Gleaned from many disciplines, sources and eras, Fruits of Freedom makes the Passover seder so much more accessible through translation and contextualization.
Dayenu: it would be enough if I had a practical, well-designed Haggadah with English translation; this alone is exciting.
Dayenu: a Haggadah that offers many explanations of the different ritual elements (so that guests can distract/understand for themselves).
Dayenu: a Haggadah that helps me better understand what is Passover? And why, after a year of working out the kinks in my rye sourdough, do I have to spend a week eating the most basic, uninteresting and digestively difficult crackers?
Dayenu: a Haggadah designed for foodies.
Dayenu: a Haggadah for those who have spent the pandemic noticing all of the different trees and plants in their neighborhood again and again and again.
The recently published Fruits of Freedom, The Tora Flora Hagadah does this and more. It illuminates the multi-layered meanings of the Passover seder through understanding “the natural and agricultural history of the Biblical and Talmudic worlds” within the context of the underlying multicultural environments (and different ecosystems) where Jews lived.
Written by Jon Greenberg, a “Biblical ethnobotanist” who has worked as an agronomist at Cornell and the USDA, The Torah Flora Hagadah offers an accessible anthropological explanation for many components of the Passover seder.
Fruits of Freedom is designed to help us understand the most fundamental of Passover questions: Why? Why is this dinner so different? Why must we publicly burn our chametz? Why must we roast our korban pesach (paschal lamb) on pomegranate wood instead of our standard backyard barbecue or in the oven? Why do some people eat a banana as their karpas? Why did horseradish (root) become so acceptable when the Mishnah specifically indicates that maror is from the leaves or stems of plants and the Gemara does not include it as one of the acceptable plants on its list?
With nearly 100 images, many of them botanical, Fruits of Freedom takes a cultural and ecosystem approach to “reveal unfamiliar meanings of every detail of the seder, from the table settings and menu to the color of the wine and ingredients in the charoset.”
The Passover seder is, at its core, a highly circumscribed dinner party that is arguably the greatest intergenerational informal educational environment ever designed. It’s a poly-sensorial and multilingual experience where the Four Questions, conventionally recited by the youngest, is just one of the many ways in which the seder is designed to teach.
As an environmental educator and culinary historian, the Fruits of Freedom Haggadah particularly speaks to me. Opening the maggid section, Greenberg asks “Leaving Egypt in haste —how fast was that?” to introduce leavening processes for a society that relied on, and barely understood, wild yeasts.
In the discussion of chametz whimsically titled “Leaving Bread, Leaving Egypt,” Greenberg’s commentary provides a historical cultural primer on Egyptian culture where people quite literally worshipped the god of fermentation of bread and beer. Abstaining from bread and beer, the Hebrews define their break from Egyptian slavery and cultural subservience with matzah, which is the most deliberately unleavened bread you could possibly make.
There is so much fascinating material included in this book. Gleaned from many disciplines, sources and eras, Fruits of Freedom makes the Passover seder so much accessible through translation and contextualization.
Whether you are a foodie, environmentalist, historian or simply hungry for a little bit of everything, this food-forward Haggadah will be sure to nourish your own Passover seders for many years to come. Dayenu.