The Haggadah of the Inner Seder focuses on revealing the inner structure of the seder. This haggadah gives signposts and cues as to where the important shifts in meaning are happening. It also makes clear the seder’s structure and adds in some commentaries that will make sense of not just what things mean but how they work. It also includes some of the customs I am fond of. It does not include a lot of material meant to update the seder or to bring in contemporary issues (though it does have a few commentaries related to peace between Israelis and Palestinians). The Haggadah is 18 pages long.
Here is a description of the main ideas in the traditional haggadah that are featured in the Haggadah of the Inner Seder — you can use this as a guide to using the Haggadah:
Many things happen in fours in the traditional haggadah besides the obvious ones of four cups, the four questions and the four children. These include the four times we do something ritually with the matsah, and the four times we explain Exodus 13:8. We start telling the story four times before we actually get going (Ha lachma, Avadim hayinu, Mit’chilah and Arami oved avi). And we transform the three matsot into four at the beginning of the seder in Yachats. The number four corresponds to the four verbs for redemption used in one verse, but it means much more than that.
The secret of the fours in the haggadah is that each symbol or motif is gradually transformed from a symbol of slavery into a symbol of freedom. For example, matsah starts out as a symbol of slavery (ha lachma anya or poor bread הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם), then becomes a symbol of redemption from Egypt (matsah zo al shum mah “For what reason do we eat matsah? Because our ancestors didn’t have time to let the dough rise…” מַצָּה זוֹ שֶׁאָנוּ אוֹכְלִים, עַל שׁוּם מָה? עַל שׁוּם שֶׁלֹא הִסְפִּיק בְּצֵקָם שֶׁל אֲבוֹתֵינוּ לְהַחֲמִיץ עַד שֶׁנִּגְלָה עֲלֵיהֶם מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים), then becomes the bread of political freedom that we ate when the Temple was standing (the “Hillel sandwich” זֵכֶר לְמִקְדָּשׁ כְּהִלֵּל) and finally the afikoman, the hidden part, which is the missing piece that completes the whole, also symbolizing that what is invisible is greater than what is visible – this is the bread that we will eat when Messiah comes. As we transform the meaning of matsah, we and it move from slavery to freedom. Of course matsah always means all of these things, but we put them in a specific order, in order to create this transformation. That’s the real secret of the seder, and that’s why it’s called a seder.
This principle also applies to the four times we quote the verse וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יְיָ לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם “Because of this which Adonai did for me in taking me from Egypt.”
Here are the times it’s quoted.
1) to reprimand the “wicked son/child”: רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם? לָכֶם – וְלֹא לוֹ. וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִנָּיו וֶאֱמֹר לוֹ: בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יְיָ לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם.
2) to open up to the one who doesn’t know to ask:
וְשֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל – אַתְּ פְּתַח לוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יְיָ לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם.
3) to explain why we tell the story at night on the full moon:
יָכוֹל מֵרֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ, תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר בַּיוֹם הַהוּא, אִי בַּיוֹם הַהוּא יָכוֹל מִבְּעוֹד יוֹם, תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה – בַּעֲבוּר זֶה לֹא אָמַרְתִּי אֶלָא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁיֵּשׁ מַצָּה וּמָרוֹר מֻנָּחִים לְפָנֶיךָ
4) to remind us that we ourselves left Egypt:
בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יְיָ לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם.
The verse at first is used to exclude others, but by the end it is used to include ourselves on the deepest level. The one who is transformed is the teacher.
One more less obvious meaning of one of the fours of the haggadah: we usually think that the children are in some kind of decreasing order of virtue or intellect, with the first being the best. It can actually be seen as the opposite: the “wise one” is at the bottom, unable to penetrate the meaning because he cannot see more than the rules. The response he gets, “explain to him the laws until ‘we don’t add after the Pesach offering an afikoman’ “, represents an acceptance of the fact that this one cannot reach towards redemption. The wicked one has entered the gates, understanding that avodah/service must mean something, though he/she is too full of ego to easily partake. The simple one and the one who doesn’t know to ask have reached higher states, and the one who doesn’t know to ask is closest to enlightenment and redemption. But each of these is no more than a symbol for who we each are at different times. If we truly reach the level of “in every generation one must see him/herself as if he/she left Egypt” – which comes when all four children, i.e. all parts of ourselves, are brought together into the experience – then we have attained the purpose of the seder.
For further exploration of the haggadah see “The Mystery of Charoset”. You can also listen to the class sessions that this haggadah is based on below. What follows are the .mp3 files from the Beit Midrash Ruach v’Lev session on “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Haggadah” held at Chochmat Halev in Berkeley CA, around 2004, led by me (Rabbi David Seidenberg).
Part 1 – the obvious fours of the haggadah, what they mean, and a list of the hidden fours to be discussed.
Part 2 – the first two meanings of matzah, the true meaning of “seder”, and the transformation of the symbol of matsah.[The following sections are truly unedited and the end of the class has yet to be filled in. Someday with God’s help all that will happen.]
Part 3 – the second two meanings of matzah; redemption and the afikoman.
Part 4 – the transformations of the verse “Ba’avor zeh…”; psychological dimensions; beginning of discussion of the four sons/children (last section incomplete).
This haggadah was cross-posted to neohasid.org, here.
“פסח | Haggadah of the inner Seder by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org)” is shared by David Seidenberg with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International copyleft license.