4 Sons & Sons

A discussion of Pesah/Passover generally and the Hagadah specifically. Please comment and contribute!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Who knows 14?

These last 3 songs of the seder are thought to have been composed in Judeo-German (which later evolved in Yiddish). Although they were originally only found in Ashkenazi Hagadot, Sephardic publishers in Livorno, Italy who had close contact with Austrian Jews later became the chief source of Jewish books for communities that had fled from Spain to Syria, Iraq, Persia, etc. (Guggenheimer)

Ehad mi yodea is a variation on a Christian carol that goes up to 12. Variations include Latin, German, English, Spanish, Italian and include some of the same symbols for each numbers. Archer Taylor believes that it originates from Sanskrit. While it has been thought to have been cribbed from the German version, there have been recent attempts to show that it is older, used for other contexts than the seder. Some French scholars attribute it to the ancient Druids. Some are starting to think that the Hebrew may have preceded the European versions. (The Passover Song of the Kid and an Equivalent from New England William Wells Newell The Journal of American Folklore > Vol. 18, No. 68 (Jan., 1905), pp. 33-48 ; Songs of the "Twelve Numbers" and the Hebrew Chant of "Echod mi Yodea" Leah Rachel Clara YoffieThe Journal of American Folklore > Vol. 62, No. 246 (Oct., 1949), pp. 382-411 )

In Ceylon and Cochin, versions of this song, often bawdy ones, were sung on Shabbat the week of a wedding. (The Schocken Passover Haggadah by Nahum N. Glatzer)

The number 13 is considered positive in Jewish literature. Guggenheimer posits that the Christians diabolized the number which is connected to G-d's universal kindness (because it is referred to in the 13 attributes of God?) whereas Christianity holds that salvation is for a select few. This seems a bit arbitrary although I'd be interested in hearing this further explained.

The gematria of Ehad (one) is 13. G-d is one and includes all other things. If you take all the numbers in this song you get 91 which is equal to the gematria of Hashem Elokim. (Toras Emes)

Why only go up to 13? Admittedly, it’s kind of hard to top the “attributes of G-d” but also because 14=dai (or more sensationally transliterated “die!”), enough.


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