The Incarnations of the “Avinu Malkeinu” Piyut from the Talmud to Barbara Streisand

Take a musical voyage through three melodies written to different verses from the “Avinu Malkeinu” prayer, embarking from the widespread Ashkenazi tune, passing through a familiar Chassidic niggun and ending with Max Janowski’s melody.

The Machzor prayer book instructs, “The Ark is opened.”

The Holy Ark is opened and the cantor and the congregation begin to intone, “Our Father our King, we have no King other than you… Our Father our King be gracious to us and answer us as we have no deeds…”

The “Avinu Malkeinu” [Our Father Our King] prayer, whose roots reach back as far as the Talmudic era, is one of the familiar prayers most closely identified with the period of the “High Holy Days,” the days between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Despite different customs regarding its manner of recitation in various communities, primarily among Ashkenazic Jews, parts of the prayer are sung in different melodies. For now, we will focus on just three of the melodies written to compliment various verses from the “Avinu Malkeinu” prayer. The first is a widespread, familiar tune sung in many Ashkenazic congregations. The second, a melody attributed to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement, and the third, and the most recent of the three, is the work of the composer Max Janowski.

“Is it known who composed the familiar, widespread and common melody of ‘Avinu Malkeinu’?” I asked Professor Eliyahu Schleifer, the musicologist and cantor.

He replied, “I’m sorry to disappoint you… unfortunately, I don’t know who composed the well-known tune of ‘Avinu Malkeinu.’”

Schleifer referred me to the book “Otzar Neginot Yisrael” [Thesaurus of Hebrew Melodies], written by the composer, musician, researcher and ethnomusicologist Avraham Zvi Idelson to learn more. The book is comprised of ten volumes of musical notes published between 1914-1932 and compiles the results of Idelson’s research which consisted of collecting and documenting melodies and tunes of the various populations at the beginning of the twentieth century. Schleifer explained that the earliest publication of the melody that he is aware of appears in the tenth volume of “Otzar Neginot Yisrael” from 1932, the topic of which is “Hassidic Songs (Gesange der Chassidim).”

Two different versions of the tune appear in this volume. “In the first version, the melody appears as the second part of a Hassidic niggun (the first part is slow and has a 4/4 meter). In this version, the melody is divided into solo parts and choral parts, and at first glance, seems completely different than the melody customarily sung today. The second version is also not exactly like we sing it today, but if we ignore the introduction, the popular melody is easily recognizable.”

The melody makes another appearance in an almost identical version to the one we are familiar with today in the booklet, “Shirei Eretz Yisrael,” [Songs of the Land of Israel] from 1935 by Jakob Schonberg. It seems the niggun was very popular in the Land of Israel during the Second Aliyah period and, surprisingly, it was widely sung by the socialist leaders of the Kibbutz Movement.

The first version of “Avinu Malkeinu” from “Otzar Neginot Yisrael”, Volume 10, Leipzig, 1932

Raphael Pischi, one of the long-time members of Kvutzat HaSharon in Ramat David, told an interesting anecdote: “The attitude toward May 1 celebrations in Kvutzat HaSharon, was one of uncertainty and I was among those who refrained. I heard that in Gvat the festival is celebrated in all its glory. I decided to go along and see how this festival, which does not appear in the Torah, is celebrated- perhaps I would be convinced that it’s worth it.”

“It was May 1, 1932. I took the flock out to pasture near Gvat. While the herd ate, I went to Gvat’s dining hall above which the red flag flew. I stood at the entrance and heard fervent singing coming from within: ‘Our Father, our King, be gracious to us and answer us, for we have no deeds.’ I said to myself, ‘OK, I am prepared to celebrate this kind of festival … that is how I began to celebrate May 1st.’”

The source of the familiar melody remains a mystery, but it is certainly widely known. Special testimony which shows how the familiar melody is widely accepted appears in the Ben Stonehill Collection, a copy of which can be found in the National Sound Archive. Ben Stonehill, (1906-1964) a Jewish native of Poland who emigrated with his family to America at the beginning of the last century, took it upon himself to collect and document musical material from European Jewish folklore. Stonehill recorded over a thousand songs including popular songs in Yiddish, excerpts from prayers, Chassidic niggunim and more.

