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The Yemenite Haggadah

by Gad Nahshon

Association of Jewish Yemenite in the United States Inc. (Brooklyn, Tel/Fax: 1-718-252-6671), under the leadership of Chaim Ben-Tzur, decided to publish a new Haggadah which shows the uniqueness of the Yemenite Jewry approach to Passover.

Ben-Tzur is the editor of this Passover Haggadah, The Original Tradition of the Jews of Yemen. This publication enjoys a great success among many Jews. It was welcomed and highly recommended by many famous leaders such as Ovadiah Ben-Shalom from Israel. The success of this Haggadah which combines the Hebrew version and its English translation as well, is originated in the great contribution of two distinguished rabbis, Rabbi Chaim Jacoby (laws and customs), and Rabbi Ovadiah Melamed (reviewer). The artists Yaelle Benzev (back cover painting, New York) and Shoshana Amir (front cover painting, Israel), also contributed to the success. The English version: Jill Mendelson, Ann K. Schuster, Hadar Zabari, and Gary Fruhman.

Ovadia Ben-Shalom, founding father-president of the Israeli association which preserves and promotes the Yemenite tradition in Israel (Netanya) praised this unique Haggadah which integrates the best of the Yemenite culture and customs into the Haggadah. Today Jews in this country can celebrate Passover with a Yemenite pride.

Following is an excerpt from an article written by Rabbi Chaim Jacoby titled ND Customs of Passover - The Yemenite Tradition:

Introduction: Our teacher and our master, the might Ga'on, an officer of Torah and fear of Hashem, the honorable and holy Rav Yosef, the son of the honorable and holy Rav Tzalach, whose abbreviated name is the MaHaritz, writes in his well known letter to the Jews of Yemen as follows: "Our situation is not hidden from you from any angle. Because of the stress of time and the power of our exile, water has gathered over our heads, and the greatest problem of all is that we are having a stressful time with making a living, and there is little commercial trade. Hashem's principles are true and just. He doesn't give judgment without cause. Now we must decide to return completely (to Hashem).

Hashem has mercy on all his creatures. And we will try (to return) by praying, by learning and involving ourselves in Torah, with charity, and by doing kind deeds and favors. When the Torah lists the punishments that will befall those who don't do Hashem's will, it ends with "because you didn't listen to the voice of Hashem, your G-d." Chazal explained the sin of Bitul Torah (not using your time to learn Torah if you have the time to do it). The Torah says "Because of the evil of your deeds you have forsaken me." The Tanna said: "Every day a voice rings from heaven and announces 'Woe to the creatures from the insult of Torah. If you keep yourself from Torah, there are many negations against you. This requirement of learning Torah falls upon every person whether rich or poor, whether great or meek, whether healthy or sick. It must be done at all times. One must at least set up a time for learning Mishna, Navi, and Ketuvim, if one can't do more. If this is said during the week, then even more so it applies to Shabbat and Yom Tov as well, in which we are free.

We must try out best that we don't lose even one minute from involving ourselves in Torah. Shabbat and Yom Tov were only given so that we should involve ourselves in Torah. You know that the holidays are times of judgement, and on Pesach we are judged regarding how much grain our fields will produce. Because of this judgement, we had little rain, and poor crops. Now Hashem has already had mercy on us, and it would be beneficial, with Hashem's help, if we fix our deeds, and we act in accordance with His will. We shouldn't lost even a minute from involving ourselves in Torah and worshipping Hashem on this holiday, and we should pay attention to the Mitzvot, and we should be exhaled on Pesach, and we shouldn't Chas V'Shalom stumble by doing something prohibited. If we do, we will cause harm to ourselves in this world, and the world to come Chas V'Shalom. You know that Chametz is prohibited even in the smallest amount. Therefore, one should not rely on his household, rather he himself must see to it that the utensils are made kosher for Pesach making the house nice, and other matters regarding the laws of Chametz etc.

General: Masechet Pesachim involves itself in three major issues: 1. The laws of Chametz and Matzah, especially the prohibition of Chametz on Passover; 2. The laws of Kurban Pesach (the sacrifice brought in the Beit Hamikdash) and; 3. Laws regarding the night of the Seder. There are three prohibitions regarding Chametz on Passover: 1. You can't eat it; 2. You can't derive benefit from it; and 3. You can't have any Chametz in your property. The Rambam in the Laws of Chametz and Matzah writes that there are eight Mitzvot. Three are positive, and five are negative. These are their details: 1. You shouldn't eat Chametz on the 14th of Nissan from midday (according the Halacha's computation); 2. To destroy leaven on the 14th of Nissan; 3. Not to eat Chametz during the seven days of Passover; 4. Not to eat anything that is a mixture of Chametz and something else; 5. You shouldn't see any Chametz during the seven days of Passover; 6. You shouldn't find any Chametz during the seven days of Passover; 7. To eat Matzah on the first night of Passover; 8. To tell the story of our exodus from Egypt.

The Gemmarah in Masechet Pesachim, Page 6 second side, teaches us that we inquire and exposit about the laws of Passover 30 days before the holiday, for we see that Moshe Rabbenu on Pesach Rishon (15 Nissan) taught about Pesach Sheni (15 lyar - for those who couldn't do Pesach Rishon). There are thirty days from Pesach Rishon to Pesach Sheni. In Masechet Megillah, page 32 second side, it is written: "The Rabbis learned: Moshe established that Jews should inquire and exposit about the laws and matters of each holiday on the holiday itself; the laws of Passover on Passover, the laws of Shavuot on Shavuot, and the laws of Succot on Succot. People say that the requirement to learn the laws of Passover 30 days before the holiday is because there are numerous laws, such as the grinding of wheat, the baking of Matzot, Kashering dishes, the laws of getting rid of Chametz etc."

And now with Hashem's grace we will try to enumerate the laws of the month of Nissan and Passover itself:

Source: "Passover Haggadah - The Original Tradition of the Jews of Yemen" by Association of Jewish Yemenites in the U.S., Inc. (Tel/Fax: 718-252-6671)

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