Q: If you were cast away on a desert island with just one Jewish text for company, which would it be?
This week, Rabbi Paul Freedman of Radlett & Bushey Reform Synagogue chooses the Haggadah
I’ve always had to restrain myself in interviews, the moment I’m asked a question of the “what-would-you-do-if?” kind, I have more questions than answers.
It would depend, wouldn’t it? And by ‘Jewish text’, do you mean just a verse, a short passage, or could I get away with the entire Talmud? That would certainly keep me occupied. Mind you, how long can I expect to be there? Perhaps just the week? Is that just a seven-day week or is this island in the diaspora, making it eight days for some?
So if you’re asking me today, this week in the Jewish calendar, I guess I’d be stranded on my desert island with the Haggadah that I had been using at my Pesach seder on board, just before being shipwrecked.
Any Haggadah would be great – I love the ritualisation of questioning that it represents – but I’d actually want to make sure it was Haggadateinu, the new Haggadah published by the Movement for Reform Judaism.
It contains the familiar text (with modern, gender-inclusive translations and even transliterated Hebrew for any matzah-eating islanders who find that easier to read than the Hebrew). ‘Let all who are hungry come and eat!’
Additionally, it has masses of extra readings and explanations, as well as really beautiful, original paper-cut illustrations. If I were feeling lonely leafing through the pages of Haggadateinu, I would be reminded of family and friends with whom I have enjoyed celebrating a seder using this first ever UK Reform Haggadah, but also of the numerous colleagues who contributed to its content.
The Haggadah is not just the ancient story of our captivity; it tells of our hopes for the future, the continuing struggle for freedom from slaveries in every age.
I would very soon be doing all I could to liberate myself from the island.