Many Holocaust survivors served as experts for this project, their voices bearing the musical memory of what had been. On the recordings, various survivors appear one after the other as if on a conveyor belt. They are each asked to state their name, place of origin and age, and sing their song. In a recording from the summer of 1948, the voice of a young boy aged 16, a survivor of the horrors of the war who managed to reach New York is featured. It was there, in the Marseilles Hotel in Manhattan, that Stonehill recorded him. “Eir naman? (Your name?),” the boy was asked, “Un vy alt bistu? (And how old are you?). The boy replied, “Zachtzen” (sixteen).” “Un vat vestu zingen?” (And what are you going to sing?) – “Avinu Malkeinu.” Here the boy’s voice can be heard singing the well-known tune. The words fit into the melody slightly differently than we are used to today, but the tune is the same tune.

The ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ prayer begins with the words “Our Father our King, we have sinned before You,” followed immediately by the words “Our Father our King, we have no other God than You.”

These words too received their own melody. One of the most famous tunes is the one attributed to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1813), known as the “Ba’al HaTanya” or the “Alter Rebbe” by followers of the Chabad movement which he established. In addition to being a great Torah scholar, he was known to have many talents, including a special musical talent. Chabad tradition attributes ten “Niggunim Mechuvanim” [Precise Melodies] to Rabbi Shneur Zalman.

As the book, “Sefer HaNiggunim,” (a unique anthology which complies many of the Hassidic tunes) attests, the tune to ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ is one of these ten songs. The melody has three parts: an opening phase without words, a middle phase with the words of the prayer, and a closing phase – also consisting only of a tune. The entire congregation sings the niggun immediately after the Ark is opened before the Cantor begins reciting the prayer.

‘Avinu Malkeinu’ in Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi’s tune, from “Sefer HaNiggunim”, Volume 1, 1948

In a clip recorded during a Hassidic “Hitva’adut” thirty years ago, the voice of  Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the seventh Rebbe of Chabad, can be heard singing the niggun. The recording begins with the second phase of the melody, which includes the words of the prayer in the Rebbe’s voice. The Chassidim then join in the song. Following that, the other two sections are heard, the end section and the opening section.

In a recording from the collection of Shmuel Zalmanov, who was also appointed as editor of “Sefer HaNiggunim” by the Sixth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the voice of one of the Chassidim – probably Zalman himself – can be heard over the introduction announcing “Avinu Malkeinu – Einer fun di tzan niggunim fun di alten Rabbin” (One of the Alter Rebbe’s ten niggunim).

This is followed by the introductory section without words, after which the second part of the niggun is heard (sung like the version which appears in “Sefer HaNiggunim,” slightly different to that sung today) and finally, the concluding section is sung.

Another familiar melody of the ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ prayer is that of the musician, composer, conductor and arranger Max Janowski (1912-1991). Janowski was the son of the musician Chaim Chaikel Janowski, a wealthy merchant, musician and cello player, and of Miriam Rap-Janowska – the “prima donna of Israeli opera.” In Professor Schleifer’s words, Janowski was “the king of synagogue music in Chicago, primarily among the Reform and Conservative, but also in the Orthodox congregations. Janowski used the Reform text of the ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ prayer for Rosh Hashana, which contains only selected verses from the traditional prayer, and wrote a work for a soloist, a mixed choir and an organ, in a style considered innovative in the Reform Temples that, at the time, were still singing the repertoire of 19th century German synagogues. In contrast, in this work, as in other works he wrote at this time, Janowski combined a style taken from Eastern European Cantorial music with elements borrowed from professional and grassroots Israeli music.”


“Avinu Malkeinu” in Max Janowski’s melody, Chicago, 1950

The concept behind the work is, “intimate and not extroverted song.” Schleifer notes that Janowski told him personally that he wanted the singing to be calculated- not with a free beat, but dictated by the beat of the organ which accompanies it. ‘He wanted the organ to mark his heartbeats…’

The work ends with the words “Hear our voices,” and the choir’s role gives the effect of an echo. It seems that his main public exposure came from this melody in the famous performance of the singer Barbara Streisand, in which the song was arranged differently than the original. An early publication of the work from 1950 is found in the Yaakov Michael Collection “for solo, mixed choir, organ or piano.”

May all the requests and prayers be accepted, as the prayer says – “Our Father our King, inaugurate a good year upon us.”


That Time the Pope Approved the Talmud

Today, 500 years ago, Pope Leo X approved the printing of the first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud.

Raphael's Portrait of Leo X

A recently discovered document from the René Braginsky Collection in Zurich tells the story behind the first press-printed edition of the Talmud, the Bomberg Talmud (1519-1522).

