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Why is This Haggadah Different From All Other Haggadahs? Because It’s Funny!

As our Passover Seders evolve over the years, and our kids grow into adults, and the guest list has some new faces, so does our Haggadah. Haggadah means “retelling the story,” and it doesnt have to be the same long, boring version year after year like some of us remember from our childhoods, thank you Maxwell House. Perhaps it’s time to change things up a bit and try something new to guide us through the ceremony and full course meal that can last as long as the Exodus from Egypt. There are hundreds of Haggadahs to choose from with various themes, from social justice Haggadahs to the chocolate Haggadah (non edible) that addresses contemporary issues of slavery, economic justice and fair trade. But only one Haggadah is laugh out loud funny with all due respect to Moshe and the sancity of the Festival of Freedom.  It’s called “For This We left Egypt?” from the comic minds of Dave Barry (nationally syndicated humor columnist/author), Alan Zweibel (Saturday Night Live producer/writer), and Adam Mansbach (NY Times bestselling novelist/screenwriter),  a talented trio of wisecrackers who succeed in tickling our shank bone. Just in time for Passover, Zweibel will be sharing his Seder satire as part of the 39th annual St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, on Sunday March 18, at the JCC in Creve Coeur.

In addition to being a Saturday Night Live writer, Zweibel has won numerous Emmys for his work in television, including Late Show with David Letterman and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He has won multiple Emmy, Writers Guild of America, and TV Critics awards for his work in television, which also includes “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” (which he co-created and produced), “Monk,” “PBS’s Great Performances,“ and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” You can read more about this married family man from New Jersey, whose proudest accomplishment is his three beautiful children and five grandchildren. You can learn more about him on his website alanzweibel.com or check him out on Facebook.

“For This We Left Egypt” is no ordinary Haggadah and a must-read for every Jew (and gentile who loves them) and loves a good belly laugh. This book shows us how to literally laugh-cry our way through the Seder (which means “order”) and bond with each other over gefilte fish and brisket (not symbolic Jewish foods but they should be). Hopefully, our relatives have a sense of humor. From the get go, this hilarious parody opens from right to left for authenticity (just don’t start it backwards or the story ends with the Jews still in bondage instead of living in the land of milk and honey). Rabbi Schmooley Weiskopf (not a real Rabbi I googled his name) writes in the forward:  “This book before you contains the litgury of for the Seder service on this festival of Passover–or, as reform Jews sometimes call it, Chanukah…”

I’m sorry but I thought that line was hysterical and not offensive in the least–it got me flipping through the rest of  the clever, original writing that seemed to go on forever (in a good way) kinda like a Jewish goodbye. Besides the jokes, this book offerfs many teachable moments as well, like getting rid of all the chametz in your home with a kosher blowtorch. No worries, it also includes Hebrew, blessings, songs, activities, and an accurate albeit twisted history lesson way more interesting than what we were taught in Sunday School. By the time you get to the part that lists the added stanzas for Dayenu, you will be slap happy, or maybe it’s the fourth cup of wine.

The authors prompt us with interesting discussion questions that are fun and entertaining, (Is Manischewitz a wine or a plague?), and  covers topics such as, preparing for the Seder, questions of the four children, the Passover story, the 10 Plagues (revised list includes humidity, nervousness, constipation, Jerry Lewis, and gluten), the golden calf, waiting for Elijah, and more. If there’s one thing Jews have in common, besides the tendency to complain about everything, is that we can laugh at ourselves. And “For This We Left Egypt” certainly pokes fun at our formalities, such as why Rabbi Hillel invented the matzo maror sandwich.

This Haggadah takes us on a journey through the desert all the way up to dessert (hopefully chocolate toffee matzo otherwise known as matzo “crack,” which can also be served as an appetizer). Laughter is the best medicine (might even work for indigestion from the heavy meal), and this Haggadah has plenty of it, making us feel proud to belong to The Tribe. Clearly, “For This We Left Egypt” is written out of love for the Jewish people, encouraging us to come together to celebrate our history, rituals, culture (and sense of humor). So, if you’re looking for a way to liven your Seder as you gather around the dining room table (or recline on pillows like royalty on the floor—also a mitzvah), “For This We Left Egypt” might become a new tradition.

A signed copy of “For This We Left Egypt” also makes a great hostess gift—might want to splurge on a bottle of decent Kosher wine, too.

Tickets to this Spring bookend event of the Jewish Book Festival are $20 each or free with the 2017 Premier Pass. Go HERE for more info.