Bringing the storied Chabad-Lubavitch publishing house full circle, a new Haggadah offers modern-day English-speaking participants in the Passover Seder a contemporary look at the millennia-old ceremony by relying on classic commentaries and the first order of service compiled in 1940 by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

With a leather cover enveloping 224 pages of Hebrew liturgy, English explanatory text and accompanying illustrations, The Passover Haggadah from the Kehot Publication Society offers something for everyone. It is both a guide book for those leading their own Seders and an anthology of insights for those looking for the ritual’s deeper meanings.

The publishing house’s first Haggadah, penned by the Rebbe when he directed the organization under the leadership of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, was hailed as a brilliant compilation that spoke to that generation of Jews.

“This phenomenal Haggadah has few like it,” the late Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, editor of the famed Talmudic Encyclopedia, wrote at the time. “It is a first-class, masterful methodical work.”

Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, later released a Passover story book and an art Haggadah for young audiences. Kehot translated the Rebbe’s work into English and also published an annotated edition, with each successive release reflecting the changing needs of Jewish audiences.

Affiliated publishing houses from Israel to Argentina have each produced their own volumes for their local communities.

By all accounts, the latest volume brings the classic Haggadah text to new heights, presenting the material in such a way that everyone from beginners to aspiring scholars can extract meaning. Both the Hebrew text and English translation appear on facing pages, while an English commentary compiled by Rabbi Yosef Marcus appears below.

Telltale explanations from the Rebbe’s own commentary can be found throughout, such as in the section describing four sons who participate in a Passover Seder. The wise child and the wicked child peculiarly seem to ask the same question, wanting an explanation behind the entire course of the Seder.

“What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the laws that G‑d, our G‑d, has commanded to you?” asks the wise child.

The wicked child, meanwhile, asks: “What is this service of yours?”

The Kehot explanation looks at the classic commentary known as the Machzor Vitri and notes that the wicked child doesn’t mention the Almighty, while the wise child pointedly refers to G‑d’s commandments in the second person, “as opposed to himself, who was yet born when the commandments were given.”

The new volume offers a deeper, Chasidic take on the wise son, explaining that his listing of three types of commandments reflects his incredulity at the concept of categorizing Divine commands.

One could perform the commandments solely because G‑d gave them, “but it is G‑d’s will that we experience [His commandments] within our intellect and emotions,” the commentary explains, using language penned by the Rebbe. For that reason, the corpus of laws can be broken down and categorized.

It is both a guide book for those leading their own Seders and an anthology of insights for those looking for the ritual’s deeper meanings.
It is both a guide book for those leading their own Seders and an anthology of insights for those looking for the ritual’s deeper meanings.

Another exchange highlights the various ways – sometimes contradictory – the Haggadah can be read.

In the case of the child who “doesn’t know how to ask” a proper question, the Haggadah suggests that participants “open [the conversation] for him [and] create an opening for him through intriguing rituals … until he is inspired to ask questions.”

But the Rebbe saw two possibilities for the case of the simple child.

“The fourth child’s inability to ask may be the result of having been deprived a Jewish education,” he wrote.

On the other hand, such a child could actually by knowledgeable and ritually observant.

Maybe “his Judaism is cold and dry,” the Rebbe posited. “He does not feel a need for spiritual liberation. He has no questions about, or real interest in, the Exodus, because he does not think of himself as being in exile.”

“We cannot begin by telling this Jew what G‑d did, we must first inspire him to seek spiritual liberation,” concluded the Rebbe. “We therefore tell him, ‘G‑d did this for me when I left Egypt.” You too are in need of leaving Egypt.”

Excerpts from The Passover Haggadah can be viewed on It can also be purchased from the Kehot Publication Society’s website by clicking here.