Passover is quickly approaching and that means pretty soon you’ll be reaching into a familiar drawer to pull out a stack of well-worn and slightly wine-stained hagadot. Nothing will ever replace those hagadot and their special memories. But if you spend a few minutes online, you can customize your own hagadah with commentary and clear how-to instructions that will impress friends and family at the seders.
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner provides three reasons to create a do-it-yourself hagadah:
• Customize them for the two Seder nights which often have different participants, skills and interests.
• Enjoy them and then give them away as a souvenir for Seder guests.
• Use them to inspire intergenerational learning for grandparents, parents and children.
Rabbi Lerner has created several hagadot which can be printed and combined. Some contain the entire bilingual text of the seder, others have highlights only. And then there’s the “World’s Largest Seder Songbook” with all the traditional titles, as well as over 100 contemporary tunes like “There’s No Seder Like Our Seder.” First, download his instructions for creating a do-it-yourself hagadah. Then go to this page for all the links.
Here are the two best sites if you want to build a hagadah from scratch.
“The Open Source Hagadah” allows you to skim through Hebrew and English text, commentary, songs, readings and rituals, then choose the elements that appeal to you, and assemble your own hagadah online. You can filter texts by interest, from “Chabad, Conservative, Feminist, Humorous…” to “…Shoah, Unaffiliated, Zionist.” When you’re done, add some commentary and a song or two, then print your own hagadah. And if you have a favourite custom or insight you’d like to share, you are encouraged to contribute it to the site.
Similarly, Haggadot.com allows you to mix and match from (at last count) 524 “clips” to create your personalized hagadah. As the site explains, “Pieces from a Feminist Reconstructionist version may co-exist with selections from a hagadah from the 1500’s. A family of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews can include both traditions in one hagadah. A family separated by distance may collaborate online to create a shared hagadah for their separate seders. Families may also access their folder over the years to track their changing history. Jews everywhere will understand that, whatever their background, they have a place at the global seder table.”
Now that you have the basics, you can get really creative. There are several sites that offer the hagadah text in its entirety. Take a look at these hagadot and see if you’d like to incorporate them into yours. Chabad’s hagadah has clear step-by-step instructions in English. Or you can download another file that contains the entire Hebrew text of the hagadah (with Hebrew instructions.) Unfortunately, Chabad doesn’t offer a bilingual hagadah but Mechon-Mamre.org does – Hebrew and English side-by-side with clear instructions based on the Mishneh Torah.
Several classic hagadot have been scanned in their entirety and can be downloaded and printed out at the Torah on the Net site. I particularly like the 1920 Hebrew-only edition that is “Arranged by J.D. Eisenstein” and “Illustrated by LOLA” with graphics that now have a decidedly retro flavour. (You may want to limit your printing to the first 55 pages; it’s followed by 300 pages of commentary!)
A bit less traditional but very wonderful site is Uncle Eli’s “Special-for-Kids Most Fun Ever Under-the-Table Passover Haggadah.” Written in the style of Dr. Seuss, Uncle Eli retells the hagadah in a familiar yet unique way:
“Why is it only on Passover night we never know how to do anything right?
We don’t eat our meals in the regular ways, the ways that we do on all other days…
Cause on all other nights we may eat all kinds of wonderful good bready treats like big purple pizza that tastes like a pickle, crumbly crackers and pink pumpernickel…
Yes – on all other nights we eat all kinds of bread, but tonight of all nights we munch matzah instead.”
And if you’re planning to lead a seder this year and need a bit of help with your Hebrew pronunciation or want to brush up on a tune, the Virtual Cantor is at your service. (Actually, you’re at HIS service.). The Cantor – also known as Josh Sharfman – has recorded the entire traditional hagadah and put it in online so that you can listen to it anytime. The seder has been divided into 40 parts (e.g. Dayenu, Fourth Cup, Chad Gadya etc.) so that you can easily jump to any part of the hagadah. Listen online or download them onto your iPod and review them anywhere.
Mark Mietkiewicz can be reached at email@example.com.