“The Haggadah is not the story of the exodus from Egypt”

The Haggadah is not the story of the exodus from Egypt. Far from it. It’s a rabbinic collage of odd, disconnected passages — snippets of biblical verses with rabbinic interpretation, a few breaks for performance art (the four questions, the four sons, the door opening) and exceptionally weird math. Nothing about the Haggadah is linear. Nothing about it is chronologically smooth. So if you had to explain the Haggadah to an absolute stranger, what would you say?

Here’s what I’d say. The Haggadah is an ancient book that shares how our ancient sages told the story of leaving Egypt with passion and enthusiasm, without telling the story itself. They stayed up all night telling it, in hiding when it wasn’t safe to tell it. They were so enraptured by it they had no idea it was morning. They told it even though they were all-wise and knew it already. They prompted themselves with questions and ritual food, numbers and narrative. They sang songs to stir memories. The Haggadah models what an active storyteller does to keep listeners engaged, assuming its readers knew the story’s content.

Erica Brown, “Telling the Story of Freedom”, The Jewish Week (3 April 2015), 62.