Friday, April 06, 2012

Celebrate this Passover with the Sarajevo Haggadah

It's that time of year again. Passover is here, and with only a few hours remaining until sundown, there's still time to hide the chametz and stock up on matzah. Already covered your Passover food shopping? What about reading material? Of all the events on the Jewish calendar, Passover offers observers perhaps the greatest number of options in terms of how to celebrate the holiday. The Haggadah, which is the traditional Jewish text that sets the order for the Passover meal comes in a wide variety forms that can accommodate any special needs or interests.

Want a Haggadah that's good to the last drop? Celebrate Passover like a president with the Maxwell House Haggadah, the text of choice for White House Seders since 2009. Compliments of the advertising minds at Maxwell House who have been distributing copies at grocery stores for more than eighty years, this tried and true Haggadah was revised last year to remove instances of gender bias found in the original version.

Looking for literary enlightenment at this year's festivities? You might consider the recently released New American Haggadah, conceived and translated by Jewish novelists Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander, who together have produced a new version of the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic text. Proving that there will always be new ways to celebrate "the oldest continually practiced ritual in the Western world, to retell what is arguably the best known of all stories, to take part in the most widely practiced Jewish holiday," Foer and Englander's edition is sure to delight bookish readers from Brooklyn to Bethlehem this holiday season.

And for readers looking to rediscover the original Passover experience, we recommend Overlook's own Sarajevo Haggadah. Created in Spain in the fourteenth century as a prayer book for celebrating Passover, the Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript, almost unheard of in the Jewish faith. After remarkably surviving the Spanish Inquisition, it was saved from burnings, smuggled under a Nazi's nose, and fifty years later nearly claimed by the war in Bosnia before a Muslim librarian rescued it. The oldest such Haggadah known, this facsimile was created with the authority of the National Museum in Sarajevo and its 288 pages hold centuries of markings— wine that was spilled, notes that were made, hand after hand that touched and hoped.

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