A Zissen Pesach y Pesaj Alegre to everyone

6 Apr

One of the sweetest gifts this Passover has brought us is the New American Haggadah, translated by Nathan Englander and edited by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Foer is the author of Everything is Illuminated,  http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Is-Illuminated-A-Novel/dp/0060529709/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_1  a beautiful book made into a moving film, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a book and film both of which I perhaps unfairly ignored because I’m highly allergic to any kind of 9/11 sentimentality.  More on Foer here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Safran_Foer

His Haggadah is smart, both reverent and ironic, skeptical and thought-provoking, often funny: everything we want from a good Jewish text.  It’s also an absolutely beautiful edition, though at twenty bucks each might be a bit pricey if you actually wanted to use it at a large family seder: http://www.amazon.com/American-Haggadah-Jonathan-Safran-Foer/dp/0316069868/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333823352&sr=1-1

He lays out his reasons for writing it in a recent New York Times piece: “Why a Haggadah?”:

“Though it means “the telling,” the Haggadah does not merely tell a story: it is our book of living memory. It is not enough to retell the story: we must make the most radical leap of empathy into it. “In every generation a person is obligated to view himself as if he were the one who went out of Egypt,” the Haggadah tells us. This leap has always been a daunting challenge, but is fraught for my generation in a way that it wasn’t for the desperate assimilators of earlier generations — for now, in addition to a lack of education and knowledge of Jewish learning, there is the also the taint of collective complacency.”

But the piece’s money quote has got to be this says-it-all conversation with his six-year-old son:

A few nights ago, after hearing about the death of Moses for the umpteenth time — how he took his last breaths overlooking a promised land that he would never enter — my son leaned his still wet head against my shoulder.

“Is something wrong?” I asked, closing the book.

He shook his head.

“Are you sure?”

Without looking up, he asked if Moses was a real person.

“I don’t know,” I told him, “but we’re related to him.”

Read the whole Times piece; it’s cool.  I couldn’t get a link to work.

I wish everyone the saving passing over of all evil and that whatever freedom you’re looking for, in whatever form you need, may it be granted to you.

NB

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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