Monday, March 31, 2008

The Problem With Posthumous Haggadot

Before I get to the point, I think it's funny that Bill Clinton can give a speech in which he makes the remark that this primary is allowing a lot debate in the Democratic Party, which is a good thing, "And Republicans are participating in it, too!" he adds in that annoying joking-reproving way he has. The crowd, of course, eats it up- anything to bash Republicans and, of course, Rush.

Leave aside that there isn't much of a debate here- the candidates have pretty much identical views and are just fighting out identity politics, nevermind that neither is really a member of their "group"- but isn't the ex-President being just a wee bit ungrateful, considering that the primary beneficiary of Rush's "Operation Chaos" and Republicans voting in Democratic primaries is, well, his wife?

Anyway, to the point. I visited the local Judaica store today to check out new Haggadot, and one in particular I'd heard about. (I won't name it, to protect the innocent, but you should be able to figure it out.) First, I saw an interesting one: A sort of "Seder Leader" edition of the IDF Haggadah I really like. But then I found the one I was looking for. And although I'd really been planning on getting it, after flipping through it, I decided not to. The simple reason? It's basically a plain-vanilla Haggadah with a comment or two every few pages. I counted it all up, and it's about two dozen total pages of commentary with lots of pages with just the standard Hebrew/English text.

Now, don't get me wrong- you can pack a lot of good stuff into those pages, and there are many worthwhile Haggadot that are similar to this (I own some). But I have a sefer of Pesach thoughts, including Haggadah insights, from the same author, so why get this as well? And therein, I think, lies the issue: Some people do Haggadah commentaries when they're alive. They're specifically going through it, line by line, delivering insights that can fill a whole book.

But another type of Haggadah is one done posthumously. Very often, someone will die without ever making a formal Haggadah, and one of their talmidim will do it for them. Problem is, they have to hunt and pick for insights. Often, they're not even giving Haggadah insights, but Pesach insights they're fitting into a line from the Haggadah. And, in cases like that, there's going to be a lot- and sometimes not quite so much- on Maggid, and virtually nothing on the rest of the Haggadah. Worth it? Yeah, sure, sometimes very much so, but it wasn't enough for me today.

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