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The Haggadah: A Political Classic
with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

 

A free, 8-part audio course / Passover 2020

 


The most widely read, beloved, and perplexing book of the Jewish tradition is the Passover Haggadah. It is also a serious work of Jewish political philosophy. This Passover, we bring you a free audio course from Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, exploring the social, civic, and political teachings of the Haggadah. He will show how every prayer, passage, symbol, and song aims to describe and preserve the Jewish understanding of the good society, and why the festival of freedom is so central to understanding what Judaism stands for in every generation.

You can listen to every lecture right on this website below.

Or if you prefer, you can subscribe to the course as a podcast on:

Apple Podcasts 

Stitcher


Episode 1: The DNA of the Haggadah—Politics and Theology

 
Theology and politics are deeply intertwined in the text of the Haggadah. In this introductory lecture, Rabbi Soloveichik discusses the intimate link between freedom and monotheism in the story of the Exodus from Egypt. (40:40)

Episode 2: Children and Continuity

 
One of the strangest facts about the Haggadah is that in telling the story of the Exodus, it doesn’t mention Moses. Rabbi Soloveichik explains how the rabbis sought to honor Moses not as leader, but as teacher, and how this helps us understand why children are the focus of the Seder. (32:50)

Episode 3: The Politics of Time

 
Eating, in Judaism, can be act of religious worship full of ethical meaning—perhaps never more so than during Pesach. Rabbi Soloveichik explains the deep political and theological significance of matzah and chametz as symbols of the Jewish attitude toward time. (46:01)

Episode 4: Law and Liberty

 
The Hagaddah teaches us that Judaism does not view law as an imposition upon human freedom. Rather, we became free for the sake of the law. In this lecture, Rabbi Soloveichik elucidates the counterintuitive relationship between law and freedom in the Seder and highlights the resonance of this Jewish teaching in the modern world. (35:30)

Episode 5: The Meaning of Matzah—Positive Freedom and Negative Freedom

 
Nowhere in the Torah is the holiday we know as Pesach given that name. Rather, it is called the “Festival of Matzah.” How does matzah, the iconic unleavened bread of the Seder, bind Jews together across past, present, and future, while reminding us of our loyalty to God even in our darkest moments? (52:37)

Episode 6: The Politics of the Paschal Lamb

 
In this episode, Rabbi Soloveichik examines some misunderstandings about maror, the bitter herb of the Seder plate, and its relation to the paschal lamb. How does it point to the connection between the celebrations of our freedom and the suffering of past generations? And if maror represents our slavery in Egypt before liberation, why doesn’t it come first among the Seder foods? (43:27)

Episode 7: Rabbi Akiva’s Blessing—Destruction, Freedom, and Endurance

 
In this episode, Rabbi Soloveichik demonstrates the often-missed political wisdom in the Haggadah’s story of the sages who were discussed the Exodus from Egypt “all night.” In doing so, he brings into relief how Judaism preserves rabbis’ philosophical and theological insights even when they do not become the law. (43:26)

Episode 8: Elijah’s Cup—Reflections on Athens and Jerusalem

 
Two of the most memorable Passover traditions, especially for children, are hiding the afikoman and setting out a cup for Elijah. In this lecture, Rabbi Soloveichik uncovers the true meaning of these two customs and explains how they represent the rabbinic alternative to ancient Greek traditions. (41:34)