Books

Night of Beginnings A Passover Haggadah

About the Book

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Night of Beginnings is a groundbreaking new haggadah for the Passover seder from acclaimed poet, translator, and liturgist Marcia Falk, beautifully designed and illustrated with original watercolor drawings by the author.

Unlike both traditional and new haggadahs, which do not contain a full recounting of the biblical story, Night of Beginnings presents the Exodus narrative in its entirety, providing a direct connection to the ancient origins of the holiday. This retelling highlights the actions of its female characters, including Miriam; Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopts the baby Moshe; and the midwives Shifrah and Pu’ah, who save the Hebrew male infants. Falk’s revolutionary new blessings, in Hebrew and English, replace the traditional, patriarchal seder blessings, and her kavanot—meditative directions for prayer—introduce a genre new to the seder ritual. Poems, psalms, and songs are arranged to give structural coherence to the haggadah. A new commentary raises interpretive questions and invites us to bring personal reflections into the discussion.

Like the author’s widely acclaimed previous prayer books, The Book of Blessings and The Days Between, Falk’s poetic blessings for the seder envision the divine as a Greater Whole of which we are an inseparable part. The inclusive language of Falk’s blessings makes room for women to find and use their voices more full-throatedly than they were able to do with the male-centered prayers inherited from the early rabbis. Men, too, will encounter here a spiritually moving and thought-provoking experience.

“With orig­i­nal bless­ings and read­ings, gen­der-inclu­sive trans­la­tions, and text-inspired illus­tra­tions, Mar­cia Falk’s Night of Begin­nings offers an inno­v­a­tive adap­ta­tion of the Passover Haggadah . . . [that] encour­ages read­ers to break free from the tra­di­tion­al Hag­gadah text and explore retelling the Passover sto­ry in a bold new way.”—Jewish Book Council

“By me, Jewish patriarchal prayer is obsolete, even criminal, so the nagging feminist question remains: How can we throw out the bathwater but keep the baby? . . . Marcia Falk’s Haggadah brings us . . . life-saving steps in the right direction: She retains some of the original patriarchal conceits, jettisons others, and, most effectively, makes the Haggadah personal and very accessible to those with little formal Jewish background. It is also a physically gorgeous book, spare and breathing on the page, and illustrated with Falk’s own balletic drawings of spring flora. Her annotated retelling of the first 15 chapters of the Book of Exodus in itself makes Night of Beginnings worth buying. Falk remediates the perennial problem of the traditional Haggadah—that it weirdly doesn’t actually tell the biblical story of Hebrew enslavement and liberation—and she gives us all we need in order to conduct our own terrific seders, helping us both remember the originary telling, and also instilling it with freshness, April’itude, and relevance.”Lilith magazine

“A substantial work, worthy of close attention. . . . Falk’s poems, interpretations and selections of additional material can enrich your Seder tremendously.”Forward

“Admirers of poet Marcia Falk‘s bold and evocative feminist rewriting of Jewish liturgy have long hoped she would produce a work they could read at the Seder table. Their wish is now a reality, with the recent publication of Falk’s Night of Beginnings: A Passover Haggadah.”Times of Israel

“Bold . . . elegant, and eloquent. . . . With the publication of this Haggadah, the North American Jewish community is getting its best chance yet of being exposed to Falk’s innovative and deeply thoughtful approach to liturgy. . . . Falk is a wonderful poet and wordsmith in both Hebrew and English . . . the holiday ritual that she has set forth for us to celebrate is . . . described in . . . wonderfully rich and memorable words. . . . The excellent commentary . . . must satisfy those of us who want to talk about enslavement and liberation in non-theological terms.”—Herbert Levine, Tikkun

“I genuinely love this new haggadah. It speaks to me very deeply. It is beautiful not only in its colorful design, which is superb, but in its theology as well as in its profound liturgical innovations. It has already helped me to begin to prepare for Pesach this year with some new meaning. I will definitely bring it with me to my seder this year.”—Rabbi Ron Kronish, Times of Israel 

“The acclaimed poet, liturgist and Judaic scholar [Marcia Falk] skillfully traverses that delicate balance between modern perspective and traditional views, inviting readers to explore centuries-old seder night customs as well as her own fresh reflections on hymns, psalms and Passover motifs.”Hadassah Magazine

“When a Haggadah is written by a founding mother of feminist Judaism, as poet and author Marcia Falk is described, the reader can rest assured a fresh view of Jewish worship complete with beauty, artistic creativity, and love will fill the Seder. This Haggadah brings radical new blessings that turn from the traditional patriarchal-themed Seder, affording those who delve into it a revolutionary meditative direction for prayer.”San Diego Jewish World

“The words are delicious read aloud, tactile on my teeth and tongue. . . . A physically beautiful volume. The book’s design sets liturgical language apart, using line breaks like poetry, and there is ample open space for each prayer’s visual prosody to flow. Falk approaches liturgy as a poet, and that sensibility informs the Haggadah as a whole. Pages are color-coded . . . [and] even the words she uses for the color-coding feel intentional, turning the bound volume into a cornucopia of spring’s abundance. . . . She evokes the work of spiritual life writ large: interweaving the timeless and the timely, the ‘then’ and the ‘now,’ the stories of our ancestors and the call toward transformation in our own day.”Moment magazine

