March 28th, 2011


The new Maxwell House Haggadah

I got my hands on a copy of the new Maxwell House Haggdah. I am very impressed. While it evokes the "classic", they've fixed lots of things that were problematic with the old one.

First and most importantly, the translation is no longer in that stilted English meant to evoke the King James bible. God is now "You" instead of "Thou", "God" (on second reference) instead of "He", and "Monarch" instead of "King" of the Universe. (We still have "The Eternal", though, which I like.) I will admit to missing "viz." as the translation of "v'eilu heim," but then I fell in love with the word videlicit at my aunt and uncle's seder table.

The layout is also vastly improved. I like their font choices (especially the comma in the Hebrew), and the instructions are nice and clear. While they've changed the layout so that the Hebrew and English each get a full page, the use of color is similar enough to the old ones that it still feels connected.

I'm not the target audience for this Haggadah. I collect haggadot, and at our seder no two people use the same one. (That makes for an exciting exchange of ideas.) The target audience for the Maxwell House haggadah has always been the Jew who wants to have a seder but doesn't have the desire to invest the time and money in an extensive collection of commentary-laden books. And unfortunately, the "classic" MH Haggadah couldn't help but be a turn-off. It was everything that a fossilized artifact of a dying religion ought to be -- sexist, hard to read, incomprehensible, but impressive-sounding.

The new MH haggadah, on the other hand, is warm, inviting, and easy to understand (because they translated it well, not because they simplified it or left stuff out). If your family still uses the Maxwell House Haggadah, I urge you to buy some coffee and get your free copies of this year's revised edition. You will find new beauty and meaning in our people's most ancient ritual. (And even though I don't usually drink Maxwell House coffee, I intend to buy some for this year's Pesach as a gesture of gratitude and support for their contribution to our culture.)