They say that the Seder is the most widely observed Jewish ritual. Assuming that is true, the Haggadah then is a near universally used Jewish book. It also is one of the most frequently published Jewish books in history, surpassed perhaps only by the Hebrew Bible and the Siddur and Machzor Prayer books.
Now it behooves me to ask of this book, who wrote the Haggadah?
Over the past five or so years I can attest that many prominent rabbis have written or edited and published Haggadahs. Here are some of my blog posts to support this assertion, Haggadah Posts.
And so five years ago, not to be left behind, I set out to publish a Haggadah of my own. More specifically, I started to republish my favorite classic out-of-print Haggadah: The Polychrome Historical Haggadah.
Life intervened and so, I stopped short of publishing the book even after having done significant work towards that goal.
Fast forward (actually the intervening years were full of many kinds of events and activities and did not go by that fast) - to 2017 and I found myself with a window of time and opportunity, and I said let's do this. Let's push that book out into print.
And so I did release The Polychrome Historical Haggadah in a new edition. I have published yet another Haggadah.
Ah, but that's not the answer to who wrote the Haggadah, is it?
A bible scholar friend of mine, quite a few years ago wrote a book, Who Wrote the Bible? That question is a fine inquiry for academic scholars, but a heretical question for a rabbi, because we assert that Moses, inspired by God, wrote the whole Bible -- and by this I mean the Torah, called the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses. Scholars, on the other hand, posit that the work is a composite historical document written by many people over numerous epochs.
So much for the Bible. But what is the answer to the question of the season, who wrote the Haggadah?
It is correct and sanctioned to say historically, literary critically and theologically that many people over many epochs wrote parts of the Haggadah.
So you may say to me, okay show me how that works. Explain to me who wrote the various composite texts and when did they write them.
And concisely that is what The Polychrome Historical Haggadah sets out to do - in a brilliant way - by color coding the layers of the text from the Biblical, rabbinic (mishnaic and talmudic), geonic, medieval, modern and contemporary periods - each in its own color. And by providing critical notes to show the sources of the distinctive literary strata of the work.
So here is the answer to who wrote it. The Haggadah evolved organically over millennia. It is the output of many authors, mostly anonymous, assembled by many editors and used throughout history by nearly all Jews, every year.
And a colorful way to see the strands of the composition is to use the The Polychrome Historical Haggadah at your Seder.
Please do that and have a wonderfully happy Passover.