Night of Beginnings


Night of Beginnings

A Passover Haggadah

Marcia Falk

232 pages
Fully illustrated in color


March 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Night of Beginnings is a groundbreaking new haggadah for the Passover seder from acclaimed poet, translator, and liturgist Marcia Falk, beautifully designed and illustrated with original color drawings by the author.
Unlike both traditional and new haggadahs, which do not contain a full recounting of the biblical story, Night of Beginnings presents the Exodus narrative in its entirety, providing a direct connection to the ancient origins of the holiday. This retelling highlights the actions of its female characters, including Moshe’s sister, Miriam; Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopts the baby Moshe; and the midwives Shifrah and Pu’ah, who save the Hebrew male infants. Falk’s revolutionary new blessings, in Hebrew and English, replace the traditional, patriarchal seder blessings, and her kavanot—meditative directions for prayer—introduce a genre new to the seder ritual. Poems, psalms, and songs are arranged to give structural coherence to the haggadah. A new commentary raises interpretive questions and invites us to bring personal reflections into the discussion.

Like the author’s widely acclaimed previous prayer books, The Book of Blessings and The Days Between, Falk’s poetic blessings for the seder envision the divine as a Greater Whole of which we are an inseparable part. The inclusive language of Falk's blessings makes room for women to find and use their voices more full-throatedly than they were able to do with the male-centered prayers inherited from the early rabbis. Men, too, will encounter here a spiritually moving and thought-provoking experience.


Author Bio

Marcia Falk is a poet, translator, liturgist, and artist known widely for her groundbreaking prayer books The Book of Blessings and The Days Between, which re-create Hebrew and English prayer from an inclusive, nonpatriarchal perspective. Falk is also the creator of a volume combining her art and poetry, Inner East: Illuminated Poems and Blessings, and other books of poetry and translation, including a now-classic translation of the Song of Songs.


"With orig­i­nal bless­ings and read­ings, gen­der-inclu­sive trans­la­tions, and text-inspired illus­tra­tions, Mar­cia Falk’s Night of Begin­nings offers an inno­v­a­tive adap­ta­tion of the Passover Haggadah . . . [that] encour­ages read­ers to break free from the tra­di­tion­al Hag­gadah text and explore retelling the Passover sto­ry in a bold new way."—Jewish Book Council

"By me, Jewish patriarchal prayer is obsolete, even criminal, so the nagging feminist question remains: How can we throw out the bathwater but keep the baby? . . . Marcia Falk's Haggadah brings us . . . life-saving steps in the right direction: She retains some of the original patriarchal conceits, jettisons others, and, most effectively, makes the Haggadah personal and very accessible to those with little formal Jewish background. It is also a physically gorgeous book, spare and breathing on the page, and illustrated with Falk's own balletic drawings of spring flora. Her annotated retelling of the first 15 chapters of the Book of Exodus in itself makes Night of Beginnings worth buying. Falk remediates the perennial problem of the traditional Haggadah—that it weirdly doesn't actually tell the biblical story of Hebrew enslavement and liberation—and she gives us all we need in order to conduct our own terrific seders, helping us both remember the originary telling, and also instilling it with freshness, April'itude, and relevance."—Lilith magazine

"Night of Beginnings . . . [by] Marcia Falk, liturgist and poet extraordinaire, fashioner of nonhierarchical and non-patriarchal blessings and prayers . . . can serve rabbis as a haggadah for their congregations or their own family seders. . . . Especially her Maggid with commentary is also a great text for adult education classes and study groups to prepare for the holiday or to address topics such as Jewish feminism, women in the Bible, and social justice. . . . We [spiritual leaders] might even employ Falk's haggadah for periodic inspiration and meditation on the larger themes she has elucidated. Certainly, the b'rakhot, kavanot, poems, psalms, songs, and commentary from this work can each serve to stimulate our heart and our soul."—CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly

"A substantial work, worthy of close attention. . . . Falk's poems, interpretations and selections of additional material can enrich your Seder tremendously."—Forward

"Admirers of poet Marcia Falk's bold and evocative feminist rewriting of Jewish liturgy have long hoped she would produce a work they could read at the Seder table. Their wish is now a reality, with the recent publication of Falk's Night of Beginnings: A Passover Haggadah."—Times of Israel

"Bold . . . elegant, and eloquent. . . . With the publication of this Haggadah, the North American Jewish community is getting its best chance yet of being exposed to Falk's innovative and deeply thoughtful approach to liturgy. . . . Falk is a wonderful poet and wordsmith in both Hebrew and English . . . the holiday ritual that she has set forth for us to celebrate is . . . described in . . . wonderfully rich and memorable words. . . . The excellent commentary . . . must satisfy those of us who want to talk about enslavement and liberation in non-theological terms."—Herbert Levine, Tikkun

"I genuinely love this new haggadahIt speaks to me very deeply. It is beautiful not only in its colorful design, which is superb, but in its theology as well as in its profound liturgical innovations. It has already helped me to begin to prepare for Pesach this year with some new meaning. I will definitely bring it with me to my seder this year."—Rabbi Ron Kronish, Times of Israel 

"The acclaimed poet, liturgist and Judaic scholar [Marcia Falk] skillfully traverses that delicate balance between modern perspective and traditional views, inviting readers to explore centuries-old seder night customs as well as her own fresh reflections on hymns, psalms and Passover motifs."—Leah F. Finkelshteyn, Hadassah Magazine

