The Origin of Passover and the Development of the Haggadah

April 1, 2022, 10:00 am - 11:00 am

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Class Instructor: David Steinberg

Dates: April 1 and 8, 2022

Time:  10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Course Description:

Like much of Judaism the Passover started out as something quite different.

In its earliest beginnings the Passover started as an agricultural spring festival (form 1), was later historicized by associating it with the Exodus (form 2 probably after 722 BCE). With the Deuteronomic Reform it became a sacrificial festival held only in Jerusalem (form 3 – late 7th c. BCE).

Because of the time and cost involved, except for those living near Jerusalem, few men and only a minuscule number of the poor, women and children could have participated. Finally, after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE), the rabbis transmuted the sacrificial services into vestigial mentions of them in the prayers. However, Passover was treated differently.

Uniquely in Rabbinic Judaism, the rabbis turned a temple/sacrificial festival into the seder, a home centered, partially reenacted substitute which takes its form from a Greco-Roman secular feast the symposium.

We will follow these changes and examine its development from the form found in the Mishnah c. 200 CE to its present traditional form. It is noteworthy, that the Haggadah is formed entirely of texts written for other purposes and re-contextualized.

David Steinberg has had a major interest in biblical studies and in the history of the Hebrew language. He has written 2 major pieces on the history of the Hebrew language as well as shorter pieces on the influence of Hellenistic culture on Judaism and on Josephus. All of these are available on his web site

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Phone: 941-244-2042



St. Wilfred’s Episcopal Church Campus, Kol HaNeshama Sanctuary
3773 Wilkinson Road, Sarasota, FL 34233



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