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Passover Haggadah: Hebrew and English Text with New Essays and Commentary [Hardcover]

Jonathan Sacks
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

3 Feb 2003

A new Haggadah with the full Hebrew and English texts laid out alongside the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ typically inspiring – and insightful – commentary, with introductory essays looking at particular issues around Passover.

An essential addition to the collection of any Jewish family, this new Haggadah strikes into new territory between the traditional extremes of full-colour coffee table books and text-heavy commentaries, with the lively and interesting writing of the Chief Rabbi placed alongside the traditional texts.

Bringing new insights into the meaning and application of the Passover liturgy, Jonathan Sacks’ style is as inspiring here as in all his writings, and there is much solid sense here alongside a few daring conclusions. Presented in a clear and modern text design carefully balancing the placement of the Chief Rabbi’s words alongside those of the traditional texts, this is a most valuable work.

Though this is a primarily a book for Jewish liturgical use, the attraction of the Chief Rabbi’s writings is so widespread that it will have some appeal beyond that market; and will certainly be read by many beyond the actual Passover period.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Collins (3 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007148259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007148257
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,095,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since September 1, 1991, the sixth incumbent since 1845.

In July 2009, appointed to the House of Lords as a cross-bencher.

Prior to becoming Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Sacks served as Principal of Jews' College, London, the world's oldest rabbinical seminary, as well as rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch synagogues in London. He gained rabbinic ordination from Jews' College and London's Yeshiva Etz Chaim.

His secular academic career has also been a distinguished one. Educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he obtained first class honours in Philosophy, he pursued postgraduate studies at New College, Oxford, and King's College, London. Sir Jonathan has been Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex, Sherman Lecturer at Manchester University, Riddell Lecturer at Newcastle University, Cook Lecturer at the Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and St. Andrews and Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is currently Visiting Professor of Theology at Kings' College London. He holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Bar Ilan, Cambridge, Glasgow, Haifa, Middlesex, Yeshiva University New York, University of Liverpool, St. Andrews University and Leeds Metropolitan University, and is an honorary fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and King's College London. In September 2001, the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred on him a Doctorate of Divinity in recognition of his first ten years in the Chief Rabbinate.

At his installation as Chief Rabbi in 1991, Dr Sacks set out his vision of a reinvigorated Anglo-Jewry and launched it with a Decade of Jewish Renewal, followed by a series of innovative communal projects. These included Jewish Continuity (a national foundation funding programmes in Jewish education and outreach), the Association of Jewish Business Ethics, the Chief Rabbinate Awards for Excellence, the Chief Rabbinate Bursaries, and Community Development, a national programme to enhance Jewish community life. In 1995, he received the Jerusalem Prize for his contribution to diaspora Jewish life. In September 2001 the Chief Rabbi began his second decade of office with a call to Jewish Responsibility and a renewed commitment to the ethical dimension of Judaism. He was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2005. A notably gifted communicator, the Chief Rabbi is a frequent contributor to radio, television and the national press. He frequently delivers BBC RADIO 4's THOUGHT FOR THE DAY, writes a monthly CREDO column for THE TIMES and delivers an annual Rosh Hashanah message on BBC 2. In 1990 he was invited by the BBC Board of Governors to deliver the annual Reith Lectures on the subject of THE PERSISTENCE OF FAITH.

The Dignity of Difference was awarded the 2004 Grawemeyer Prize for Religion, and A Letter in the Scroll a National Jewish Book Award 2002.

Born in 1948 in London, he has been married to Elaine since 1970. They have three children, Joshua, Dina and Gila and five grandchildren.


Tradition in an Untraditional Age (1990)

Persistence of Faith (1991)

Arguments for the Sake of Heaven (1991)

Crisis and Covenant (1992)

One People? (1993)

Will We Have Jewish Grandchildren? (1994)

Community of Faith (1995)

Faith in the Future (1998)

The Politics of Hope (1997)

Morals and Markets (1999)

Celebrating Life (2000)

Radical Then, Radical Now (2001)

The Dignity of Difference (2002)

The Chief Rabbi's Haggadah (2003)

From Optimism to Hope (2004)

To Heal a Fractured World (2005)

The Authorised Daily Prayer Book: new translation and commentary (2006)

The Home We Build Together (2007)

Future Tense (2009)

Product Description

From the Back Cover


The Chief Rabbi's Haggadah combines the traditional texts for Passover with wide-ranging and extensive essays and commentary by one of today's greatest religious thinkers, the first time this highly respected author and thinker has created a book for active religious use.