“Bring[s] the pulsating presence of the Divine to the reader. . . . For traditionalists and newcomers, for Jews and non-Jews alike, Falk’s Haggadah is as fine a way as any to experience a spiritually uplifting burgeoning of spring, complete with a retelling of one of the central and universal narratives of our shared civilization.”Christian Century

“Sensitive to the meanings that are given to the various rituals of the evening, Falk nevertheless adds her own insights: ‘The ritual of opening the door as we do metaphorically when we recite Ha Lachma Anya, makes porous the border between inner and outer—between our lives and the lives of others, between our selves and the greater whole of being. We open the door, and we open our hearts, fulfilling the commandment to empathise with those who are strangers to us: You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt (Exodus 23:9).’ . . . In a similar way, Falk emphasises the female, hidden side of the Exodus story and therefore of the Haggadah itself.”Jewish Chronicle

“Read this [article] with care, since I’m writing about something that promises to enhance the arrival of the Pesach Seder this year. . . . [and] deserves to live in the homes of many of our Jewish households soon. . . . A brand-new Passover Haggadah, a substantial and beautiful volume.”Texas Jewish Post

Night of Beginnings . . . [by] Marcia Falk, liturgist and poet extraordinaire, fashioner of nonhierarchical and non-patriarchal blessings and prayers . . . can serve rabbis as a haggadah for their congregations or their own family seders. . . . Especially her Maggid with commentary is also a great text for adult education classes and study groups to prepare for the holiday or to address topics such as Jewish feminism, women in the Bible, and social justice. . . . We [spiritual leaders] might even employ Falk’s haggadah for periodic inspiration and meditation on the larger themes she has elucidated. Certainly, the b’rakhot, kavanot, poems, psalms, songs, and commentary from this work can each serve to stimulate our heart and our soul..”CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly

“How lovely to have a haggadah that makes central the biblical narrative that hovers over—but is absent from—the traditional haggadah. Those familiar with Marcia Falk’s transformational work on Jewish blessings will be delighted by her new blessings for all parts of the seder, while those not yet acquainted with her blessings will find them a revelation. This is a beautiful haggadah.”—Judith Plaskow, author of Standing Again at Sinai and coauthor, with Carol P. Christ, of Goddess and God in the World

“In Night of Beginnings Marcia Falk continues the brilliant, groundbreaking work she began in her Book of Blessings. Her poetic voice seamlessly combines a profoundly feminist orientation with deep reading of Jewish tradition, and her sometimes daring kavanot (directions of the heart) encourage fresh conversation to renew the seder experience for contemporary participants.”—Rabbi David Teutsch, editor of Kol Haneshamah Reconstructionist prayer books

Night of Beginnings once more reveals the liturgical genius of Marcia Falk. Her blessings honor classical Jewish tradition while celebrating a modern ethos that is feminist and inclusive. This magnificent haggadah will provide a spiritually enriching seder experience of unique depth.”—Rabbi David Ellenson, chancellor emeritus, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

“Poet and scholar Marcia Falk builds a luminous bridge between the old and the new, firmly mooring the modern ritual to the ancient biblical narrative and inspiring us with the preeminent story of the passage from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light.”—Yair Zakovitch, emeritus professor of Bible, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and recipient of the Israel Prize

“A prophet and founding mother of feminist Judaism, Marcia Falk has played a pioneering role in modern Jewish ritual and liturgy. Immersed in profound knowledge of the traditional sources and a fresh vision of Jewish worship, her writing has inspired worshippers, writers, and religious leaders for over four decades. Her newest gift, Night of Beginnings, is a work of wisdom, art, and love.”—Rabbi Dalia Marx, professor of liturgy, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem

“Marcia Falk has lovingly gifted us with a poetic recounting of the biblical narrative along with eloquent rituals, blessings, and meditations. Pastel-colored pages invite readers to distinguish the book’s varied elements. Rather than illustrate her haggadah with yet more interpretations of centuries-old classic iconography, Falk adorns her celebratory text with her own elegantly drafted spring flora to create a gorgeous and exceptionally important haggadah.”—Mark Podwal, artist and recipient of the Foundation for Jewish Culture Achievement Award

“Every generation must see itself as leaving Egypt, and every generation must tell the story anew. In this resonant retelling, Marcia Falk weaves ancient passages with new poetic creations. Newcomers as well as those deeply engaged with Jewish ritual will discover the overflowing of Miriam’s and Elijah’s cups in this stunning haggadah.”—Rabbi Naamah Kelman, dean, Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem

Marcia Falk

Marcia Falk is a poet, translator, liturgist, and artist known widely for her groundbreaking prayer books The Book of Blessings and The Days Between, which re-create Hebrew and English prayer from an inclusive, nonpatriarchal perspective. Falk is also the creator of a volume combining her art and poetry, Inner East: Illuminated Poems and Blessings, and other books of poetry and translation, including a now-classic translation of the Song of Songs.

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