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The Right Way to Read the Haggadah

Rabbi Dr. Norman Solomon
The Torah.com, Mar. 15, 2024

I hope that, just as we welcome all four ‘sons’ to our table and read to each according to his needs, we can also welcome all four readers, and take from each according to our needs, and the needs of our generation.”

You don’t have to be a postmodernist to conduct a seder, but it helps. A postmodernist perspective would suggest that all reading is subjective, and that texts mean nothing until they are read–that readers, rather than the text itself, create meaning.  We could certainly say that about the story of the exodus from Egypt (יציאת מצרים), about how it’s handled in the Tanakh itself, how it’s read by the Rabbis, and how we each read the Haggadah at the seder table.

The Exodus Generation: Good or Bad?

The Undeserving Israelites (שמות)

Exodus tells the story in the clearest way possible. It is so highly structured, with careful attention to detail, that you really can’t miss the ‘message’: The Israelites did nothing to deserve being brought out of Egypt. They resisted redemption rather than helping to bring it about, but God was sorry for them when they cried out in their suffering (“I have heard the moaning of the Israelites because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant” – Exodus 6:5),[1] and to fulfill the covenant he made with their fathers he redeemed them (‘bought them back’) to become his own people on the terms he set out at Sinai.[2]
A similar idea appears in Psalm 106, which puts extra emphasis on the contrast between God’s mercy and Israel’s unfaithfulness, seen a paradigm for Israel’s continuing unfaithfulness in the Psalmist’s own time:

ז … [To read the full article, click here]

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