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‘Unlocking the Haggadah’


For all of you who are familiar with Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s landmark commentary on the Chumash, Unlocking the Torah Text, this new work utilizing the ‘’unlocking’’ methodology will be a welcome addition to your Judaica library.

In my online interview with Rabbi Goldin, we discussed the method he used in his new book, Unlocking The Haggada: The Complete Haggada With In-Depth Commentary (Gefen, 2019). Here is a summary of the author’s take:

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“As I indicate in my letter to the reader, the main focus of this new commentary on the Pesach Haggadah is on the big picture. I strongly believe that many Haggadot concentrate on the minutia, and that we often lose the sight of the forest for the trees. I want my volume to enable the reader to understand the overall flow of the Pesach Seder evening; where the rituals come from, their diverse origins, how each section of the Seder flows into the next, the major mitzvot of the evening, the essential structure and divisions of the evening, and, above all, the goals that the rabbis had in mind when they mapped out, in the Mishnah, the steps of Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim.

“My hope is that the text will appeal, as apparently my other books have, to both the scholar and the novice. I believe that there is enough original material in this work to enable those well-versed in the text to gain new insights, and, at the same time, that the flow of the text is made clear enough for even a beginner to follow.

“In my mind, I see this volume serving as a road map to the Seder ritual; taking each participant by the hand, step-by-step, through each section of the Haggadah — gaining an understanding of how that section fits into the whole and never losing sight of the overall picture. Thus, to that end, the color coding and all other tools both graphic and layout, will, hopefully, allow each reader/participant to always know where he/she is in the Seder at any particular point.

“I guess that one way to put it is that I want my volume to let the Haggadah speak for itself. I believe that many have Haggadot that bring agendas to the Seder as overlays to the evening’s proceedings. I want the reader to return to the source: What is it that the Haggada itself is trying to accomplish and how does it achieve its goals?”

In our discussion, Rabbi Goldin made note that the ultimate purpose of the Seder is to inject each participant into the flow of Jewish history, and the Haggada is the guidebook in that journey. It accomplishes these goals by surrounding our present with our past and future — and, by leading us through a Maggid journey that is themed by three stages: historical awareness, historical participation, and historical perpetuation.

With these themes stated so clearly, I am certain that you will greatly benefit from its eloquent teachings. To further accomplish this, an early acquisition of this and other high quality editions would be in order so as to allow enough time to study the texts for use at the Seder table.