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There are hundreds or thousands of editions of the Hagada available. How do you choose which one is best to use at the Seder?

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Related: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1501 – msh210 Mar 7 '13 at 20:26
Do you think this is a how-to question? (if so, I would personally hold off a bit before editing, to allow the new answer to get its deserved votes) – Shokhet Oct 14 '14 at 3:31
@Shokhet, yes, I do. – Isaac Moses Oct 14 '14 at 3:32
up vote 12 down vote accepted

If you're having guests or relatives who might not be familiar with the Hebrew, get something with English translation, and preferably enough copies so you can call out page numbers for everyone.

Rabbi Hershel Shachter feels that everyone at the table should have the same Hebrew text. (Although many different Hagadas use the same Hebrew text, just with different commentaries.) Similarly, the Hebrew text you use should ideally match your usual set of traditions (Hassidic, Spanish-Portuguese, other Ashkenazic, etc.) Most of the Artscroll Hagadas, for instance, adopt the non-Hassidic Ashkenazic text.

If you're trying to finish by "midnight" (more like 1AM due to DST), you can only spend so much time on commentary. Either get one without too much commentary, or you (and all your guests) will have to be disciplined enough to not get bogged down in it. Although some hagadas stand out for their illustrations, rather than commentary.

It might be worthwhile to find a fairly low-commentary, translated hagada and buy enough for everyone at the table to use for the Seder; but to also get some "study" hagadas to read and think about a few days before (or after).

Otherwise, if there's a particular rabbi (past or present) or school of thought that appeals to you year-round, there's probably a Hagada to match it. Multiple-medival-commentaries Hagada, Vilna Gaon Hagada, Mussar Movement Hagada, Chief Rabbi Sacks Hagada, you name it.

Lastly: don't use any Hagada for the Seder unless you're prepared for it to look "used." As R' Levi Yizchok of Berditchev said:

A Hagada without wine-stains on it is like a Yom Kippur machzor without tear-stains on it.

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Re: Your last point - I've always believed this and didn't realize I was mechavein to R'LYmB. But oh dear. It won't be long before there's a chumra to laminate your Hagada and your Machzor due to a concern about dying on Chag. After all, it's a desirable color change ... – Isaac Moses Mar 26 '10 at 17:18
What's so bad about dying on Chag? All the Egyptian firstborn did it! – Shalom Mar 26 '10 at 17:22
Stupid English. I'll get the hang of it one of these days. – Isaac Moses Mar 26 '10 at 17:25
Anyway, you can't bring a proof from the Egyptians, since they were clearly Sadducees, sitting in the dark on the Chag instead of just leaving a light on. – Isaac Moses Mar 26 '10 at 17:26
Re the wine stains - almost all the old manuscript haggadot have wine stains, especially for the 3rd and 4th cups. – Epicentre Mar 12 '13 at 6:23

Decide what kind of Seder experience you are attempting to create, or figure out what kind of Seder you will be participating in. A few questions to ask yourself might be:

Are your guests/hosts religious, and/or of strong learning background?

Do you want to guide the discussion by asking questions, or do you have a more laid back approach in which people are free to share Torah thoughts if they wish?

Are your guests or hosts intellectually oriented or sophisticated?

Are they interested in Chassidic thought?

How about yourself?

Are there children present? What are the kids like?

How late are you aiming to finish?

Apart from studying in advance and distilling ideas you learned to share during the seder, the kind of Haggadah you use should reflect the kind of seder you are experiencing or creating, with all these variables in mind.

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There are basically two choices:

Avoid long commentaries. Instead, get something that's easy to flip from one page to the next. Long commentaries are good if you want to start learning them the week before, or if you want to go back and share pieces of the commentaries during shulchan orech, so buy a few haggadot with commentaries that interest you (only one copy of each commentary). Since long commentaries are a pain for your guests during maggid, buy a dozen copies of something simple for everyone who will be at your seder.

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I tend too purchase a new hagaddah every year, use it for the first sedar that year but always return to my favorite for the second sedar, When looking for a new hagaddah to purchase I always look for one with some new and interesting story or commentary that I can share with my guests.

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Probably one of the most important considerations is the language capabilities of your guests. It does no good to do everything in Hebrew if your guests have little or no knowledge of Hebrew. The seder is one service that needs to be done in a language everyone will understand. As a consequence, as most of my guests have little or no capability in Hebrew, we do much of the seder in English. Whatever I do in Hebrew (like kiddush, various blessings, etc.), we translate into English for the benefit of our guests. If your guests have limited or no ability in Hebrew, you will need to consider the quality of the translation.

I also agree with avoiding long commentaries, particularly if you have young children present.

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A friend encourages attendees at his seder to use two haggadot. One is common to all, and very cheap. He also encourages people to use a second haggada with commentary that appeals to them. For some this is transliteration, or Sephardic practice (the main haggada is Ashkenazic). For others it is alternate readings, or pictures, or actual commentary, etc. Those who see something interesting in their haggada often share it (the interesting tidbit, not the haggada).

It works pretty well for the literate crowd he tends to get. I understand that may not fit everyone's needs.

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Every year I pick one Hagadda to go through and underline certain highlights that I plan to mention at the seder, and I use that Hagadda at the Seder. Usually I pick this Hagadda based on a long list of recommendations, or else based on a experience with other writings of a given Hagadda author.

I have a bunch of copies of the Artscroll Children's Hagadda, which has lots of pictures, interesting "tidbits," and paraphrased "normal" english translations, and for anyone with the stomach to handle it, I recommend the Katz Illustrated Haggadah, which has very graphic illustrations based on Midrashim, with an index in the back sourcing all of the pictures to their respective Midrash. After all, the Haggada is meant to elicit our emotions and give us a feel of being there.

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