Desert Island TextsIf you were cast away on a desert island with just one Jewish text for company, which would it be?

  • This week Rabbi Alexandra Wright from the Liberal Jewish Synagogue selects the Pesach Haggadah

If I were stranded on a desert island, the text I would most like to take with me – apart from the Hebrew Bible, of course – would be the Pesach Haggadah.

It’s an extraordinary anthology of biblical texts which include the Psalms, passages from the Mishnah and Talmud, fascinating and carefully-constructed midrashim, mediaeval texts and songs and, in contemporary haggadot, a rich anthology of commentary and perceptive insights on the injustices that still beset a world that is not wholly free.

For me, the Haggadah encompasses everything about Judaism and Jewish life.

“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and God brought us out of there with a strong hand and outstretched arm.”

This is where it all begins, says the Haggadah. The Jewish people came from humble beginnings. We have known what it means to be oppressed and enslaved, the objects of fear and prejudice.

More than any other text, the Haggadah shows us how remembrance of the past through our stories, rituals and traditions can help us work for justice and freedom in the world. But there is a second passage in the Haggadah that also tells the story of our origins and goes to the heart of our Jewish faith.

Once upon a time our ancestors used to pray to idols, until God drew us near to serve God in prayer. The story of our ancestors is also our own story of an encounter with a Being, whose call to Abraham and voice at Sinai still resonate in our own generation.

The Haggadah contains the unfolding story of our people and our faith. We are part of that story, on our own journey to find spiritual freedom and tranquillity for ourselves and to labour tirelessly for freedom for all God’s people throughout the world.