The Hebrew text and accompanying English translation are carefully arranged so as to be easy to use at the seder table, and the Chief Rabbi's commentary is positioned with the relevant text. This book makes an ideal companion for use at the Passover meal.

But the significant insights of the commentary – and the far-ranging and at times radical thoughts of many of the essays – open up tremendous potential for thoughtful preparation and further reading. With titles as diverse as 'Pesach, Freud and Jewish Identity' and 'Pesach and the Rebirth of Israel', there are essays looking at the contrasting natures of ancient Egypt and nascent Israel on the one hand or a unique afternoon in modern Jerusalem on the other. The part played by Judaism and Jews in the building of modern civilisation is a recurring theme.

There are also essays springing from particular passages, bringing insights on 'Women and the Exodus' and 'The sages at Bnei Brak' or addressing 'The Unasked Question'. In every instance Jonathan Sacks' sensible, sensitive approach uncovers new meaning in the very areas most written about and discussed, whether within the Haggadah itself or in the impact of its message on the wider world we live in.

About the Author

Jonathan Sacks is Chief Rabbi of the united Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, primarily based in the UK but regularly travelling to other countries in the Commonwealth to support Jews and Jewish practice in those countries. He is widely respected for his intellectual rigour and political good sense, and writes articles for a number of newspapers, magazines etc. on a wide range of themes.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New ideas on old themes 28 April 2003
By A Customer
The Chief Rabbi provides a wonderful companion to the seder night with his newly published haggadah. Each year, we sit down and discuss the story of the Exodus and each year, we attempt new answers for the questions that generations of children have been asking. This year's seder was enriched with the Rabbi Sack's pearls of wisdom, touching the lives of every person round the table. Through his thought-provoking essays and commentary snippets, he touches on the vital issues of identity, heritage and destiny through the lens of the Passover story. Bringing old and new ideas together, the Chief Rabbi allows his unique style to penetrate the soul - Yeshar Ko'ach!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generally well done 2 April 2010
By Michael Lewyn - Published on
This book has two parts: a set of essays on the haggadah, and a commentary on same. Both are often at least somewhat interesting. Some points I liked:

*Sacks suggests that maybe the Four Questions is about the broader questions of identity - not just "why do we do X?" but "who am I?" and "who is this people I belong to?" Similarly, Moses' prophetic career begins the same way.

*Sacks has a surprisingly "liberation-minded" (although by no means Marxist) interpretation of the Exodus; he interprets Moses's movement from prince to liberator as evidence that a "child of slaves can be nobler than a prince...To have faith, as Judaism understands it, is to recognize God's image in the weak, the powerless, the afflicted and the suffering".

*Why does the Seder state early on "Let all who are hungry come and eat." Sacks explains that sharing "is the first act through which slaves become free human beings." A slave, or at least someone with a slave mentality, is too afflicted and terrified of the future to risk sharing.

*Why does the Seder refer to God executing "judgment against Egypt's gods."? To some extent, the plagues parody Egyptian idolatry. For example, Egyptians worshipped a sun-god- so the plague of darkness blots out the sun. They worshipped a frog-goddess of childbirth, so they were afflicted with frogs - perhaps because of their attempts to interfere with Jewish childbirth.

*Why does the Haggadah refer to "wise" and "wicked" sons, something not really hinted at in the Torah? The first reference to a wicked child is from sayings attributed to two second-century rabbis. Sacks points out that the authors of this work lived in a terrible time for Jews; Rome crushed a Jewish rebellion in the 130s, and the post-rebellion persecution might have combined with the growth of Christianity to cause quite a few Jews to leave the fold and become "the wicked son."

Occasionally Sacks views Judaism a bit too much through rose-colored glasses, or is a bit too harsh towards pagans: for example, after describing the revelry at Greek symposium, he suggest that "Greek culture rapidly disintegrated after the days of Alexander the Great"- which strikes me as at best a matter of opinion, given that Egypt and Syria were ruled for centuries thereafter by Greek empires, while Romans and Jews seemed to borrow liberally from Greek culture.
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