If you think your Passover Seder is missing that magic touch, perhaps Harry Potter and his friends can help you out. Moshe Rosenberg, author of Morality for Muggles: Ethics in the Bible and the World of Harry Potter, recently published his latest Jewish-Potter hybrid project, The (Unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah.
For the kids (and let’s be honest, adults), who are fast asleep before you can finally eat at the Seder, The (Unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah will be the spell that breaks the boredom curse. First, the Haggadah itself is aesthetically pleasing with Harry Potter and Passover illustrations, designed by Aviva Shur, that will keep the wondering eye on the page. In regards to the text, the Haggadah has a traditional layout so it can be used in lieu of your non-wizard copy. Rosenberg periodically stops the Passover story with quick nuggets of Jewish thoughts that are grounded in Talmud, Midrash and Kabbalah. But right when you think you may be growing tired, he shifts to Harry Potter and how the J.K. Rowling series relates to the biblical story.
Is Harry Potter’s wand similar to Moses’ staff? Do the four Hogwarts houses resemble the children during the four questions? Is Pharaoh like Lord Voldemort? Is the arch of Harry Potter’s story of continual tribulation similar to the slavery and diaspora of the Jewish people? These are the questions that Rosenberg gives to you to nibble on — which may be a good distraction from the fact that you aren’t nibbling on anything.
But if you thought this was some light fun, then think again. The themed-Haggadah is tailored for true Harry Potter-ites. Rosenberg has a full argument on whether goblins can do Bittul Hametz, which is the tradition of relinquishing rights to unleavened bread in the house.
During these arguments grounded in Harry Potter fandom, those who are not as familiar, or only watched the movies, may check out for a few minutes. But the beauty of the Haggadah is that Rosenberg does not dwell in any place for too long. While there may be points exclusive for the Potter aficionados, other passages soon come with more accessible comparative themes.
The Haggadah brings forth themes of love, trust, and freedom, and lightly touches on some more concrete issues of socioeconomics, gender, and anti-Semitism in 2017.
Rosenberg has a particularly thought-provoking analysis on what makes a chacham, a learned person, by drawing on the character of Harry Potter’s clever friend Hermione Granger. Just as she realizes that smarts aren’t everything, Rosenberg questions what are the other elements needed for a chacham. In another passage on the four questions, Rosenberg keeps with this theme of learning. He explains that “one size does not fit all” with education and that our paths may be as diverse as the houses of Hogwarts.
As you and your family ponder these questions, Rosenberg interjects side blurbs with additional questions and student answers. The questions range from “Which Harry Potter character best understood the concept of freedom and why” to “When have you felt the most that God cares about you?” The short answers vary from comical quips to contemplative responses.
For the family that wants to learn in a more interactive way on Passover, The (Unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah maintains a nice balance of light-hearted and serious commentary. On that note, the Haggadah, and themed Haggadahs in general, may be the answer to engaging the new generation into the traditions of the ancient past.
So for this upcoming Seder, instead of just setting a place for Elijah, you may want to keep a few more open for Potter and his friends for a truly spellbinding Passover.