Builders, rejoice! Let my People Go, A Brick Haggadah Companionfrom Mosaica Press, is out just in time for Pesach.
Completely illustrated with full-color photos of scenes entirely constructed from Lego/toy brick pieces, this clever concept book will certainly enhance the Seder of young readers, (and the grown-ups who love them) whether they enjoy building with colorful bricks or not.
The scenes and images are full of humor and wit, and kids will delight in trying to discern which unique pieces were used to capture the different parts of the Yetzias Mitzrayim story, and the parts of the Haggadah.
The book follows the structure of the Haggadah, and is designed to be used alongside a traditional Haggadah as one goes through the Seder. It maintains the classic Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, etc., script, but also makes a point of dwelling on the child-friendly parts of the Seder, such as the four sons, the four questions, and the like. It also smartly chooses to insert verses from parshas Shemos in order to fully tell the story starting from the daughter of Pharaoh discovering baby Moshe to the burning bush, the ten plagues, and the trip through the sea. Young children will appreciate having these key pieces of the tale fully fleshed out.
The lego/toy bricks work especially well for scenes like the pyramids and the slaves working on making bricks. Other details, like the hail and the lice, are a little bit more of a visual stretch, but it’s fun to see how Rosman creatively managed to make these work, too.
Occasionally, the graphic design of the book makes it a bit challenging to understand what was in the builder/author’s mind. For example, I would have liked more space devoted to the images of the four questions so that I didn’t have to squint to see what was going on in each of those photos – there is a lot of great detail in there that could have benefited from some more real estate.
But what really makes this book different from all other Haggadahs is its humor. Watching Supergirl of DC comics fame march alongside Jasmine from Disney’s Aladdin right next to Batman as they make their way through the split sea made me smile. So did noticing the spilled Lego grape juice and the broken Lego afikomen. These kinds of fun details are sure to delight many young readers as well.
Tzachi Rosman ’03YC is a longtime Lego fan who has found a way to marry together his love of the bricks, his faith and his family by publishing Let My People Go! A Brick Lego Haggadah Companion. (See the other haggadot created by people at YU this season.)
We caught with Tzachi to find out more about this unusual and entertaining publication.
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Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Hillcrest, Queens, and attended yeshiva day school. For high school, I attended Yeshiva High School for Boys/MTA and enrolled in Yeshiva College after spending 2 years at Yeshivat Shaalvim in Israel. At YC, I majored in psychology and, upon graduation, chose to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania.
During graduate school, I was fortunate to meet why wife, Yael (valedictorian of Stern College for Women in 2004), and we chose to live in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, while I completed my studies and she enrolled in nursing school.
Fast forwarding to the current day, we now live in Teaneck, New Jersey, and have four children, the oldest of whom is a freshman at MTA. I have worked for the past 13 years as a psychologist for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) treating veterans dealing with issues related to military-based trauma and addiction. I also have a private practice in Teaneck.
During the pandemic, I began to write articles on various mental health related issues which were published on Aish, the Jewish Link of NJ, and on The Times of Israel. I love building with Lego bricks and collecting minifigures, independent of my kids’ interest in either.
My most valued roles are those of father, son and sibling, and I work hard to prioritize my family and extended family in my life decisions.
What inspired you to write this haggadah?
I’ve always loved Lego. While I am not a huge fan of building “sets,” I do enjoy creating my own designs.
Since having kids, I take my role as a parent at the seder very seriously. I feel a responsibility to make the night one during which the children are engaged and feel a part of “the action.”
In 2015, when my son was seven years old, I began building Lego scenes based on the Haggadah. He was very into Lego at the time, and I wanted to make the seder engaging and exciting for him and my other children. We were in the mall, and I bought a bunch of random LEgo pieces with the plan of working with my kids (then aged 7, 5 and 3) to build a kriyat yam suf [splitting of the Red Sea] scene with their help and input.
While the collaboration only lasted a short while, I finished the scene and displayed it at my seder. The kids enjoyed moving the minifigures around and shared their thoughts about the different elements depicted. This equaled a success, in my book.
