
[5]  Cf. H. Węgrzynek, Hagada Pesachowa, [in:] A. Cała, H. Węgrzynek, G. Zalewska, Historia i kultura Żydów polskich. Słownik, Warszawa 2000, 109.
[6]  Cf. B. Fałczyk, Hagada, haggada, agada. Ikonografia, [in:] J. Walkusz (red.), Encyklopedia katolicka, vol. 6, 470; C. Adler (red.), The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. I, 142 (Haggadah…).
[7]  Cf. P. Briks, Podręczny słownik hebrajsko-polski i aramejsko-polski Starego Testamentu, 3rd editon, Warszawa 2000, 241: סֵדֶר.