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Woman At the Seder: A Passover Haggadah

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"Women at the Seder" is a traditional Passover Haggadah whose commentary celebrates one of the great transformations of the Torah community during this past century: the emergence of women from the privacy of their home “tents” to the public arena of the synagogue and Torah study halls, without abandoning in any way their central traditional role as the cornerstone of the home and family. The Rabbis had long ago acknowledged that it was in the merit of our righteous women that Israel was redeemed from slavery. The Passover seder - the home celebration of our national liberation – is an appropriate place to acknowledge and honor women’s expanded role in our public as well as private religious life. The commentary includes rabbinic comments on women associated with the Exodus, a discussion of those relevant aspects of Jewish law that apply to women, and homilies - Divrei Torah - by women for the seder, many written especially for this volume. In a generation, it should seem quaint that it was noteworthy that women’s Divrei Torah constituted a significant part of a Haggadah commentary. That will be cause for yet additional rejoicing, as women’s contributions on all levels of Torah scholarship will have become even more commonplace.

Today we take it for granted that women will not only learn Torah at advanced levels, but also develop professional halakhic competence," writes Wolowelsky, the dean of the faculty at the Yeshivah of Flatbush. This traditional haggadah is designed to honor and celebrate those achievements. Its commentary includes rabbinic discussion of various questions related to Passover in general and women in particular: are firstborn daughters expected to fast on the day before Passover, as well as firstborn sons? What do Miriam and the other prophetesses of the Hebrew Bible have to teach women of today? Which of the mitzvot (commandments) are women obligated to keep, and which may they choose to keep? Throughout, Wolowelsky defers primarily to Ashkenazic practice, but sometimes mentions Sephardic customs as well. In addition to traditional rabbinic sources, he draws upon the work of two well-known women scholars, Nechama Leibowitz and Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg.

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