Haggadah is the holy script of the Jews, which gives a detailed description of the different rituals that have to be observed during the Passover Seder, in a stepwise manner. A total of 15 steps have been structured in the book and the reading of each of these steps is considered as a spiritual commandment and directive for every Jew. In addition to the explanation of the Seder rituals, Haggadah also contains Biblical passages, prayers, hymns, blessings, benedictions, stories, dialogues and even rabbinic literature. Most important of all, the script contains extracts and comments from Midrash (meaning exposing), which deals with the clarification of the legal issues in the Hebrew Bible and gaining lessons with the aid of parables, stories and legends.
The Holy Haggadah
The historical evidence of the presence of the Haggadah dates back to the era of the Mishnaic and the Talmudic, somewhere around 200 CE to 500 CE. However, a stable version of the script was formed only during the 9th and the 10th centuries CE. One of the earliest, fully complete Pesach Haggadah texts was compiled in the 10th century CE, as found in the prayer book of Saadiah Ben Joseph of the Sura Academy. The scripts that were recovered earlier were either incomplete or found only in fragments, like the ones found in the Cairo Genizah (a hiding place). Towards the end of 16th century, 25 editions of the script had been printed. This number kept on increasing from 37 editions in the 17th century to a massive 1,269 editions towards the end of the 19th century.
The reading of the Holy Haggadah varies among the Jews of different areas. For the Israelis and the Reform Jews, the book is read only on the first night of the festival, as they celebrate the Passover Seder only on the first evening. On the other hand, the remaining Jewish community, across the world, observes the festival for a total of 8 days and celebrates Seder on each of the first two evenings of the Passover. Hence, they read the manuscript on the first two evenings of the festival. The rituals of the Passover festival are performed at different stages of the Seder meal, as per the instructions in the Haggadah manuscript.
A total of 20 steps or components have been mentioned in the Haggadah. This includes Kiddush, Ha Lahma Anya, Mah Nishtanah, Avadim Hayinu,Ma'aseh be-Rabbi Eli'ezer...Amar Rabbi Elazar, The Four Sons, Yakhol me-Rosh Hodesh, Mi-Tehillah Ovedei Avodah Zarah Hayu Avoteinu, Arami oved avi, Tannaitic commentaries on the "parting" or opening up of the "Sea of Reeds" and the 10 Plagues, Kammah Ma'alot Tovot la-Makom Aleinu, the Mishnah of Rabban Gamaliel, Be-Khol Dor va-Do, the first two chapters of Hallel are recited, Benediction for redemption - "Who Redeemed Us" is the benediction for redemption that is recited just before the beginning of reciting Hallel prayers, Shefokh Hamatkha, Final part of the Hallel is recited, Yehallelukha Adonai Eloheinu al Kol Ma'asekha, the Great Hallel and finally Nishmat Kol Hai.