Wrath at the Doorway: Anger and Retribution in Twentieth-Century American Haggadot

Date of Award

June 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Ken Frieden

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


The investigation will focus on two passages from the Passover Haggadah which are notoriously contentious and have received significant attention from editors: commentary on the ten plagues and the shefokh ḥamatkha prayer. The Haggadot surveyed were published during the twentieth and twenty-first century, within the United States, and by non-Orthodox editors and organizations. I argue the reappearance of the shefokh ḥamatkha prayer, from its erasure in early twentieth-century publications, expresses a willingness of editors to engage with the vengeful sentiments of the prayer. This survey investigates the methods and maneuvers made by editors who have included the prayer back into their Passover Haggadah. Moving from the Haggadot published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1923 and Mordecai Kaplan’s The New Haggadah, published in 1941, I describe the innovations through which the shefokh ḥamatkha finds new expression in liberal Haggadot. I argue the inclusion of the prayer creates new categories of vengeance, addressing both the negative and positive aspects of the prayer’s sentiment. Recent Haggadot publications, I argue, move away from the spiritual concerns of the 1960s and 1970s and return to the rational engagements of the early twentieth century. This thesis also argues for a more general trend, as evidenced by the innovations relating to the shefokh ḥamatkha, in which early twentieth-century desires for a unified and coherent Haggadah have shifted, more recently, into the desire for a Haggadah of conflicting and polyvalent voice.


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