Passover (Pesach) History

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The Haggadah began to be copied as a separate book in the 12th century. Medieval additions to the Haggadah include piyyutim (liturgical poems) and readings in response to the persecution suffered at that time. (Blood libel accusations at Passover time even led to a rabbinic ruling that white wine be used at the seder lest red wine be mistaken for blood.) Pesach has been one of the favorite subjects of Jewish artists through the centuries, and they have created beautiful illuminated Haggadot. There are wonderful examples of these from Prague, Amsterdam, and Venice during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The tradition of adding to and adapting things in the Haggadah and the seder has continued. Among them are additions like the Matzah of Hope, which was a reminder of the plight of Soviet Jewry, and Miriam's Cup, which was added by women who sought to add a female perspective to the festival. By giving the festival contemporary significance, each generation of Jews has performed the mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus while reliving the event itself.

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