What Freedom Looks Like

March 13, 2012 | By

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The Katz Family Haggadah, at first glance, is deceptively simple–it looks like a children’s picture book. It features big-eyed cartoon kids, large, readable text, colorful spreads of blue skies and yellow sand, frogs, and an amazing fold-out picture of the Crossing of the Red Sea.

But that’s not all it is. The haggadah uses midrashTalmud, and other sources to derive an exhaustive and mind-blowing level of detail for the illustrations that dot each page. That’s why you’ll see frogs coming out of the Egyptians’ mouths and in their bread. During the Splitting of the Sea, says one midrash, underground trees were visible through the water, and there were twelve tunnels through the water, one for each tribe–and these are all depicted.

An index in the back tells the story behind each picture. They’re not all pleasant. A seemingly innocent picture of a woman crying while building with bricks represents the rabbinic story of Rachel, a slave who was forced to work until her ninth month of pregnancy. Her baby, the tale is told, actually dropped straight into the mortar and formed into a brick. The angel Michael immediately retrieved that brick and carried it straight to the Heavenly Throne.

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