Our haggadah did not always exist - it appears to be primarily from the time of the Mishna. Before then, there was a Korban Pesach and specific procedures for organizing family and/or friends to eat it, with matza and maror. It would also seem there was some kind of mention of Yetzias Mizrayim, since that appears to be d'oraisa (v'higadta l'vincha).

Today, we have no aliyas regel, and no korban pesach. We have the mitzva of eating matza and of sipur yetziyas mistrayim. The maror is d'rabanan, and the "seder" we have (Kadesh, Urchatz, ..., and especially the lengthy Magid), which is also d'rabanan. Before it existed, there was no mitzva of maror without korban, and the detailed seder we have did not exist.

What happened on the seder night for someone who was not able to bring a korban pesach, in that earlier period? Such a person might have been tomei, an orel (uncircumcised), the father of an orel child, or unable to make it to Jersualem in time (no aliyas regel). Without a korban or a fixed seder, did they just:

1) Make kiddush, 2) make hamotzi and eat matza for the mitzva, 3) mention that Hashem took us out of Egypt, 4) enjoy a festive meal, and 5) good night?

Or was there anything else going on?

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    Welcome to mi Yodeya Dovid g. A very good and exciting question. You obviously know a lot. I hope you continue to writ in Mi Yodeya
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 21:39
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    Hallel might reasonably been a part of it during the first Temple, as well as the four (if not five) cups.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 22:03
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    Fascinating question! I hope we get some answers to this, which we could then possibly include in a future edition of Hagada - Mi Yodeya?. Have you seen it, by the way?
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    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 23:17
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    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 0:40
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    Hello Dovid, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting question! If you haven’t done so already, you should take a look at the tour. I hope you find more Q&A of interest and stay learning with us!
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3 Answers 3


Really interesting question. The simple answer is that they would do everything except the Korban Pesach. While the Haggadah as we have it did not exist, the framework of the Haggadah is in the Torah. Devarim 6:20-25 (the question of the "wise son") - "When your son will ask you, What are these commandments...? Say to your son, We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Hashem took us out... And he did miracles... to bring us to the land that he swore to our fathers... And he commanded us to do these commandments... to do good for us forever..." And there is more in the section on Bikurim in Parshas Ki Savo. The Haggadah basically follows the structure laid out in the Torah. So too is the mitzvah of eating matzah, and some of the other mitzvos (e.g., maror) remain m'derabanon.
In many ways, the question is the same as a similar question about our prayers. Until the siddur of Rav Amram Gaon was sent out to the Diaspora, we don't know a fixed language for most of our prayers. Until the Men of the Great Assembly established it, we don't know that there was any fixed language at all for any prayer. Nevertheless, people certainly prayed, and there were certainly guidelines they followed - bless after eating bread, before eating anything, say Hallel on joyous occasions... Past a certain point in history our sages felt that it was necessary to formalize a process that until then was based on individual inspiration.


To answer the question, the discussion really centers around Pesach Sheini. What exactly does a Jew who is tamei b'zman Pesach to do? Well, since he can't makriv, the only thing he would do is everything else - maror, matza and maggid (he would do everything as though it was Pesach without a korban Pesach and Chagiga). On Pesach Sheini, he would offer the korban Pesach, eat it and do marror and maggid again. He would not eat chometz for the duration of Pesach Sheini, and possibly seven days afterwards.

Maggid is d'oraisa. Just because the Mishnah outlines what Maggid is supposed to include doesn't mean it didn't exist before hand. Also, we see that Pesach and Matza are not taloi - meaning on Pesach night you have a mitzvah d'oraissa to eat Matza regardless of your tamei status.

There would be a requirement of 4 cups and haseiba. The Haggadah as we have it is a conglomeration of various parts that were stiched together and became a standard text. However, suffice to say, there would certainly be elements to keep children entertained. If the exact choice of phrase of Mah Nishtana wasn't necessarily part of Maggid, certainly to ask questions would be, specifically by the child, and specifically the four questions in the Torah (the four sons). There would certainly be narrative of our initial history - we were once idolators, or we were once slaves in Egypt, there would be discussion about the source of that slavery - Bris Bein HaBesarim. Afterwhich - why we were saved from almost total annihilation. Perhaps a recital of the passages in Parshas Bo - the night of the leaving - so the korban Pesach etc. a mention of the 10 plagues and their culmination at the Yam Suf.

