What, exactly, is a Haggadah?

The Passover seder is a service, over a dinner meal, that tells the story of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt through a prescribed order of symbolic foods, stories, songs, and prayers. The Hebrew word Haggadah means “telling,” and it refers to the service or script for the Passover seder table ritual. The Haggadah provides the order and script of the service with step-by-step instructions.

Curious about the history of the Haggadah? Rabbi Barry Shainker shares some of the background. Suffice it to say, though, that today, thousands of different Haggadot (plural of Haggadah) exist, written in many languages and available both in stores and online. Though their content, layout, artwork and language may vary, their overall structure remains the same – and Passover’s themes of liberation and ending oppression even inspired many Haggadot that reflect on these ideas in contemporary contexts.

If you’re invited to attend a friend’s seder or will be attending one at your local synagogue, a Haggadah will likely be provided for you. If, however, you’re asked to bring your own, or you’re hosting a seder for other, try visiting your local bookstore or visiting Reform Jewish publisher CCAR Press online. We highly recommend their Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family and The Open Door: A Passover Haggadah.