Hav­dalah cer­e­mo­ny in the Barcelona Hag­gadah, 1300s

British Library

We’re high­light­ing a cou­ple of new Hag­gadot that have blos­somed this spring, just in time for Passover 5783/2023 cel­e­bra­tions. If you’re curi­ous to see oth­er Hag­gadot pub­lished in the past sev­er­al years, check out our Passover 5782/2022 Hag­gadah RoundupPassover 5781/2021 Hag­gadah Roundup, and Passover 5780/2020 Hag­gadah Roundup.

JBC Edi­to­r­i­al Team

The Passover Sto­ry Hag­gadah: A New Nar­ra­tive for a Mod­ern Seder
by Stu­art Leven

In his intro­duc­tion, Stu­art Lev­en quotes author Abi­gail Pogre­bin on the Passover sto­ry, “‘The Exo­dus is an epic sto­ry of oppres­sion, resolve, and deliv­er­ance. The prob­lem has always been, at least to my mind, that some­how the sto­ry­line gets lost in the Haggadah.’”

Lev­en echoes this sen­ti­ment and express­es his appre­ci­a­tion for the Hag­gadah, while rec­og­niz­ing that the tra­di­tion­al text focus­es on shar­ing rab­binic com­men­tary about the Exo­dus rather than the event itself.

The author’s The Passover Sto­ry Hag­gadah: A New Nar­ra­tive for a Mod­ern Seder replaces the tra­di­tion­al mag­gid sec­tion with a retelling of the Exo­dus, weav­ing it into the tra­di­tion­al sign­posts of the seder in a seam­less way. He also adds a sec­tion in recog­ni­tion of Miri­am, updates the read­ing for Elijah’s Cup, includes a new ver­sion of The Four Sons alle­go­ry (now titled The Five Chil­dren), and abbre­vi­ates sec­tions such as barech (Grace after Meals), and hal­lel (Praise). The text is offered pri­mar­i­ly in Eng­lish, with­out addi­tion­al com­men­tary, with select­ed sec­tions in Hebrew and Hebrew translit­er­a­tion. The appen­dix includes an excerpt from the Book of Exo­dus, to share the sto­ry of Moses’ birth and ear­ly expe­ri­ence in Egypt. Black and white images of bib­li­cal scenes and pages from tra­di­tion­al Hag­gadot are inter­spersed through­out the book. 

Leven’s Hag­gadah is valu­able in plac­ing the Exo­dus and its main char­ac­ters back into the cen­ter of the nar­ra­tive. Seder par­tic­i­pants seek­ing that clar­i­ty will enjoy using this updat­ed and mod­ern­ized text.

Con­jured by Royi Shamir and Yitz Woolf

HAG​GAD​.AI is the first Passover Hag­gadah to be devel­oped using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. It is the cre­ation of Royi Shamir, an archi­tect, and Yitz Woolf, a graph­ic and web design­er, both liv­ing in Jerusalem.

Shamir and Woolf used com­plex prompts in Chat­G­PT (a large lan­guage mod­el chat bot), and Mid­jour­ney (a dig­i­tal image gen­er­a­tor) to gen­er­ate writ­ten and visu­al com­men­tary on the tra­di­tion­al text of the Hag­gadah. The writ­ten text reads with the flu­id­i­ty of a human-gen­er­at­ed com­men­tary. Sim­i­lar­ly, the result­ing images cre­at­ed by Mid­jour­ney reflect the themes of the Hag­gadah in sur­pris­ing and var­ied ways.

A read­er is guid­ed through HAG​GAD​.AI by RABB​.AI, a char­ac­ter also gen­er­at­ed by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, whose intro­duc­tion warns us about the oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges in using AI to gen­er­ate fresh insights into ancient under­stand­ings. RABB​.AI writes in the introduction: 

On the one hand, my com­men­tary can pro­vide a fresh per­spec­tive on the text, uncov­er­ing con­nec­tions and insights that may not be imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent to the human reader…it is impor­tant to note that my com­men­tary is lim­it­ed by its reliance on pre-exist­ing data and programming.

Explor­ing HAG​GAD​.AI rais­es a crit­i­cal ques­tion about authen­tic­i­ty. Nei­ther Chat­G­PT nor Mid­jour­ney under­stand the expe­ri­ence of a seder or have grap­pled with the themes found in the text. While the com­men­tary can cat­alyze us to con­sid­er these themes, does know­ing that the author or artist is dis­con­nect­ed from the commentary’s mean­ing change its impact? How does this under­stand­ing change the edi­to­r­i­al role of Shamir and Woolf, who iden­ti­fy them­selves as con­jur­ers” in the cre­ation of this ground­break­ing text?

As a whole, HAG​GAD​.AI is visu­al­ly appeal­ing and easy to nav­i­gate, and pro­vides the read­er with a wealth of mate­r­i­al from which to gen­er­ate mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion at the seder table, both about the themes of Passover and a reader’s response to the com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed prod­uct placed before them. Its pub­li­ca­tion also opens a larg­er ques­tion about the role of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence in artis­tic endeav­ors and the Jew­ish experience.

Jonathan Fass is the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of Edu­ca­tion­al Tech­nol­o­gy and Strat­e­gy at The Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion Project of New York.