There would certainly be Hallel, if not the Song at the Sea.

If you were to ask me, I would say the Haggadah is more an outline than anything else. It presents an overview of how we were miraculously taken out with a strong arm and mighty hand by Hashem, together with subtle hints at how we can escape our own exile. The Medrashim abound as to what happened.

The premise of the questioner assumes that since it was de'rabbonon it must have been a decree mandated at some stage in history. In that case, it follows that before that point it wasn't mandated and hence didn't exist. This is not true. We have a Mesorah on how to perform the Pesach seder. I don't imagine that the generation that entered into Eretz Yisrael didn't have 4 cups of wine. It is certainly feasible to imagine that all the elements and aspects of the Seder they had, as much as we did, perhaps the Nusach would be slightly different, but I can't really imagine why it would be - perhaps the discussion in Bnei Brak would not be included, but rather the conclusion - that tonight is different in that we recount the Exodus that happened this night, and that the Torah says: kol yamei chayeha is a reference to Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba not just days and nights - i.e. why are we recounting the Exodus on this night.

The Haggadah itself recounts how the sages stayed up the whole night recounting the Exodus as something praiseworthy. Certainly the generation that witnessed the miracles or at least had a first-hand account of the miracles would spend the whole night up listening to the recounting of the Exodus. It would have been the central point in their lives. Like Holocaust survivors and their children, it would have been on their lips exactly what happened and how Hashem saved them. Yehoshua ben Nun would have recounted perhaps mostly what happened, just as the Haggadah describes. So while the Haggadah we have today is a stitched together book intended to provide an outline and structure to Maggid, it doesn't negate that what they did before Chazal was very different in terms of Maggid.

I will say this though. In the times of the Beis Hamikdash there would be no shulchan orech of eggs and soup and fish and chicken!

There may have been a necessity to cut out the beginning of Haggadah - the discussion in Bnei Brak (which is not so essential), so that there would be enough time to eat the Chagigah and Korban Pesach before Chatzos, after which the discussion would continue - hallel, bentching and the last cup of wine. There would be no time for anything else, and of course no Afikomen.


I'll focus on one element, namely that of the paschal lamb.

There is some evidence to suggest that although the Rabbis of the "Prushi" sect who led the move to what we call Halachic Judaism did not condone this behavior, sacrificing a passover lamb outside the temple was commonplace, even at the end of the Second temple period.

Here from the Tosefta in Ohalot:

מעשה בבית דגן ביהודה באחד שמת ערב פסח והלכו לקברו ונכנסו האנשים וקשרו את החבל בגולל משכו האנשים מבחוץ ונכנסו הנשים לקברו והלכו האנשים ועשו פסחיהן לערב.

And from the Talmud:

אמר ר' יוסי תודוס איש רומי הנהיג את בני רומי לאכול גדיים מקולסין בלילי פסחים

There are other hints in other places in the Talmud and Mishna, but as Chazal did not approve of the process, it is difficult to understand how widespread this custom was.

Going back further to the early second temple period, we know other temples existed as well, such as the one in Elephantine in Egypt and the one at Leontopolis, although we don't have evidence for the slaughtering of specific passover sacrifices.

Going back even further, given that scholars agree that the book of exodus could not have been compiled much previous to the first exile, It's probably pointless to argue the details of the Seder back then.

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    The second quote "from the talmud" (you should have given the exact source) does not refer to the paschal lamb. After the destruction of the second temple, there was a dispute as to whether or not roast lamb should be eaten as a remembrance of the Passover sacrifice. The final decision was that roasted meat should not be eaten lest someone mistake it for the sacrifice or think that the sacrifice could be brought. The actual translation of the section that you bring is Pesachim chapter4 Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 16:54
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    Mishnah In places where it is customary to eat roasted meat on the night of the Passover, it may be eaten, but not in places where this custom is not observed. Gemara R. Jose said: "Thodos of Rome instituted the custom among his co-religionists in Rome, that they should eat roasted goat-meat on Passover, and the sages sent him the following message: Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 16:57
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    Your last paragraph is also false and does not apply. The only "scholars" that agree with the "documentary hypothesis" are those who follow the mythology of Wellhausen which Rabbi Hertz (among others) disproved in the 1930's as shown in the essays he wrote in his Chumash. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 17:02

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