Simply put, this is a brilliant book, perhaps one of the finest I have ever held in my hands.
Since my childhood I have been fascinated by the Szyk Haggadah. We had a copy in a box in our home. Opening it and turning the pages always inspired in me flights of imagination and wonder. Over the years I have come to appreciate the extensive talent that Szyk brought to the text of Passover seder.
With Szyk as your guide you get to feel the full impact of the great drama of slavery and redemption in all its nuance as an Israelite, Jewish and rabbinic performance. Szyk bridges the ages with his art, which is both technically striking and piercingly creative.
This reproduction edition is no mere re-issue. It is in fact a breakthrough of novelty and further insight into the nuances that go into a blockbuster performance of the Passover narrative. The new translation and commentary by Byron Sherwin and Irvin Ungar is rich in content yet laconic in its range. It tells you what you need to know with authority and clarity, bringing to the life and to the dining room of every performer the essential meanings of the texts and rituals that comprise the Seder.
Yes, you can use this as your Passover Haggadah at your table. Szyk's calligraphic Hebrew is complete and legible, though I do admit that it takes more effort to follow that than a simpler printed edition. Sherwin's translations and notes are crystal clear throughout. The commentary adds a few items that Szyk omitted. It also brings the Haggadah up to the minute with, for instance, a helpful discussion of the innovative addition of Miriam's cup to the Seder (p. 45) that I intend to refer to this year.
I cannot overlook mentioning that the price of this book makes it just about the best bargain on the Haggadah market. And yes, the Szyk Haggadah serves a dual purpose since it will adorn your coffee table, as well, as an art book of the highest caliber.
Here is the publisher's descriptive matter:
Product DescriptionArthur Szyk (pronounced “Shick”) created his magnificent Haggadah in Lodz, on the eve of the Nazi occupation of his native Poland. There is no Haggadah like it, before or since, filled with sumptuous paintings of Jewish heroes and stunning calligraphy.
This edition, the first since 1940 to be reproduced from Szyk’s original art, boasts a newly commissioned and extremely practical English text by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, ideal for use at any family Seder, and a special commentary section by Rabbi Sherwin and Irvin Ungar gives insight into both the rituals of the Seder and Szyk’s rich illustrations.
Available in both hardcover and paperback editions, The Szyk Haggadah will transform the Seder, bringing the story of the Exodus from Egypt into a more contemporary light.
About the AuthorArthur Szyk (1884–1951) was known primarily as a political illustrator of the highest caliber. Eleanor Roosevelt once referred to him as a “one-man army,” and indeed, he saw himself as a “soldier in art.”
Byron L. Sherwin, a Jewish scholar and ethicist, has served on the faculty of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies since 1970. He lives in Chicago.
Irvin Ungar, an antiquarian bookseller and former rabbi, has championed the rediscovery of Szyk’s work. He lives in Burlingame, California.