The newly discovered document demonstrates that on April 13th 1518, exactly five hundred years ago, Daniel Bomberg, the Christian printer, received the license, the official Privilege from Pope Leo X to print this first edition of the Talmud in Venice.

There was, however, a bit of a snag in the plan since this Privilege given to Bomberg by the Pope was on condition that the edition would be accompanied by the polemic work of the convert Felix Pratensis which was aimed at refuting the perceived Talmudic opposition to Jesus and Christianity.

A Venetian document from the 16th century, summarizing Privileges for the printing of rabbinic literature. René Braginsky Collection, Zurich, BCB 283, Photo Credit: Ardon Bar-Hama

Historical evidence, or the lack thereof, makes it difficult to trace Bomberg’s actions following this demand, but it is obvious that the experienced printer understood the consequences of pairing a Christian-apologist treatise with the Talmud would alienate potential buyers. It is likely that Bomberg asked his friend and Hebrew teacher, that very same convert, Felix Pratensis, to beg the Pope to cancel the condition.

In a renewed privilege dated February 20, 1519, the Pope removed the requirement that the treatise be included, and instead Leo X allowed Bomberg to assign Christian Hebrew-readers to amend the Talmud’s text.

This saga would likely not have gotten any attention were it not for the fact that the Bomberg Talmud became a best seller and took the Jewish world by storm. After the publication of this edition, the following printings of the Talmud consistently copied the Bomberg’s pagination and layout: The talmudic text in the center, surrounded by Rashi’s commentary on the inside and that of the Tosafists on the outside.


Bomberg Babylonian Talmud, Venice Pesachim, 1520 (?)

The above is based on Angelo Piattelli’s lecture presented at the Schocken Institute in Jerusalem in early April 2018.

The Rescue of One of the World’s Most Beautiful Haggadot

The journey of the "Rothschild Haggadah" began 550 years ago with the artist Yoel ben Shimon in Northern Italy and ended in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people

The Rothschild Haggadah

The patriarch of the Rothschild family, Mayer Amschel, collected and traded ancient coins. His five sons who inherited the family estates and businesses after his death had more of an affinity for ancient illustrated manuscripts than coins. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the descendants of the family who resided in various European cities amassed a large collection of manuscripts, along with other works of art.

A photograph of the “The Famous Benefactor” Edmond de Rothschild

One of the foremost collectors was Baron Edmond de Rothschild. “The Famous Benefactor”, as the Baron was known in the Land of Israel, began to collect books while he was still in his twenties. Edmond added dozens of manuscripts to the forty or so he had inherited from his father. The majority of these were Christian texts or historical novels, but as an observant Jew he also collected Jewish manuscripts. He owned 14 of these handwritten works, including two bibles, several Passover Haggadot and a festival prayer book from 1492. His most famous Jewish manuscript is “The Rothschild Miscellany” which is currently stored in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Baron died in Paris in 1934, leaving behind three children. James, the firstborn, had emigrated to England before the First World War. After his father’s death, James sent an expert antique dealer to France to appraise the manuscript collection and to divide it up between James, his brother Maurice, and his sister Miriam (Alexandrine). The dealer drew up a detailed list of over 100 items along with their monetary value. Most of James’ share was sent to his estate in England. Among his collection were several special Passover Haggadot. After the manuscripts were divided between the Rothschild children, for reasons which remain a mystery to this day, James Rothschild decided to leave 6 Hebrew manuscripts from his collection, including several Passover Haggadot, in France.

One of these Haggadot contains some 50 pages written in quadratic Ashkenazi script, accompanied by dozens of colorful illustrations. Some of the wonderful illustrations in this Haggadah are connected to the text itself, and some contain motifs connected to the Haggadah and the story of the exodus from Egypt – the ten plagues, matzah baking, and more.

Ma Nishtana (The Four Questions) from the Rothschild Haggadah

This Haggadah would later become known as the “Rothschild Haggadah.” Some of the illustrations in the Haggadah provide details regarding its source. The cities of Pithom and Ramses feature late gothic architecture, reminiscent of Northern Italian fortresses. The figures depicted in the Haggadah are also dressed in clothing typical of Northern Italy. The illustrator’s name does not appear, but the style is reminiscent of that of a famous illustrator named Yoel ben Shimon. Information taken from other manuscripts show that Yoel ben Shimon was active in the second half of the 15th century in the cities of Modena and Cremona in Northern Italy.

