Exodus and emojis
Banji Ganchrow ● Jewish Standard
New haggadah tells the old story, but without words.
Before you know it, it will be Passover 2019. Time for cleaning, shopping, cooking, and finding the perfect haggadah for your seder table.
If your friends and family are interested in puzzles and keeping up with social media trends, it might be time for you to investigate Martin Bodek’s “The Emoji Hagaddah.” Yes, it is what it sounds like — a haggadah written entirely in emojis. Fortunately, for those of you who aren’t fluent in the language of emoji, there is a guide to figuring it out at the end of the book. There will be a lot of going back and forth, but it will be worth it to figure out the genius behind this Passover tome.
Mr. Bodek grew up in Brooklyn, and now he, his wife, and their three children live in Passaic. He came up with the idea for an all-emoji haggadah when his whole family dressed up as emojis for Purim a few years ago and he condensed the 10 chapters of megillat Esther into emoji form.
“I wondered what else from the Jewish liturgy could be translated into emojis for everyone’s enjoyment,” Mr. Bodek said. He chose the haggadah, and two years later he produced the finished product. Mr. Bodek originally published it himself — he’s already published five books like that — but a publisher’s representative from Ktav reached out to him.
“When I started working with the publisher they made it clear that we would need to add a ‘How to Read’ guide, a glossary, some Hebrew titles, and the haggadah text in the back.”
And you definitely have to go to the how-to expert to figure out this emoji masterpiece.
Mr. Bodek thinks that because of his place in the Jewish world — he says he’s a “religious combination of chasidish, Litvish, and modern Orthodox” — his haggadah should appeal to everyone. “This is for all sects of the Jewish religion,” he said. “Everybody. It might even have a place in the evangelical world, but in the Jewish world, it is for all stripes. It is written in a universal language.” The language of emojis.
Though Mr. Bodek feels that his haggadah should attract teenagers, who spend most of their time texting, studding their texts with winky faces and other emojis, he designed it to “invite, attract, and keep people at the seder table,” he said. “That is the goal — to have a hand in enhancing the chag” — the holiday — “for many people.”
Why emojis? Because “they are fascinating to me,” he said. “We started with hieroglyphics, which represented visual explanations of phenomena, and we truly haven’t departed from pictorial representations of speech. Every letter, in every language, is simply the visual expression of a sound.
“But it’s all visual.”
Emojis are an “enhancement” of language, he continued, and they have been “super helpful in quick text messaging. I believe that there is less ambiguity with emojis. They are selected to convey meaning; less so with the written word, which can be misinterpreted easily.” And for those readers who are not familiar with the language of emojis, this haggadah will prove to be an eye opener. “There aren’t symbols for everything,” Mr. Bodek said. “I had to be creative with puns and plays on words, and sometimes, with no good translation equivalent, I had to translate from Hebrew instead.”
He hopes that seder-goers will enjoy the challenge. “I do hope that once an eager reader starts getting into it, the going becomes easier and the reading goes faster,” he said.
Mr. Bodek has been a freelance writer, concentrating mostly on Jewish topics, for the last 20 years. When he isn’t writing he spends his time “ensuring the quality of IT support for a global firm’s American offices, from Toronto to Buenos Aires and nine countries in between.”