These Passover Haggadot Will Leave You Speechless

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…”

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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.


If you liked this article, try these:

Celebrating the Exodus from Egypt Behind the Lines of World War I

What Would You Serve at a Passover Seder During the Korean War?

A Plea for Assistance in Buying Poor Man’s Bread from 1908

The Illustrated Prague Haggadah from 1556

The Valmadonna Collection is a treasure trove of rare Jewish manuscripts. We are proud to present a copy of the Prague Haggadah, one of the earliest published Haggadot in the world.

The Prague Haggadah, the Valmaddona Collection

Passover is here and the National Library of Israel has the honor and pleasure of presenting a rare item from the recently acquired Valmadonna Collection.

The Prague Haggadah, 1556, the Valmadonna Collection

This Haggadah was published in 1556, and only two copies have survived the ravages of time and history. The only other copy can be found in the British Library in London.

The Valmadonna Collection holds thousands of items and books published and printed from the 15th century onwards. The Prague Haggadah is but one example of the riches found within.

The Haggadah has been scanned, digitized and uploaded in its entirety to the National Library of Israel website. Visitors and users around the globe will be able to view one of the oldest and most beautiful Haggadot in the world.

The Prague Haggadah, 1556, the Valmadonna Collection

Dr. Yoel Finkelman, the Judaica Collection Curator of the National Library, says the Prague Haggadah is significant not only due to its rarity and age, but also because the Haggadot of Prague feature wood-cut illustrations and large, elaborate fonts. These elements have become standard in thousands of different versions of Haggadot all over the Jewish world.

View the full Haggadah here:

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

These Passover Haggadot Will Leave You Speechless

The Haggadah That Brought the Nazis to the Seder

The Benghazi Haggadah: How the Jews of Libya Celebrated Victory Over the Nazis

This is how the Jewish Legion soldiers of the British army set up a Seder in Benghazi, Libya in 1943.

Before the break out of the Second World War, Mussolini’s Italy was in control of Libya. In an effort to establish stricter colonial policies as well as to ingratiate themselves to Nazi Germany, the Italian fascist authorities adopted many of the racial laws Germany had enacted upon its Jews. It is no surprise that when war broke out and the anti-Semitic persecution intensified, Libya’s Jews were very much in favor of an Ally victory over the Axis powers.

The city of Benghazi had been conquered and re-conquered by the Axis and the Allies multiple times over the course of the war. It was finally recaptured by the British army under the command of General Montgomery in December, 1942. The meeting of the Benghazi Jews who had survived the hell of the war and the concentration camps and the soldiers of the Jewish Legion, most of them volunteers from the Hebrew Yishuv in the Land of Israel, was given symbolic expression during the Passover Seder of 1943.

Two fascinating historical sources enable us to reconstruct this emotional encounter: a Haggadah put together by the soldiers of the 403rd Transport Unit and the 53rd Logistics Unit, along with the military journal of Rabbi Ephraim Elimelech Urbach, who led the Seder on behalf of the British Army. Urbach would later become the president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Ela sheb’chol dor vador omdim aleinu lechaloteinu – “But that in each generation there are those who rise up against us to destroy us.”: The Benghazi Haggadah
The Four Sons: The Benghazi Haggadah

Many of the 600 participants of the Seder came from far away. During the battles, the Germans banished the Jews of Benghazi to Tripoli and they only began to trickle back after the British had completely conquered Libya. Jewish Legion soldiers as well as Canadian, American, British, and Australian soldiers serving in the area also came to celebrate along with the Jewish community.

There were major logistical issues that arose during the preparations for a war time Seder with the biggest among them being printing enough Haggadot for all the participants. To resolve this issue, the writers and editors confiscated telegrams and other letterheads from the offices of the Libyan authorities. On the backs of these scraps of paper they printed the Haggadot with a typewriter and copied them with a mimeograph machine.

On the left – A springtime hymn. On the right – an official document of the fascist Libyan government. The Benghazi Haggadah

Rabbi Urbach tells the story in his journal:

“At exactly a quarter past eight we entered the hall. It was a wonderful sight to see all the soldiers, from every service, and from all the armies fighting for the Allies, sitting at the tables. At the officers table sat 45 people, 12 of them American. When I stood and gave the signal to begin, a great quiet descended in the hall. I started in English and finished in Hebrew. I blessed the guests and thanked the hosts. I spoke of celebrating liberty, the destruction of the people of Israel in the Diaspora, and the hope this holiday holds, especially the fact that we had the privilege of celebrating it in a place from which Jews had been banished only a year ago. I finished with a blessing: ‘As we have the privilege of celebrating Passover on the ruins of a grand and boastful empire, so too, next year we will celebrate Passover on the ruins of an evil and malicious kingdom as we come together in the land of our ancestors, redeemed and rebuilt.'”

Rabbi Ephraim Elimelech Urbach in a British Army uniform, the picture was taken from “War Journals: Diary of a Jewish Chaplain from Eretz Israel in the British Army, 1942-1944” by E. E. Urbach

Like the unique ritual that Rabbi Urbach performed, the Benghazi Haggadah was not written in the traditional manner. It was designed and compiled to mark a specific event – a Seder in liberated Benghazi in 1943. It opens with the verse: “Remember this day, when you went out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:3) and continues with the Aramaic verse: Ha Lachma Anya, “This is the poor man’s bread.”