Every subsequent year, I updated the scenes and added new ones, which I would photograph and print as a photobook. Last year, the photobook was very well received, and I was encouraged by friends and family to publish a haggadah. Since Lego has had a recent surge of popularity, now seemed like a good time to go ahead with the project. When I was contacted by Mosaica Press about publishing a book on mental health, I decided to pursue this hagagdah companion with them, instead.
How do you hope this haggadah will enhance the Pesach experience?
Pesach is all about passing down traditions from one generation to another. Specifically on the seder night, there is an emphasis on inculcating foundations of emunah [faith] to the children in attendance. This can be done in various ways, and the haggadah format allows for the use of the story of the Jews in Mitzrayim [Egypt] as a framework for imparting our beliefs.
My haggadah companion was structured in a way to follow the classic haggadah format, and I made a point to include details of the Jews’ experience in Mitzrayim in an effort to lay out the story in a manner that includes scenes that parents can use as a starting point for this discussion.
Also, I believe there is a parallel between building with Lego bricks and Jewish education. I am a firm believer in the benefits of experiential learning. There is no better time for experiential Jewish learning than the seder night. There is also no better product to be used for experiential learning than Lego bricks. They provide an opportunity for children (and adults) to use creativity to build whatever object or scene is desired. There is no wrong way to build, and the measure of success is simply the investment of the individual and the commitment to creativity. If one enters the seder night and the whole holiday of Pesach with this perspective, then there is no doubt that the traditions will pass down in a successful manner.
Finally, I am a firm believer, like many other Lego enthusiasts, in only using genuine Lego bricks. Aside from their superior quality and sturdiness, there is a uniformity about them, in that the brand name is generally located somewhere on the brick.
Similarly, education can only be successful when coming from a place of genuineness. Children know when their parents or educators are not “buying” what they are “selling.” Striving to be genuine in one’s transmission of Jewish tenets and values enhances the sturdiness of the foundational structure for Jewish living that we attend to lay the bricks for during the seder night.
Also, on a very simple level, the book’s illustrations are fun to look at and are meant to have a relatable and, at times, whimsical feel. Whether a child or adult reads the book, or the two together, I hope that it brings a level of joy to the holiday experience.
What is your favorite YU memory?
Truth is, my favorite YU memory happened this academic school year. My son started high school at MTA and became a huge Macs fan. I attended many basketball games with him and my daughter. Being in the electrifying atmosphere of the Max Stern Athletic Center really gave me a sense of YU pride. Being able to pass down my love of YU to the next generation was icing on the cake!
Talking about bricks in the context of the Seder is nothing new. After all, the hallmark of the enslavement of the Jews in Mitzrayim, which we read in the Haggadah, is the following pasuk from Shemot (1:14): “They made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field.” This year, thanks to the publication of the “Let My People Go: A Brick Haggadah Companion,” the discussion of bricks will likely have a slight twist. Not just the bricks of Mitzrayim, but of “everyone’s favorite building bricks!”
The book is meant as a companion to a full-text version of the Haggadah or to be used as a primary Haggadah for those for who would benefit from an abbreviated text. It contains depictions of each of the Simanei Haseder, makot, and other notable elements of the Haggadah built using Lego bricks by the author and then professionally photographed. Both Ma Nishtana and “Chad Gadya” contain the full Hebrew text with English translation.
Within the “Maggid” section, the author thoughtfully highlights various portions of the story of the Jews in Mitzrayim, from becoming slaves until being freed. Elements such as slavery, Moshe in the basket, Moshe and Aharon speaking to Pharoah, and Kriyat Yam Suf are included with text from corresponding pesukim. This makes the book ideal for teaching the Pesach story and engaging children in the process of learning.
With laminated pages that are sure to be helpful around spills and crumbs at the Seder, this book is the perfect addition to the Seder for adults and children alike.
One Instagram reviewer raved: “If you have a child who is obsessed with Lego, look how they depict the Seder. It is really cute. It has the main body of the Haggadah, but not all of the Haggadah, so ideal for children at the Seder who like Lego. I recommend you take the Haggadah with you to the Lego shop to get the pieces you need to build the models. This is part of the way that we teach our children the story of Pesach on their level, in the way that they can integrate it. This is a really amazing book.”