OU Press, the publishing division of the Orthodox Union, is pleased to announce the publication of Seder Talk: The Conversational Haggada by Erica Brown, Ph.D., published in conjunction with Maggid Books.
This new Haggada finds a fresh and original take on a text not previously lacking commentaries. Seder Talk engages readers not only intellectually but emotionally, so as to create a personal experience of redemption. Towards this goal, Dr. Brown combines traditional commentary with analysis of art — the Haggada includes numerous illustrations from renowned artists and from ancient Haggadas — as well as poetry and literature.
Instead of technical halachic explanations, Dr. Brown examines the experiential meaning of the Haggada. For example, Dr. Brown, whose education includes a doctorate in Jewish history from Baltimore Hebrew College, as well as Masters Degrees from Harvard University and the University of London, explains, “The horseradish and haroset sandwich tells us to put bitter and sweet together and eat them because adult life demands that we swallow emotions that sometimes rip us in different directions, a bittersweet duality that most accurately reflects our daily, complex lives.”
The act of breaking the matza before reciting the story of our redemption serves as a symbol of our own brokenness, because without experiencing brokenness, we cannot experience wholeness. In discussing the meaning of hospitality, Dr. Brown quotes sources ranging from the Biblical account of Abraham’s angelic visitors down to Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service.
And to understand the significance of the Four Questions, Dr. Brown cites the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “Live the questions now. Perhaps then someday far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” This Haggada, which includes questions to promote conversation, “life homework,” and eight essays for each of the days of Passover, may well help us achieve living our way to the answers.
Seder Talk: The Conversational Haggada is a welcome addition to the OU Press library of books offering sophisticated interpretations of Jewish tradition, joining other works such as The Seder Night: An Exalted Evening, which presents the commentary of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on the Haggada, edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack, General Editor of OU Press and Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher; and The Royal Table: A Passover Haggadah by Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, edited by Joel B. Wolowelsky, Ph.D.