This year, there are more apps than ever to educate and entertain about Pesach. In between trips to the market, scrubbing the fridge, and general Pesach preparation lunacy, check these out. While there are basic Haggadah apps available on both Android and iOS platforms, offering just the plain text of the ritual with no bells and whistles, the multimedia Haggadah apps that are described here are available only on iOS as of this writing. Most of the other apps are available on both Android and iOS platforms.
Some people will be comfortable bringing these electronic Haggadot directly to the seder table. Others may choose to use them as preparation tools in order to bring some interesting new material to the discussion during the seder on Pesach Eve. If you had to choose just one, it would be difficult. Each has unique and special features that will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the holiday.
The Ultimate Digital Haggadah: There’s a lot to like about this offering by Downhill Publishing. The first half is a series of illustrated biblical verses, some of which incorporate motifs from the architecture of various New York synagogues, and some of which draw themselves while you watch. (This makes it a really nice app to refer to at any time of the year.) The second half is the Haggadah text in English and Hebrew, accompanied by beautiful illustrations. You can listen to the English text by touching a speaker icon button on each page. There also are three very nicely performed songs, indicated by a musical note button. It would be great if an update for next year added some more songs.
Ribui Ltd.’s Passover Haggadah: This is an almost infinitely customizable Haggadah experience, allowing you to select the length, language, and tradition of the Haggadah and to make adjustments as you go. There are so many possibilities that it really pays to check out the tutorial. Also note that the app works in both landscape and portrait orientations, but you can only use the tutorial in the portrait orientation, while the extra material is accessible only from the landscape orientation. Along with interesting video and interpretive pieces, there’s a “notes” function that allows you to add to the Haggadah yourself. It’s perfect for recording thoughts on the seder, or things you wish you had included or that didn’t work as well as planned. When you come back to prepare for next year, your ideas and reminders will be waiting for you.
Melcher Media’s The Haggadah features commentary from David Kraemer, professor of Talmud and librarian at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Irwin Kula, head of CLAL: The Center for Learning and Leadership. It offers quite a lot in a very accessible package. All features are accessed from a central location that resembles a bird’s-eye view of a table. You can return to this “table” from any part of the app by touching the icon in the upper left corner of the page. In addition to the standard commentary to the Haggadah text, there’s something called a “Sayder” by Amichai Lau Lavie, founder of the StorahTelling dramatic midrash troupe, which offers the opportunity for a different approach to experiencing the questions of Passover. There is also an “activities for kids” corner with games and jokes, a “recipes” corner, and a history of the Haggadah. Newly added this year is audio for many of the melodies, accessed by touching a button with musical notes on it. The default display for the Haggadah text is English, but Hebrew is easily accessed. It is illustrated with pages from Haggadot from around the world. Any of them can be enlarged to look at more closely by touching a magnifying glass button near the image.
Rounding out this offering is a section on preparing for the seder, as well as an invitation to share your responses and material for inclusion in next year’s edition.
Just one word of caution: be careful not to spend so much time enjoying these that you miss the seder itself!
Other Pesach apps
Before the holiday, we have to sell the chametz that we won’t be using or enjoying. One free app, iSellChametz, created by Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue, is a clear, simple, one-purpose app that lets you sell your chametz quickly and easily.
Another, No Chametz by Rusty Brick, includes an explanation of why we do this, and what can or should be sold. It also has a “sell” function that directs you to an outside site where you can complete the transaction for a fee – which may remind you that you can sell your chametz through your local non-virtual rabbi.
This app boasts “complete chametz coverage” through a row of tabs along the bottom of the screen labeled “Sell” “Search,” and “Destroy.” Search has the laws of searching for chametz as well as a page where you can list where you’ve put the little bits of bread or cracker you hide in case you forget where one of these was hidden; the proper declarations and blessings for the search, and a search light that uses the camera and flash from your phone to look for chametz. An image of a feather on the screen makes it like a traditional chametz search, but without the risk of setting something on fire with the candle.
The “Destroy” tab is similarly detailed in its instructions, and its very satisfying title allows a true sense of accomplishment after all of the effort in cleaning and removing chametz, and has the appropriate declaration, as well as a list of “last time to ____ by” items, handy to have in an easy-to-find place when your entire home has been upended by Pesach preparations.
A search of the app store reveals several versions of the Pesach story for kids to listen to or read along with, along with some other Passover-themed games. More unusual is Plague Audio by Eaglevision Productions, which provides sound effects for each of the 10 plagues. Some may find this creepy; others may find that it adds to the drama of the holiday.
And, if you can navigate a Hebrew-only interface, there’s Chagim ““ Eifo Hayinu by Albos, a developer that produces mostly Hebrew language apps. Its name means “The holidays – where were we?” and it offers a high-tech solution to an age-old problem of domestic tranquility: keeping a record of which family you spend which holidays with. In the event that wrangling over whose side you had seder with last year causes problems, or that you want to assure each family carefully that they are getting equal time, now there’s an app for that.