Pithom and Ramses, from the Rothschild Haggadah

Some of the illustrations are rather amusing. The wise son is seen picking his nose. This could be a play on the words of the response he receives “and you should say to him” [v’af ata emor loaf in Hebrew also means nose].

The wise son, from the Rothschild Haggadah

Another strange illustration appears underneath the song Dayeinu. The illustration depicts a gentile drinking himself into inebriation and warming his bare feet next to a fire, upon which he is roasting raw meat which does not seem particularly kosher.

Dayeinu, from the Rothschild Haggadah

The scribe who transcribed the Rothschild Haggadah was probably named Yehuda. He decorated and emphasized his own name in red in the words of the Hallel prayer, “Hayta Yehuda L’Kodsho”.

The liturgy of the Haggadah follows early Ashkezani tradition, differing slightly from the liturgy we are familiar with today. During the Middle Ages, the rabbis debated whether a blessing should be recited for the Hallel prayer included in the Haggadah. The accepted practice today is not to recite a blessing, but the transcriber of the Rothschild Haggadah appears to have followed the opposing opinions and began the first half of the Hallel prayer with the blessing “to complete the Hallel“. The songs sung at the end of the Haggadah, Echad Mi Yodea and Chad Gadya do not appear, rather the transcriber of this Haggadah instructs the reader to drink the fourth cup of wine at this point. The Haggadah ends with the words slik Ma Nishtana (“Ma Nishtana has been completed”), as in this period, Ashkenazi communities referred to the entire Haggadah by the name of the well-known song which features the question – “why is this night different from all other nights?”

When the Nazis entered Paris on June 14th, 1940, they immediately set their sights on the local riches. The Nazi pillagers mainly stole property of entities marked as “hostile,” such as Jews. A short time after the occupation was completed, the chief ideologue of the Nazi party, Alfred Rosenberg, sent two representatives to locate and collect libraries of such hostile entities. They were Walter Grothe – director of the central library in the Advanced School of the NSDAP (Hohe Schule der NSDAP), and Wilhelm Grau – director of the Institute for Study of the Jewish Question in Frankfurt.

Maurice Rothschild hid the manuscripts in his possession in a safe in a Parisian bank. On January 21st, 1941 the Nazis broke into the bank safe and removed the treasures. A German officer left a receipt in the bank which stated the date and wrote that six crates had been taken. The Germans then went to the Rothschild estate where they continued their looting. Among the manuscripts taken was James Rothschild’s illustrated Haggadah.

James Rothschild, son of “The Famous Benefactor”

In addition to the libraries of Kol Yisrael Chaevrim, the Rabbinical Seminary and other libraries, Rosenberg’s experts (members of the Nazi ERR organization) working in Paris also confiscated the private libraries of the Rothschild family, as well as 760 crates from the Rothschild Bank Archive which contained material from the past hundred years.

The books stolen from the Rothschild family were sent together with hundreds of thousands of other books taken from libraries throughout Western Europe, to Germany, where they were divided between the Institute for Study of the Jewish Question and the Central Library and sorting center of the Advanced School of the NSDAP, in Berlin.

All the books and manuscripts were evacuated from the German city centers due to the allied air raids, and many of them were discovered by American forces after the war in Hangen (Germany), by British forces in Tanzenberg (Austria) and by the Russians in Raciborz (Silesia). The Americans and British returned the books to their original owners, when possible. The Russians took the books they found with them to Minsk and Moscow. It was not until the 1990s that the Russians finally returned some of the Rothschild collections to the family.

After the war, manuscripts belonging to the Rothschild family began to be discovered in Berlin, in Neuschwanstien castle and in Berchtesgaden near the Austrian border. Hermann Goering, the number two man in Nazi Germany, was an art lover. In Berchtesgaden, Goering amassed a tremendous collection of works of art he stole throughout Europe. Some of the Rothschild family assets may have come into his possession.

When the battles ended, the French army published a series of thick volumes with lists of items of art stolen by the Nazis during the war. The three Rothschild siblings sent lists of manuscripts stolen from their collections, which can be seen in the seventh volume.

The Rothschild Haggadah is cited in the seventh volume

Years passed, and only some of the manuscripts were found and returned to James, Maurice and Miriam.

In 1948 Dr. Fred Murphy bequeathed a Haggadah which had come into his possession to the rare books collection of Yale University. The university came to refer to the manuscript as the “Murphy Haggadah”, after its donor.

