Review of The Night That Unites

by Rabbi Elan AdlerThe Night That Unites

Can you make room for 3 more at your table? You’ll want to with this new Haggadah by Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider. In this one magnificent 300-page contribution to the genre of Pesach seder volumes, the author brings us the wisdom and inspiration of 3 giants of our people: Rav Kook, Rabbi Soloveitchik and Reb Shlomo Carlebach. Their comments on various aspects and themes of Seder night are interwoven with the author’s own insights, and what you hold in your hand, and eventually read avidly from cover to cover, is a goldmine of interpretations, teachings and stories for everyone at the table.

Rabbi Goldscheider has gifted us with several valuable and practical aspects to this Haggadah which make it welcome and exceptional. First, the title of the comments of each of the 3 rabbinic giants is highlighted in a different color-Rav Kook in red, Rav Soloveitchik in green, and Reb Shlomo in blue. Keeping this in mind, the seder leader can choose comments from all the Rabbis in page order, or choose to focus on just one or two for the evening. As I read through the Haggadah, I put sticky notes on every comment that I couldn’t wait to share at my seder. Rav Kook’s “Ahavat Eretz Yisrael,” Rav Soloveitchik’s “Ahavat Torat Yisrael” and Reb Shlomo’s “Ahavat Am Yisrael” break through again and again in brief whisps of depth and elegance. The author uses conversational language in each presentation, so no seder participant needs to struggle with hard words or clunky translations of the text. Each comment of the Rabbis aims for the intellect as well as the heart. Rabbi Goldscheider skillfully chooses master lessons by each of the greats, and drops them into the Haggadah at just the right moments. No matter what “color commentary” one chooses, each individual teaching is “delicious” you can’t wait to serve it at your seder.

Another significant feature of this Haggadah is the many thought questions laced throughout, which help create a conversation and dialogue among the participants, the goal of a memorable seder. For example, “What traits can we identify in ourselves that hold us back from reaching greater heights?” And, “At what times do we feel God’s presence in our own lives?” I found this one particularly poignant- “With so many of the Jewish people now living in the State of Israel, and having the State of Israel as our national homeland, what is it that we are still praying for when we pray for Redemption?”

As the host of Israelnationalradio.com‘s Derech Eretz Hour, and a former mesharet to Rav Soloveitchik in the early 1980’s, I found myself drawn to the teachings of Rav Soloveitchik, ones that resurrected the glory days of his walking among us, breathing and teaching Torah that was reverent and relevant and soulfully nourishing. As well, I tagged the dozens of derech eretz lessons I can’t wait to share. Chesed, consideration, thoughtfulness, courtesy, compassion, treating others with respect and love, judging others favorably- the many commentaries that encourage being a mench will inspire decency and kindness at the seder and way beyond.

It must be mentioned that the colorful art work in the Haggadah, done by Aitana Perlmutter, richly enhance the printed words. Each of the 15 sections of the seder are introduced by a stunning work. Each is a conversation piece.

Rabbi Goldscheider has added two special sections to deepen the seder experience. One is on the Holocaust, coming right after pronouncing the stark Jewish reality that in each generation, there arise those who seek to destroy us. The other is right after the proclamation of L’Shana Haba’ah Biyerushalyim, with a section on Israel. Each section brings an array of comments by our 3 Rabbis that make us think, feel, and hope.

What is Reb Levi Yitzchak’s greatest concern about matzah baking? Of what value are the tears of a Jew? Why welcome guests? Why is God referred to as Hamakom? How can a hug change a life? Why are there empty spaces in the Song of the Sea? Who kisses matzah? How does matzah teach us how to raise our children? Why didn’t the Mashiach come? What do the Israeli flag and a Tzahal uniform have in common? THE NIGHT THAT UNITES Haggadah will answer all these questions and more. Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider has bundled teachings, stories and questions in a beautiful volume, and I have no doubt that this will quickly become a favorite among other Haggadot brought to the seder. It is already one of mine, and as I’ve mentioned, I can’t wait to share what I’ve tabbed.

Rabbi Goldscheider has creatively and cleverly brought together 3 outstanding rabbinic personalities together at the same table, and we are the richer for this feast of thought.

This review appeared in the Lookstein Digest

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