Ha lachma anya, the Benghazi Haggadah

Following this, a forward to the Haggadah links the biblical Exodus out of Egypt and the Holocaust that was taking place at the time in Europe, ending in a Zionist declaration. These passages are included in the forward:

“Many are the troubles and tortures of the nation of Israel and great is its heroism. In the furnace of Egyptian slavery the Children of Israel were forged and formed into a people, and they tread a treacherous path full of obstacles to this day. In each generation there are those who rise up against us to destroy us and this generation’s enemy has surpassed all others with its evil.

We take a small comfort in these dark days at the sight of the rescued Jews of Libya. We hope that we will soon be among the rescuers of Europe’s oppressed Jews.

We will stubbornly and determinately move towards our goal, and we are certain that just as the People of Israel willingly sacrificed that which they hold most dear for the good of the nation – and succeeded, so we Hebrew soldiers will see the successful end of our holy mission, and witness the return of the People of Israel to their promised land. Amen.”

The Forward put together by the Hebrew soldiers for Seder night, 1943. The Benghazi Haggadah

Another unique aspect of the Haggadah, in addition to the forward written by the Jewish soldiers, were the illustrations they added to it. Under the well-known line, “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You”, the soldiers added an illustration of a fighter plane dropping bombs on an unknown target. No doubt this was symbolic of the future defeat of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.

“Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You”. The Benghazi Haggadah

The Haggadah ends with two prophecies and hope for the future: “Your children will return from the land of the enemy” and “Next year in Jerusalem”.

“Your children will return from the land of the enemy” – the Benghazi Haggdah


If you liked this article, try these:

Celebrating the Exodus from Egypt Behind the Lines of World War I

What Would You Serve at a Passover Seder During the Korean War?

A Plea for Assistance in Buying Poor Man’s Bread from 1908

Rabbit Season! Matzoh Season! When Passover Meets Hare Hunting

The 16th century editor of the Prague Haggadah had a wicked sense of humor!

The Prague Haggadah dates back to the year 1526 and is one of the very first printed haggadot in existence.

This haggadah is unique, filled with intricate and magnificent illustrations, some of which are rather unconventional. If you were to open the ancient book to page nine and glance towards the bottom, you may notice a rather odd and seemingly misplaced drawing.

No, you are not mistaken. It is not a drawing depicting the ten plagues or a scenic view of the Jews crossing through the splitting of the sea. The illustration clearly depicts a hunter on horseback trumpeting on his horn as several desperate hares flee from him.

Hare hunting you ask? Since when is Passover season connected to hunting season? Even if we were to overlook the fact that the hare does not comply with Kosher dietary laws and that animals killed without the proper slaughter rituals are deemed not Kosher, why, in a traditional Haggadah, is there a scenic drawing of a hare hunt?

We asked ourselves the same question and after a bit of research we discovered a rather clever answer that led us to believe the illustrator of this haggadah had a rather unique sense of humor.

In Germany, hare hunting season is called “jag den has,” a phrase which sounds very similar to the Hebrew mnemonic, “YaKeNHaz.”

YaKeNHaz was a prompt developed to assist people in remembering the order of the Passover ceremony as it needs to take place when the first night of Passover, the night of the Seder tradition, falls on a Saturday night. On a Saturday night there are additional ceremonial requirements to first let out Shabbat ahead of welcoming in the Passover holiday.

“Ya” refers to Yayin- Wine to be used for the “Ke”- Kiddush, a prayer that sanctifies the festival. “N” stands for Ner, the candle lit at the conclusion of the Sabbath to be used for Ha- Havdalah, a prayer said at the end of Shabbat to welcome in the new week. Once the ceremony to end Shabbat has concluded, we move to “Z”- Zman, a blessing for having reached this time of year and the Passover festival.

What was a seemingly strange and misplaced illustration cleverly tipped us off to the correct order of the Saturday night Seder ceremony, giving the leader of the Seder a gentle reminder in how to proceed.

And you thought there was no sense of humor in the 16th century.

Well, if we are already discussing this particularly unique sense of humor, if you were to continue turning the pages of the haggadah, you may happen upon page 40 where we made another interesting discovery in a small, unobtrusive box at the top of the page.

During the Seder ceremony, there is a tradition to specifically mention the three main events of the Passover tradition: Pesach, a ritual sacrifice brought in the times of the temple, Matzah, the unleavened bread, and Maror, the bitter herbs eaten to remember the suffering of the Jews in Egypt.

In accordance with tradition, as each of these items are mentioned, the participants of the Seder point to the items as they are represented on the Seder plate- the sacrifice as represented by the shank bone, the Matzah, and the piece of bitter herb.

Well, according to page 40 of the nearly 500 year old Haggada, if you are to perform the tradition properly, when mentioning the bitter herb you must also point to the women at the table and proclaim, “A bad woman is more bitter than death!”

Don’t look at us… that’s what the haggadah says! We don’t recommend trying this at home.