On the back page of the binding of the manuscript is a small simple stamp of the name William V. Black. The genealogy database website My Heritage shows that several soldiers with this name served in the Second World War. This Haggadah may have been found by an American soldier with this name (or another) who brought it back from Europe at the war’s end. Perhaps Professor Murphy received it from him.

It was not until 1980 that Professor James Marrow, a researcher of art history at Princeton University identified this book as one of James Rothschild’s lost Haggadot. James had died in 1957, so Yale University gave the Haggadah to his widow Dorothy in England. Baroness Dorothy decided to bequeath the valuable manuscript to the National Library in Jerusalem.

Three leaves were missing from the Haggadah. Two of them contained the end of the “Kadesh”,Urchatz“, and “Karpas” sections and the beginning of the “Maggid” section of the Seder service.

In 2007, two illustrated leaves of a Passover Haggadah were auctioned in France. The antique dealer who bought them sent them to Jerusalem to be examined. In 2008, Dr. Evelyn Cohen, an expert in illustrated Jewish manuscripts, identified the two leaves as the missing leaves of the “Rothschild Haggadah”. The leaves were purchased for the National Library and returned to their rightful place in the Passover Haggadah.

The journey, which began 550 years ago with the illustrator Yoel ben Shimon in Northern Italy, ended with the Haggadah being scanned by the National Library in Jerusalem, making it accessible to anyone who wishes to see it.

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The Haggadot collection at the National Library is the largest in the world and we've collected them here in a special online exhibition.

The Wolff Haggadah

The Wolff Haggadah

The styles and wording of the modern Haggadah expand on the traditional versions, with various levels of interpretation and innovation. On the one hand, many Haggadot include additions, especially at the end, while others are seen as a platform for the expression of certain ideas and as a place to include informative and humorous anecdotes. The additions are varied, ranging from recognized Hebrew songs and melodies to original independent pieces. Many Haggadot produced in Israel include illustrations by some of Israel’s greatest artists.

The Haggadot collection at the National Library is the largest in the world. This collection includes hand-written Haggadot, Haggadot in rare and new print, Haggadot in a wide variety of languages, photocopies of hand-written Haggadot, traditional Haggadot, and non-traditional Haggadot of various types.


Wolff Haggadah, illustrated and hand-written, 14th century.

In 1938 this Haggadah was confiscated by the Nazis from the Jewish community in Berlin. The Haggadah was transferred to Warsaw and disappeared in 1948. It reappeared in 1989, in Geneva. It was only after a long and difficult court battle that lasted four years that the Haggadah was returned to Poland and eventually donated by the Prime Minister of Poland, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, to Prof. Israel Shatzman, director of the National Library, in a formal ceremony with the Speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon. The Wolff Haggadah is one of the oldest in existence. It was inscribed on parchment, and was most likely written in Avignon, but in the tradition accepted in Northern France. The owner and copier of the Haggadah was Yaakov ben Shlomo Tzarfati, whose writings we have preserved to this day.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


Rothschild Haggadah, Northern Italy, from around 1450

Called the “Rothschild Haggada” because it was owned by the famous family of Jewish benefactors until 1939. During the Second World War, the Haggadah was stolen by the Nazis and disappeared. After the war it was purchased by Dr. Fred Murphy, a graduate of Yale University, who bequeathed it to the university in 1948. In 1980 the Haggadah was identified as the property of the Rothschild family and returned to its owners, who donated it to the National Library of Israel. The Haggadah was missing three pages that were probably already torn prior to its purchase by the Rothschild family. Recently two of the pages were found at a public auction and purchased by the National Library with the generous help of two anonymous donors.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A Haggadah from Guadalajara, Spain, 1480

This is the earliest printed Haggadah, the only copy in the world. The text is printed in quadratic, unpunctuated letters. The Haggadah, printed 12 years prior to the exile of the Jews from Spain, is unique evidence of the high technological level of printing among Spanish Jews. With the exile, the Jews took this knowledge with them to their Diaspora communities in Europe and areas of the Ottoman Empire, among them northern Africa.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A Haggadah from Prague, 1526

This is the earliest complete illustrated Haggadah. It includes short interpretations in the pages’ margins. Although the Haggadah does not include Echad Mi Yodeah or Chad Gadya, it made a lasting impression on generations to come, as its illustrations served as a model for many Haggadot printed later on.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


 A Haggadah from Amsterdam, 1695

The first Haggadah to include copper engravings and a map. The copper engravings in the illustrations are the work of the artist Avraham ben Yaakov Hagar. A map of the Land of Israel appears at the end, also in copper engravings. The map is likely based upon the map of the Land of Canaan by Christian van Adrichom, from the 16th century, who was also known for his map attempting to reconstruct Jerusalem and its surroundings in the olden days.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A Haggadah from New York, 1837

