New Haggadah Draws On Commentary by Rabbi Soloveitchik


rabbi-soloveitchik-haggadahRabbi Menachem Genack has edited a new Pesach Haggadah with commentary by Rabbi Joseph D. Soloveitchik. “The Seder Night: An Exalted Evening” is in its second printing after only three weeks on the market. Rabbi Genack, of Englewood, NJ, is rov of Cong. Shomrei Emunah there, as well as CEO of the OU Kashrus Division and general editor of the OU Press. Rabbi Genack is one of the foremost talmidim of Rabbi Soloveitchik, referred to by many as “the Rav.”

Rabbi Genack believes there is a wider appeal to Rabbi Soloveitchik’s insights.As quoted in the book, Rabbi Soloveitchik viewed the seder night as “a night of ecstasy, love, and gratitude,” a time when “the Jew is God-aware and God-loving; he suddenly reminds himself of the many acts of endless kindness for which he is indebted to his Maker.”

Rabbi Soloveitchik described the Haggadah as “a blend of storytelling, Torah teaching, and eating the symbolic food-items; it is a fusion of the spoken word and the physiological functions of eating and drinking.”

“The Rav was a very compelling person with a compelling message,” said Rabbi Genack. “He was an astounding genius who … revolutionized the methodology of Torah study and also had a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in philosophy.

“Choosing from his wide writings, we’ve tried to capture his voice and felt that it would be meaningful to all readers even if they can’t relate to the halachic [legalistic] parts of the Haggadah. He brings depth and understanding in a new dimension.”

In conjunction with K’Hal Publishing, the OU previously released Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur machzorim with Rabbi Soloveitchik’s commentaries, co-edited by Dr. Arnold Lustiger of Edison and Rabbi Michael Taubes of Teaneck, with an introduction by Rabbi Genack. The new Haggadah, published in partnership with Ktav Publishers, is the first OU Press title.

Soon to be released are a Soloveitchik bentcher edited by Rabbi Daniel Besser of CLifton, NJ, and Kinnos for Tisha B’Av edited by Rabbi Simon Posner of Englewood. Future volumes are to include Chumashim, a weekday siddur, and a Megillas Esther, all with Rabbi Soloveitchik’s commentaries.

OU President Stephen Savitsky said these publications are in keeping with the organization’s objective “to bring all Jews closer to their heritage.”

The Haggadah is an especially meaningful addition to the corpus, said Rabbi Genack, because the Rav died during Pesach 18 years ago, at the age of 90.

Despite the passage of time, he added, Rabbi Soloveitchik’s commentaries on the Yom Tov, its halachos, and the seder “deepen the experience of the seder night in a way that is relevant in contemporary terms.”

Designed by Teaneck resident David Olivestone, Rabi Genack’s colleague at the Orthodox Union, the book uses a contemporary style of English transliteration for Hebrew words in the commentary, while the body of the Haggadah text appears in Hebrew and English on facing pages. In keeping with Rabbi Soloveitchik’s written convention, biblical personalities and books of the Bible are referred to by their common English names.

The source for each commentary is cited. “[W]e have quoted extensively, sometimes in slightly abridged form, from the Rav’s written works,” writes Rabbi Genack in the preface. Those works are listed in full at the end of the volume. In addition, Rabbi Genack gleaned material from audiotapes and lecture notes.

“We worked on the project for two and a half years,” said Rabbi Genack. “Part of our challenge was sorting out the material and deciding what to put in. We didn’t want to engulf the reader; the Rav had so much to say about Pesach that you could drown in it. It was part of his skill to know just how much a listener could handle at once and we tried to emulate that.”

“The Seder Night: An Exalted Evening” is available in Judaica stores nationwide for a list price of $25, at, and at

{Abigail Klein Leichman-NJ Jewish Standard}