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Shabbat HaGadol


Shabbat hagadol sig

Over the last couple of months I have been perusing my haggadah collection and books about haggadot. It is fascinating to note the changes in illustration influenced by culture, politics, and artistic trends.

In medieval times a short section was added to the haggadah after the meal was finished. It begins with the Hebrew words “Shafoch Hamatcha”- a phrase  calling on Gd to pour His wrath on those people who do not know Him.  At a traditional seder the people attending stand up while the door is opened so Elijah (Eliahu) can enter and take a sip from his special cup of wine in the centre of the table. We children all used to watch the cup of wine very carefully to see how much disappeared- did Eliahu really come? As my father explained he could only drink a tiny, tiny bit because he had to visit EVERY Jewish house in the world that was hosting a seder.

But I digress. This text was added in the 11th Century after  the Crusades began.In early haggadot the first word of the phrase was decorated but it wasn’t until a couple of centuries later a special illustration was added.

In Prague, 1526 someone decided to illustrate it. A figure of the messiah is shown riding a donkey- a reference to salvation. This woodcut was quite small. it was just a small insert into a much larger page.   20150326_185202[1]

The woodcut was copied and reprinted into a number of different haggadah editions. In 1560 an artist in Mantua decided to  embellish the image. Not only do we have  whole landscape with Eliahu accompanying the Messiah, the whole layout is changed. The two figures and the landscape cover almost half the page. The title word is also very large and ornate. Just above the building (is that Jerusalem?) we see a tiny soldier in full uniform. He may be representing the enemy that does not acknowledge Gd.

This page is from the Washington haggadah, created in Northern Italy in 1478. Yoel ben Shimon was a prolific artist and scribe who created at least 8 haggadot in Italy and Germany.  His painting is delightful. It’s such a surprise to see the Messiah galloping through a town with a family riding behind him, holding on for dear life. They all seem to be wearing period dress with the father/ husband in a cloak and hood. The wife is wearing a lovely gown and hat and carrying a cup of wine As they pass a house a gentleman is in the doorway holding out a cup of wine- maybe for Eliahu. 20150326_214948[1]

The illustration on the right  is from a 15th century German haggadah. It is a sweet rendering. The man leading the horse may be Eliahu. The rider is wearing a crown, a regal red robe and he is the person blowing the shofar.The ribbons coming from the figures all have biblical verses referring to redemption and the coming of the Messiah.

I used the woodcut from Mantua, 1560 as the model for my Shabbat HaGadol painting. The haftarah reading is from Malachi 3:4 – 24. Verse 23 is read twice. It says, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” The reference to Elijah and the approach of Pesach made this a great “match”.

By the way- the Worms, Germany Haggadah of 1521, changed the reading somewhat. They substituted the original phrase with:

“Pour out Your love on the nations who have known You,
and on the kingdoms that call upon Your name.
For they have shown loving-kindness to the seed of Jacob,

This year take a look at the illustrations in your haggadah. They can be a lot of fun.

Have a Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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The Best Bedtime Stories

Bo sigart by Laya Crust

Parshat Bo: Exodus, chapter 10 -13

Haftarah: Jeremiah  46: 13 -28

The Best Bedtime Stories

Story time is one of the best times of the day.  We are transported to magical places. We meet extraordinary people and see things we would never come across on a typical day. Stories make time enchanting when reality is boring. You need to get someone to brush teeth? Tell a story. The wait in the doctor’s office is hours long? Tell a story. The car ride isn’t ending? Tell a story.

Our family’s favourite source of stories was Tanach (the Jewish Bible). Between the angels, the giants, the talking snakes and the trickery, what could be more exciting?

Take this week’s Torah reading. Our heroes are Moses and Aaron, two poor brothers, who were on a quest to free a nation of slaves. The downtrodden  slaves were in the grasp of a powerful ruler, the Pharaoh of Egypt. To Pharaoh’s surprise Moses and Aaron had managed to turn the water in Egypt to blood, bring millions of frogs into the cities and fields, create an infestation of lice, and destroy the spring crops with balls of flaming hail.

This week’s episode have the brothers confronting Pharaoh again.  Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ” How long are you going to be so stubborn? If you don’t let the slaves go God is going to send locusts.” The plague of locusts attacked the land, and destroyed all the crops the hail had left. That was followed by a darkness so thick the darkness could be touched. Neither Egyptians nor their animals could see or move for 3 days and three nights.

darkness 20048painting by Laya Crust

Even so, Pharaoh refused to be threatened. He raised himself up and through gritted teeth proclaimed, “Get away from me. Take heed of yourself. Never approach me again. For on the day you see my face again, you will die!” And Moses answered, “You have spoken well. I will see your face again no more.”

Then the two brothers rushed to the slaves, told them to grab their belongings and get ready for the dangerous road to freedom.

What a story!

babiesarava, challah 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So do yourself a favour. Get a comfy couch, a couple of cuddly kids, some milk and cookies. Then open up your friendly bible to Exodus chapter 10. It’s a great read . Be warned, it can get a little sad or scary at parts. That’s part of the adventure too.

Come back next week- same time, same place, and you’ll see what new exploration we may embark upon.

Laya

Artist in Residence,  The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto     website http://www. layacrust.com

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