The Anonymous Haggadah

A Synthesis of The Passover Ritual And Liturgy With The Twelve Steps of Recovery

More than any Jewish book of prayer or study written since the close of the Bible 2500 years ago, the Haggadah has resisted attempts to change its format or content.

The reasons are immediate and apparent to anyone who has enjoyed a Seder conducted by someone who knew what they were doing. The impression that remains is indelible and enriching beyond compare.

Seder night is a journey into another time and place. It is a swift glance at the darkest night of the human soul and a lingering dance with liberty and freedom. It is a long play with family and food and a short, sharp reminder of the depths to which we may plummet when the framework and fabric of our life decays.

The Journey, more a procession, wends its stately way through fifteen points of interest. There are washing of hands and breaking of bread. There are stories and unfamiliar foods. There are roles for children and playful songs for adults. There is wonder and enchantment, heroes and wicked adversaries, stories of Revelation and Retribution. There is even time to partake in a full Festival meal. If the Seder is an adventure, the Haggadah is a Map, Guide, Directory, and Vehicle.

The main event of Pesach (Passover) and Seder night is the Exodus from Egypt, the miraculous birth and redemption of the Jewish People. One cannot be long in Recovery without becoming increasingly aware of how close are the ideas of Exodus and Recovery. My understanding of the steps and process of Recovery has deepened my appreciation of the Seder. Now my Seder blossoms in the light of Recovery.

The Seder is not simply a description of the Exodus. It is an opportunity to scrutinize the real issue: Our slavery. We were slaves, and now we are free.

So, what then is freedom? Does it mean we may now do whatever we want?

If we try that route, we will soon find ourselves back on the road into Egypt. Freedom is not license. It is the absence of constraint and a life-long struggle. We have learned this lesson, painfully, again and again. For when we became habituated to any self-destructive behavior, we were no longer free. Furthermore, of all the destructive patterns of behavior to seduce a person, a “bad habit” is the most difficult to kick. Whether the habit is heroin, gambling, or fixing people’s lives; whether it is self-denial, fasting, smoking, or looking through people’s windows. This, then, is what the Haggadah is about. Long before the 12 Steps were formalized, enlightened people knew a way.

The Haggadah describes the Recovery process of an entire people. The distilled essence of their experience boils down to this:

  • They were powerless, and they admitted it.
  • They came to believe in a Higher Power.
  • They turned their lives and will over to it.
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