The Passover Haggadah
  Modern Art in Dialogue with an Ancient Text
      Had Gadya
     
     

Had Gadya (An Only Kid)

Had Gadya is a folk song in Aramaic which concludes the Passover Haggadah. It is a relatively late addition to the Ashkenazi (Central European) Haggadah text and does not appear in the medieval editions. Much beloved by both young and old, it is about a goat purchased by father for two zuzim (coins). It is a playful, cumulative song which has, however, dark undertones. Composed of ten stanzas the verse runs as follows:

Father bought a kid for two zuzim;
a cat came and ate the kid;
a dog then bit the cat;
the dog was beaten by a stick;
the stick was burned by fire;
water quenched the fire;
an ox drank the water;
a shohet (ritual slaughterer) slaughtered the ox;
the shohet was killed by the Angel of Death who
is then destroyed in turn by God.

The poem had not been illustrated much in the past but many modern artists have found its symbolism intriguing and have each interpreted it in their own their way. Some have even published the poem and their individual artistic interpretations of it as a separate volume detached from the Haggadah. The Soviet Jewish artist of the early 20th century, El Lissitzky, even sees in it socialist, revolutionary images.

Had Gadya Artists:

Menachem Birnbaum Rose Ann Chasman El Lissitzky Mikhail Magaril

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