By The National Library of Israel

A Timeless Script: Handwritten Passover Haggadot

The story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt after hundreds of years of enslavement is one of the greatest sources of inspiration in the history of the Jewish nation.

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The Leipnik Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

​The Exodus, a story of hope for redemption and of an exit from slavery to freedom, has been told and written in the Haggadah, a traditional book used on the holiday of Passover in the Seder services, for more than 2000 years. The traditional Haggadah sets forth a specific text and a set order to the Passover Seder traditions in sharing the story of the Exodus. The styles and wording of the modern Haggadah expands on the traditional versions, with various levels of interpretation and innovation.

Many Haggadot include various additions, and some are seen as a platform for the expression of different 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. Several Haggadot also include illustrations by some of Israel's greatest artists.

The Haggadot collection at the National Library of Israel is the largest in the world. The collection includes modern and ancient Haggadot, hand-written Haggadot, Haggadot in rare and new print, Haggadot in a wide variety of languages, photocopies of hand-written Haggadot, traditional Haggadot, and nontraditional Haggadot of all kinds.

Haggada Remnants from the Geniza (1000/1099)The National Library of Israel

Haggadah Remnants from the Geniza

Remnants of a Passover Haggadah written on parchment, preserved in the Cairo Genizah. The Cairo Genizah contains hundreds of thousands of handwritten documents spanning a thousand years. Today, the Genizah is scattered among dozens of libraries around the world, including the National Library of Israel. The text from the Haggadah before us begins with the words: "[that passed over…] the Children of Israel in Egypt", and concludes: "The name of God is praised […] from the rising of the sun to its setting".

Rothschild Passover Haggadah Rothschild Passover Haggadah (1450/1450)The National Library of Israel

The
Rothschild Haggadah

This Haggada is called the "Rothschild Haggadah" because it was owned by the eminent family until 1939. During the Second World War, it was looted by the Nazis and then disappeared. After the war, it was purchased by Dr. Fred Murphy, who bequeathed it to Yale University. In 1980, the Haggadah was identified and returned to its owners, who donated it to the National Library of Israel. The magnificent Haggadah was most likely illuminated by Yoel ben Shimon, know from his illuminations of approximately ten manuscripts that have been preserved to this day.  

Rothschild Passover HaggadahThe National Library of Israel

Wolff Passover HaggadahThe National Library of Israel

The
Wolf Haggadah

This illuminated Haggadah was owned by Albert Wolf and later transferred to the Jewish community of Berlin, until its confiscation by the Nazis in 1938. The Haggadah was later given to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. In 1984 it disappeared before being rediscovered in 1989. Only after a court battle that lasted seven years was the Haggadah finally returned to Warsaw. Ultimately, the prime minister of Poland donated the Haggadah to the Jewish National and University Library (now the National Library of Israel). The Wolf Haggadah, which follows the north French tradition was most likely written in Avignon. The copier and owner of the Haggadah was Yaakov ben Shlomo Tzarfati.

Wolff Passover HaggadahThe National Library of Israel

The Leipnik Passover Haggada The Leipnik Passover Haggada (1733/1733) by Joseph ben David of LeipnikThe National Library of Israel

The Leipnik Passover Haggadah 

This Haggadah was written on parchment in square script by Joseph ben David of Leipnik, among the most important scribes of illuminated manuscripts in the 18th century, who illuminated at least a dozen other Haggadot. The date when the Haggadah was written is clearly noted in the colophon at the end: 1733. The title page, which notes the date 1752, is in fact the publication date of the printed Haggadah inspired by it.

The Leipnik Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Leipnik Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Leipnik Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Nathan ben Samson of Meseritch Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Nathan ben Samson of Meseritch
Haggadah

Nathan ben Samson of Meseritch was among the most prominent figures in the field of illuminated manuscripts in the 18th century. We are familiar with approximately two dozen manuscripts created by the Moravian artist, including about ten Haggadot. This Haggadah, written mainly in vowelized Amsterdam letters, includes instructions in Hebrew-German as well as translations of the piyyutim "Adir Hu", "Echad Mi Yode'a" and "Chad Gadya" into this language.

Nathan ben Samson of Meseritch Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Nathan ben Samson of Meseritch Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Nathan ben Samson of Meseritch Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Meshulam Simmel HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Meshulam
Simmel Haggadah

This Haggadah, which is an imitation-copy of the Amsterdam print, was written and illustrated by the scribe and artist Meshulam Simmel ben Moshe of Polna, Bohemia. Simmel is known for his delicate and precise lines, and this Haggadah was written in pen and ink on high-quality parchment.

Meshulam Simmel HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Meshulam Simmel HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Meshulam Simmel HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Baghdad HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Baghdad Passover Haggadah

The title page of this 19th century text reads, "Passover Haggadah, text and explication in Arabic according to the Baghdadi custom". The manuscript, in cursive script, which is clearly influenced by Lurianic Kabbalah, begins with the Bedikat Chametz ceremony (the ritual of the search for leaven, which is forbidden on Passover), and the evening prayers, with the text of the Haggadah appearing afterwards. Unlike the rest of the prayers and piyyutim (liturgical hymns) that appear in the manuscript, the Haggadah is translated into Judeo-Arabic, with each Hebrew paragraph followed by the same paragraph in translation.

Baghdad HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Baghdad HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Baghdad HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Persian HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Persian Passover Haggadah

A Haggadah with a translation into Judeo-Persian, written on paper in 1850. As noted in the colophon, on page 66b, the Haggadah was written by Rahamin ben Haham Shlomo in the year 1850. Judeo-Persian is a language written in Hebrew letters, based on classical Persian, which also incorporates words from Hebrew and Aramaic. The National Library of Israel holds some of the earliest known documents in this language, which are found in the Afghan Genizah.

Persian HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Persian HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Persian HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Shanghai Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The
Shanghai Haggadah

A Passover Haggada written in Shanghai in 1907 by Ezra Zion Salman Aharon Nathan. The Jewish community of Shanghai, China, was founded in the 19th century and consisted mostly of Jews of Babylonian extraction. The Haggadah includes a translation into Judeo-Arabic, written in cursive script. The Haggadah was donated to the National Library of Israel by Mr. Ezra P. Gorodesky.

The Shanghai Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Shanghai Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Shanghai Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Bordeaux Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The
Bordeaux Passover Haggadah

This manuscript, which bears the French title "Cérémonie de la soirée de Pâque" ["Passover Eve Ceremony"] was written by Rabbi Joseph Cohen, the chief rabbi of Bordeaux for more than 50 years, from 1920 on. The author uses different types of scripts: the Haggadah text in French is in italics, while the instructions and commentaries are in ordinary cursive script.

The Bordeaux Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Bordeaux Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

The Bordeaux Passover HaggadaThe National Library of Israel

Credits: Story

Curation and Texts: Dr. Aviad Stollman, Head of Collections at the National Library of Israel

Explore more Haggadot and additional Passover resources in our online collection

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