The section called 'Maggid' forms the bulk of the Haggadah. Literally, it means 'The telling of the story' of the Exodus. But strangely, there is actually no real narrative here, until at least half way through, when we get to 'Arami oved Avi' – 'My father was a fugitive Aramean'. Most of the content of 'Maggid' seems to be a collection of different verses, expositions and ideas concerning the telling of the story. The story itself is just a tiny part of the text, even though it is supposed to be the main event of the evening.

How do we explain this? And does this section of the Haggadah makes sense as a unit in any way, or is it really just a confused jumble, with the story tacked on halfway through?

According to Rabbi Menachem Liebtag, Maggid systematically lays down the ground rules about telling the story, before getting to the tale itself.

We explain why we're telling the story. We explain who is obligated. We explain exactly what the difference is between our obligation to tell the story on Pesach, and the rest of the year. We explain how to tell the story, then when. Lastly, we remind ourselves why G-d brought us out of Egypt in the first place. And then we get to the story (.....which is told in what is, to us, today, a relatively inaccessible format of explaining each verse, but that's a different problem).

Let's go through it section by section:

'Ha Lachma' / This is the bread of affliction – this forms an introduction

'Ma Nishtana' / The “four questions”. In fact, there is only one question here – What is different about this night from all other nights? The rest of the section attempts to answer this question.

'Avadim Hayinu' / We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt – In this section, we explain why we tell the story: Because if G-d had not taken our ancestors out of Egypt, we would still be enslaved. It's personal!

The same section also tells us who must tell the story: everyone, no matter how intelligent, learned, wise or elderly. The Haggadah then brings an example of five rabbis who fulfilled their obligation to tell the story on Seder night, even though, in theory, they knew the story inside out.

Amar Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah – The Haggadah then brings a little story which differentiates between the obligation to tell the story of the Exodus on Seder night, and the obligation to remember the Exodus throughout the year. In this manner, the Haggadah is making clear exactly what our obligation is on this night.

'Keneged Arba Banim' – the Four sons – this shows us how to tell the story, by personalising it to the audience.

'Yachol Merosh Chodesh' – You can recite it from Rosh Chodesh – this tells us when you can tell the story, concluding that the obligation is on Seder night.

'Mitchilah ovdei avodah zarah' – 'In the beginning, our ancestors were idol worshippers and now G-d has brought us closer to serving him'. It sounds as if the story's finally starting, but actually the Haggadah is telling us why G-d brought us out of Egypt in the first place: to turn us from idol worshippers into G-d worshippers. 

'Baruch shomer havtachato' – Blessed is he who kept his promise – We remind ourselves that the Exodus was always part of the Divine plan, something G-d had promised Abraham during the Covenant of the Pieces (brit ben habtarim).

Vehi Sheamdah – We remind ourselves that the same covenant applies to every generation. The story of the Exodus is relevant to us because a similar cycle of destruction and salvation applies to us today. It's personal.

And now that we understand why, who, what, how, when, and why again, it's time to tell the story – Arami oved Avi.

haggadah Section: Maggid - Beginning
Source: Original