Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Absolut Haggadah, updated for 2015

Once again, The Absolut Haggadah is out. It is downloadable from this website.

It has been thoroughly updated for 2015, with both changes to the text and some professional typesetting. I discussed an idea from it in 2007, reviewed it and its general approach in 2009. discussed an excerpt in 2010.

But there have been many updates since I mentioned it last.

Here is an excerpt from this year's edition, to give you a sense of its flavor and style.

בָּרוּךְ שׁוֹמֵר הַבְטָחָתוֹ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא
שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חִשַּׁב אֶת הַקֵּץ,
לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּמַה שֶּׁאָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ בִּבְרִית
בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם, יָדֹע
תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם,
וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה. וְגַם
אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן
יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל.

"Blessed is He who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He!
For the Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end [of
the bondage], in order to do as He had said to our father
Abraham at the “Covenant between the Portions,” as it is
said: “And He said to Abraham, `You shall know that your
seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they
will enslave them and make them suffer, for four hundred
years. But I shall also judge the nation whom they shall
serve, and after that they will come out with great wealth.’
How many years were the Jews in slavery in Egypt? Most calculations have it at around
210 years.[6]6 Based on the promise God made to Abraham, the Jewish people should have been in Egypt for 400 years. What happened to the missing years?  
Many commentators feel that since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were considered aliens while they lived in Canaan, the calculation of the 400 years begins right after the ,ברית בין הבתרים (the covenant between the pieces), with the birth of Isaac.[67]
We still find it difficult to explain the verse (Exodus 12:40) that clearly states that the
Jewish people lived in Egypt (and not Canaan) for 430 [68] years. One explanation offered is that Canaan was considered a part of Egypt in the time of Abraham. Truth be told, this problem is internal to the verses in Genesis which predict 400 years of servitude and then say “and the fourth generation shall return here.” How could they only be up to the fourth generation after 400 years! We are forced to conclude that since this verse is dramatizing years of suffering, it counts the overlapping years of ancestor and descendant. In other words, when we calculate the years of servitude spent in Egypt, we sum the years of each member of a lineal genealogy who lived in Egypt, even though the ages of the generations overlap; a type of concurrent sentence.[69] [70]
65 The Comics Passover Haggadah: Shay Charka. This tradition continues, as is evident from the hotel towels that are ubiquitous in Israeli homes.
66 Kehas, one of the group that went down to Egypt, lived 133 years, his son Amram lived 137 and his son Moses was 80 at the time of the Exodus. Thus, we have 350 years, before reducing the sum for years when the lives of these three individuals overlapped.
Clearly, according to the biblical genealogies, the Israelites were in Egypt for fewer than 400 years!
הגדה של ר’ אברהם חדידה ד’’ה מתחלה 67
68 We are not bothered by the difference of 30 years between verses. Many times the Torah will round off a number to the nearest 100.
69 The Brody Family Haggadah.
70 Rav Amnon Bazak suggests a variation on this approach: If we add the years of Kehas, Amram and of Moses, we get 390 (and this number is easily rounded to 400). If we add the 40 years in the desert, we reach 430. The prophet Ezekiel is told to lie on one side for 390 days and the other for 40 (in expiation of Israel’s sins). The way the 40 days are described in Ezekiel (“a day for each year”), they are clearly a reference to the desert period, it would therefore follow that the 390 relates to the period in Egypt.
What are they doing here?

Because the basic text of the Haggadah discusses the brit bein habesarim, and of the ketz of 400 years, and that Hashem was chishev et hakeitz, the authors of this Haggadah give a scholarly analysis of how the 400 years are reckoned, and how it accords with the actual 210 years. How was this havtacha fulfilled?

The authors of this Haggadah chose to be brief in their presentation here, in order to keep the discussion moving and to for space considerations on the page. But they bring the issue to the reader's attention and choose one of the several resolutions which works well with their approach -- that the purpose is dramatizing the suffering.

Here are some further ideas about the issue they raised:

1) Note that the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch changes the text of one pasuk to explicitly split the 430 between Egypt and Canaan. And that this is an emendation in the interest of solving a problem, and so is not original.

2) Among the various resolutions to this issue, there is a nice one mentioned by Shadal, that these names (Kehat, Amram, etc.) are the names of families at the time of split-offs rather than individuals, such that it really is 210.

3) Once they have brought this up, we can contemplate how this is related to chishev et hakeitz. Recall that the basic Haggadah text is written by a midrashist, and he is citing midrashim. When he writes "chishev et hakeitz", what does that mean? Does it perhaps mean that Hashem used a quicker method of calculating the keitz, as some explanations have it? Such that it was a nice thing Hashem 400did to transform the 430 into a mere 210?

Or is Shomer Havtachato mean that Hashem kept careful watch, that he was anticipating the time he would be able to redeem them. Just as we see in the gemara, אמר ר' יונתן תיפח עצמן של מחשבי קיצין, where it means people who are predicting (or by extension, watching) the end-time.

Or is it just that He kept His word, and this entire discussion (of 400 vs 210) is tangential to what the Baal HaHaggadah meant?

4) We can tie this in in to Arami Oved Avi. Are we really saying about יָדֹע תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם that at about half of those 400 years was when they were in Canaan? If so, we can understand how Avraham, Yizchak and Yaakov were truly wandering Arameans.


I'll close by reposting the praise from other people from years past:

They did not do any good marketing, so I will do it for them. Here is what some people are saying about the Absolut Haggadah:

Abacaxi Mamao wrote:
Absolut Haggadah [PDF]. I know nothing about it. Maybe you'll find it interesting. Josh Waxman, about whom I also know nothing, introduced it and gave a short review here. I liked what he said, though, so I downloaded it. I haven't had a chance to look at it in depth yet, though. Who has time? Pesach is coming!
Rabbi David Sedley wrote:
I found this excellent Haggadah. It deals with many of the same issues that I spoke about in the shiur (which is in the previous post) and answers some of the outstanding questions, such as when the Haggadah was put into its present form (some time in the Gaonic period, though we have fragments from the Cairo Geniza which are pretty similar to todays Haggadah). They also have a nifty chart which shows the parallels and differences between Rav and Shmuel in the way that the Haggadah is set out (and how we do both). They have also given the verses which we will spend most of the Seder explaining, and discuss why the authors of the Haggadah chose those verses (from Devarim) instead of the story itself which is in Shemot. There is then a commentary on the Haggadah which will serve you well on the Seder night (if you so desire). I think it is an excellent piece of work, but don't just take my word for it. Have a look yourself.

And Elsewhere:
Fantastic Hagadah. Just the right mix of seriousness and comedy. Well done.
larryv wrote:
Searching for a Haggadah to use for my own first Seder I came across this. I was very amused.

A blogger, unsure whowrote:
a refreshing blend of humor and commentary trying to uncover the pshat (basic meaning) of the Haggadah.
Neil Harris wrote:
Great Haggadah…and you used my favorite Far Side!! Thanks!
Josh M. of HaProzdor wrote:
I downloaded it ... and started reading through it - it has some very interesting stuff on the structure of the haggadah. Kol HaKavod to the authors!
ADDeRabbi wrote:
very nice.
Steg wrote:
i agree... the only problem is the expense of printing it out in full color :-P

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