This is most likely the first Haggadah to have been printed in America. It includes an English translation by David Levy from London. The Haggadah is written “According to the Custom of the German & Spanish Jews”. The English translation appears alongside the Hebrew, with slight clarifications. Chad Gadya and Echad Mi Yodea are not translated to English.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A humorous Haggadah from Jerusalem, 1923

Written by the teacher, translator, and linguist, Kadish Yehuda-Leib Silman (1880-1937), who was one of the founders of Tel-Aviv and the Beit-Hakerem neighborhood in Jerusalem. The Haggadah deals with life in the Hebrew communities of the Land of Israel in a humorous tone: The wise one is the High Commissioner; the evil one is the Arab Higher Committee; the veteran settlers are represented by the shy one, and the one who knows not how to ask is the young generation, “that will not talk a lot, but will do a lot, will grow and glorify Israel”.


A satirical Haggadah from Tel Aviv, 1934

The “Tel-Aviv Haggadah”, a satirical version of the Passover Haggadah, illustrated by Aryeh Nevon. Published in honor of the 25th anniversary of Tel-Aviv’s establishment, during Passover 1909. The Haggadah depicts the atmosphere of life in the first Hebrew city and mentions several central town figures in the text itself.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A Haggadah prepared by the “Hebrew Transport Unit” (Yael) of the Jewish Brigade, 1942.

During Passover of 1942, the unit was stationed in Egypt, on the shores of the Red Sea. The Haggadah makes reference to the symbolism of the location and praises the role of the soldiers of the Jewish Brigade as Hebrew representatives in the war against the Germans in North Africa. The Haggadah also refers to the bravery of the Brigade soldiers during the German siege on Tobruk in Passover 1941. Various literary texts mostly dealing with war were added to the traditional texts of the Haggadah.


Hashomer HaTzair Haggadah, 1943

The first Haggadah produced by the Hashomer HaTzair (“The Young Guard” – a socialist-Zionist youth movement) and intended for use in the movement’s kibbutzim. The Haggadah refers to the Holocaust, the war, and the Hebrew community’s struggle against the British. The Haggadah reflects the destruction and the loss of the homes of the previous generation, and the need to hold on to the only home left. Current events of the world and of the region, as well as the story of the Exodus from Egypt, are all displayed in the Haggadah in service of the movement’s ideology regarding the battle of the classes, liberation from slavery, and the values of the Hebrew pioneer. “There is hope still that Israel will return from the house of slavery and attain resurrection in the Spring of Nations.” Written and edited by Mordechai Amitai, decorated by the painter Ruth Shlos.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A Haggadah prepared by the Palmach‘s 3rd Battalion,1948

The 3rd Battalion of the Palmach (the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces) was active in the Galilee from the outset of Israel’s War of Independence. Passover of that year was spent fighting a difficult battle over the stronghold at Al-Nabi Yusha’. Following Passover the battalion’s soldiers conquered the fortress. The Haggadah is written under the infuence of these difficult battles and deals with the fragile state of the Jewish population in the Land of Israel on the eve of the establishment of the State, at one of the breaking points of the War of Independence.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A Haggadah from Kefar Shemaryhau, 1948

A local addition to the Passover Haggadah, written by residents of Kefar Shemaryahu, Yekes (German-Jewish immigrants to Israel) and their offspring, expressing remorse over their assimilation and telling the story of Kefar Shemaryahu and the period, including the early days of the War of Independence. “We were free – we the present-day residents of Kefar Shemaryahu – in the land of Ashkenaz. Traders, lawyers, doctors, writers, and artists… but we did not guard our vineyards, and we neglected the ideas of our nation and its traditions. We attended the schools of foreigners. We did not know the language of our nation, and we forgot the Holy Books of the People of Israel…”

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


A Haggadah from Ma’ale Hahamisha, 1948

This Haggadah was written only a few days after the conclusion of harsh battles over the “Castel” fortress near the entrance to Jerusalem during the War of Independence. Soldiers in the Portzim Battalion of the Palmach from Ma’ale Hahamisha took part in the battles. Many of the fallen soldiers were buried during those very days. The deep feelings of loss are evident in the text, which also stresses the importance of devotion to the battle over the establishment of the State.

Click here or on the image for the complete scanned book.


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