"When a Haggadah is written by a founding mother of feminist Judaism, as poet and author Marcia Falk is described, the reader can rest assured a fresh view of Jewish worship complete with beauty, artistic creativity, and love will fill the Seder. This Haggadah brings radical new blessings that turn from the traditional patriarchal-themed Seder, affording those who delve into it a revolutionary meditative direction for prayer."—Michael R. Mantell, San Diego Jewish World

"Read this [article] with care, since I'm writing about something that promises to enhance the arrival of the Pesach Seder this year. . . . [and] deserves to live in the homes of many of our Jewish households soon. . . . A brand-new Passover Haggadah, a substantial and beautiful volume."—Texas Jewish Post

Table of Contents

Introduction xiii
Notes for the Reader
Transliterations xxi
Proper Names xxii
Translations and Adaptations xxii
Tinted Pages xxiii
פתיחת החג
Hadlakat Nerot Ḥag Hapésaḥ: Lighting the Pesach Candles 2
The Journey: Lighting the Way (Kavanah) 7
Birkat Haz’man: Blessing of Time and Renewal (Sheheḥeyánu) 8
Change: The Flow of Life (Kavanah) 11
Birkat Habat, Birkat Haben: Blessing the Children 12
תחילת הסדר
The Seder Plate 17
The Seder Table 18
Kadesh Urḥatz: Order of the Night
Kadesh: Sanctification (Kiddush)
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen, K’dushat Hayom:
Fruit of the Vine, Hallowing the Day (First Cup) 22
Fruit of the Vine (Kavanah) 27
Urḥatz: Washing
Washing the Hands 29
Karpas: Spring Greens
T’vilat Karpas Va’akhilato:
Dipping and Eating the Spring Greens 30
Spring: The Birth of the Year (Kavanah) 33
Shirey Aviv Mim’gilat Shir Hashirim:
Spring Poems from the Song of Songs 35
Yáḥatz: Breaking
Breaking the Matzah, Hiding the Afikoman 45
Brokenness and Wholeness (Kavanah) 47
לקראת המגיד
Arba Hakushyot: The Four Questions 51
The Four Children 54
Sh’faḥot Va’avadim Hayínu: Once We Were Slaves 59
Ha Laḥma Anya: This Is the Bread of Affliction 63
Open Door (Kavanah) 66
Freedom and the Lives of Others (Kavanah) 68
B’khol Dor Vador: In Every Generation 71
Telling Oneself into the Story 75
Presentation of the Text 79
Overview and Themes 80
One: Enslavement in Egypt 82
Two: Miriam and the Women 82
Three: Moshe’s Calling 85
Four: Moshe, God, and Pharaoh—Confrontations 89
Five: Exodus from Egypt 93
Six: Miriam the Prophetess 98
Maggid: The Telling, Abbreviated 100
אחרי המגיד
Kos Miryam: Miriam’s Cup 106
Dayénu: It Would Have Been Enough 108
Nonetheless 111
What Is Enough? (Kavanah) 113
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen: Fruit of the Vine (Second Cup) 114
Hallel 1, T’hilot Ḥadashot: New Poems of Praise 117
Song of Joy 118
The Feast 119
Nishmat Kol Ḥay: The Breath of All Life 120
Hal’lu, Yif’at Tevel: Hal’lu, Beauty of the World
Roḥtzah: Washing
Washing the Hands 126
Motzi’ah/Matzah: Unleavened Bread
Birkat Haléḥem, Akhilat Matzah:
Blessing before the Meal, Blessing for Eating Matzah 128
Maror: Bitter Herb
T’vilat Maror Va’akhilato: Dipping and Eating the Bitter Herb 130
Sweet and Salt, Bitter and Sweet 133
Korekh: Sandwich
Eating the “Hillel Sandwich” 134
Shulḥan Orekh: Setting the Table
The Meal Is Served 135
Tzafun: Hidden
Eating the Afikoman 137
Concealment and Revealment (Kavanah) 139
Barekh: Blessing
Birkat Hamazon: Blessing after the Meal 140
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen: Fruit of the Vine (Third Cup) 142
Kos Eliyáhu: Elijah’s Cup 146
Who Was Elijah? (Kavanah) 148
The Promise of Elijah
Hallel 2, Mizmorey T’hilim: Psalms 153
B’tzet Yisra’el: When Israel Went Forth 154
Mah-l’kha Hayam: O Sea, What Alarms You 156
Y’varekh et-Bet Yisra’el: May the House of Israel Be Blessed 158
Hal’lu et-Adonay: Praise God, All You Nations 160
Min-Hametzar Karáti Yah: In Distress, I Called Out 162
Kol Rinah Vishu’ah: The Voice of Rejoicing 162
Pitḥu-li Sha’arey-tzédek: Open the Gates of Justice 162
Od’kha Ki Anitáni: I Give Thanks 164
Birkat P’ri Hagéfen: Fruit of the Vine (Fourth Cup) 166
Nirtzah: Fulfillment of the Seder
Birkat Hagéfen Ufiryah: Blessing of Fruitfulness 168
About the Songs 175
Ḥad Gadya: One Little Kid 176
Eḥad Mi Yodé’a?: Who Knows One? 188
Adir Hu: Mighty Is God 190
Karev Yom: Bring Near the Day 192

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