Jerry Seinfeld famously once asked, “What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?”
Ahhhh, Jerry, here’s a little secret: There are some books you polish off every single year, remove the not insignificant piece of dust (Seinfeld reference! Two points! More to come!) and enjoy them again, and again, and again.
But wait, there’s more: sometimes there’s a kind of book that’s so classic that others continually give their own spin on it, and you keep enjoying fresh ideas on ye olde treatises.
The Bible is one such obvious example. How many commentaries have been written on it? A gatillion? If one had a dollar for each, that’d be enough to keep The Human Fund operational for millennia.
Jane Austen keeps getting re-interpreted (Zombies!). Shakespeare is spun a googol number of ways, and the Haggadah keeps getting multiple takes annually.
And now, it looks like a sub-genre (Seinfeldius TVguideocus) of this sub-genre (Haggadum Parodicum) of revisited books keeps receiving its own bevy of nearly-annual interpretations.
Two years ago, The Yada Yada Haggadah made the scene. The author, Dave Cowen, imagined the Seinfeld characters having a seder of their own, with all their neuroses, shortcomings and foibles on full display.
Last year, The Festivus Haggadah followed suit. I fused both Festivus and Passover into a coherent mishmash, which is not a contradiction in terms. Pin my medals upon my chest, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman said, tell my mom I did my best.
This year, Rabbi Sam Reinstein, to whom both Mr. Cowen and I are clearly connected by The Force, has published The Haggadah About Nothing: The Unofficial Seinfeld Haggadah. The title has almost as many words as a Fiona Apple album name, but you’ll forgive him. The book is an erudite interweaving of the Seinfeld oeuvre and a lesson-learning manual of life instruction. Big hint and spoiler alert: Do the opposite of what all the main (and side) characters do.
So what is the deal here, and for that matter, can I keep starting paragraphs with conjunctions? The answer to the second question is yes; the answer to the first is more complicated.
Here are the possibilities:
1) It’s a coincidence. What, you take something happening back-to-back-to-back to be a statistical impossibility? Hardly. It’s more likely an inevitability, like three straight home runs in baseball, or three times landing on red on roulette, or Thanos (that inside joke is for my Marvel-loving son). It’s going to happen, and you shouldn’t let it freak you out. Cowen, Reinstein and I each dreamed up our ideas ex nihilo, and it just chanced to have happened in three consecutive years. It’s clear that we sourced the same material, interwoven similar jokes, and are obviously knocked-in-the-head Seinfeld fans, but we were not aware of each other’s projects as they were happening.
2) Um, that’s all I got. If you have something better, please let me know.
So don’t let this Great Big Why worry you too much. Serenity Now! The title of this article is not an existential question. Plop all these real, spectacular haggadot on your seder table, and have yourself a good time.
Besides, we Three Haggadahteers are in this just for the jokes.
And if you don’t believe that, well, then you’re just a rabid anti-dentite.
Martin is the author of The Emoji Haggadah, The Festivus Haggadah and The Coronavirus Haggadah. On the haggadah scoreboard, it’s Bodek 3, Cowen 3, Reinstein 1.