Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Passover & other Jewish Religious Rituals 1707

Blessing the Sabbath Candles
These woodcuts illustrate Jewish holiday & ritual observances in the 1707 Minhagim (Customs), published by Solomon Proops, Amsterdam, with descriptions & instructions in Yiddish, offer a glimpse of Jewish life at the end of the 17C & the beginning of the 18C in central Europe.

The woodcuts in the book cover Sabbath & holiday observance, & home & synagogue rituals. Among them area mother blessing the Sabbath lights of a Sabbath oil lamp;a father chanting the Havdalah (service of "separation" at the conclusion of the Sabbath), while he holds a cup of wine by the light of a candle held by a child whose sibling holds a spice box; 4 men blessing the new moon;a rabbi preaching on the Great Sabbath (preceding Passover); grinding flour for & baking matzoh; searching for chametz (leaven); & scouring pots & pans. Also shown are a man having his hair cut on Lag B'Omer--the 33rd day of the 50 between Passover & Shavuot, when restrictions obtaining during that period of sernimourning are relaxed; Moses on Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments; worshipers seated on the floor on Tisha B'Av, mourning the destruction of the Temple; the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year; a man building his tabernacle for the Feast of Tabernacles; the gathering of palms, willows, & myrtle to join the citron in its celebration; children receiving sweets to celebrate the Joy of the Law, Simhat Torah; the kindling of a Hanukkah lamp; & Purim jesters sounding their musical instruments.

The life cycle is also marked: bride & groom under the huppah (canopy); an infant boy entering the Covenant of Abraham; & finally, a body borne in a coffin to its eternal resting place. These are some of the 1707 woodcuts:
The Havdalah Service

Sounding the Shofar on Rosh Hashana

The Lulav: Palm Branch, Myrtle, and Willow

Hanukkah, Festival of Lights 

The Merry Festival of Purim

Removing the Leaven from the Home

Under the Huppah, the Wedding Service

Brit Milah, the Circumcision

Carrying the Deceased to the Cemetery

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Passover & Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, Christians celebrate the Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem for Passover, where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him & laying down palm leaves before him. His appearance marks the beginning of Holy Week. But Jesus' triumphant return to Jerusalem is only part of the Easter Week story.
Passover. Preparation for the Seder, from the Golden Haggadah. Additional 27210 f. 15

The Galileans, the pilgrim crowd, acclaimed Jesus, & the local Judeans did not. By Palm Sunday, many of the Jews were filled with rage for Jesus. In Bethany, he raised Lazarus from the dead, a miracle which won Him renown among certain Pharisees.  Jesus took refuge at Ephrem - returning 6 days before Passover to Bethany, & triumphantly entered Jerusalem. That evening, He left Jerusalem & returned Monday. He spent time with Gentiles in the Temple, & on Wednesday He left for the Mount of Olives. Here He told the apostles of the events of the next several days, including His impending death. He returned to Jerusalem on Thursday, to share the Last Supper with His apostles. He was subsequently arrested & tried. He was crucified at Calvary on Friday, outside the gates of Jerusalem. He was buried the same day, & arose three days later, on Easter Sunday.

Passover was only 4 days away, when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem that year.  He entered the city on the 10th day of the month.  Exodus 12:3, 5-6, says, Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.. . ..Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
Jesus enters Jerusalem & the crowds welcome him, by Pietro Lorenzetti, 1320

As Jesus was riding in and the people were crying “Hosanna in the highest,” either knowingly or not, symbolically selecting the paschal lamb for sacrifice.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Lent - Temptations in the Wilderness - Christ & Satan

Temptation of Christ  Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)  (Italian artist, 1255-1319)

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
& he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
& the angels ministered to him.”
Mark 1:12-13

All 3 Gospels relate that Jesus spent a period of 40 days & nights in the desert immediately following His Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist & the dramatic recognition given by Heaven to this event. The number 40 obviously has resonance with such Old Testament events as the 40 days & nights of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:9), the 40 days & nights that Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18) & the 40 years in which the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32-34).  Mark’s reference to the Temptation of Jesus is the shortest of the three. Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) & Luke (Luke 4:1-13) both describe in detail the temptations tried by Satan, temptations to power & pride, which Jesus resisted. All three agree that at the end of these 40 days & nights, Jesus was tired & hungry.

"Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread."
Jesus answered him,
"It is written, One does not live on bread alone."
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
"I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve."
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
"If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.”
Luke 4:1-13

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday - Jesus Entering Jerusalem

1308 Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)  (Italian artist, 1255-1319) Entry into Jerusalem

The Passover story from the Old & New Testaments in the Christian Bible relates that God had sent Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt & bring them into the Promised Land.  But Pharaoh refused to let them go, saying “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him & let Israel go? I do not know the Lord & I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Pharaoh considered himself to be a god, & therefore equal to any other god.

And so, it is written in The Bible, God had brought a series of plagues against Egypt.  He turned their water to blood.  He caused an infestation of frogs, then one of gnats, & after that, one of flies.  He made their livestock drop dead.  He caused an outbreak of painful boils, a great hailstorm that destroyed their crops, a plague of locusts that ate what was left, & another of darkness. Through these 9 plagues, Pharaoh had remained just as obstinate as God had predicted, & refused to let the Israelites go.

The Lord had said to a worried Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh & on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, & when he does, he will drive you out completely.” (Exodus 11:1-2). The 10th plague, the death of all the firstborn, would break Pharoah’s will & free the Israelites from their bondage, but first they had to be protected from it. On the 10th day of the 1st month God had them select a male lamb for each household & inspect it for 3 days to be sure it had no blemish or defect. Then it was slaughtered, & its blood was applied to the door posts of their homes. Sunset brought the 14th of the month, & after cooking the lamb, each family gathered behind closed doors in their own house, & ate it quickly with some bitter herbs & unleavened bread, not venturing outside.  It is reported that at midnight the destroying angel came through Egypt & took the life of the first born of every family, except for those who had covered their door posts with lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:1-13, 21-23, 28-30).

Two years after the exodus from Egypt the Lord had Moses take a census of the all the people, listing by name every male 20 years old or older who could serve in the army. The number of those who met the requirements totaled 603,550 (Numbers 1:1-46).  Most scholars agree that the total Israelite population would have been about 1.5 million at the time.

On the first Christian Palm Sunday, the 10th day of the 1st month, another Passover Lamb was selected by allowing people to hail Him as Israel’s King for the first & only time in His life. When the Pharisees told him to rebuke His disciples for doing so, He said if they kept silent the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:39-40). This was the day ordained for His official appearance as their Messiah. For the next 3 days, He was subjected to the most intense questioning of His entire ministry lest there be any defects found in His words or deeds. Then on the 14th day, He was crucified.

Palm Sunday - Jesus Entering Jerusalem

'Livre d'images de madame Marie,' Hainaut or Brabant ca. 1280-1290 ( Nouvelle acquisition fran├žaise 16251, fol. 29r) Palm Sunday

Christians observe Palm Sunday on the Sunday before Easter, celebrating Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The reason they call it Palm Sunday stems from the fact that when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, a large crowd of people in the city spread out palm branches on the ground before him as a sign of his kingship. Throughout Jesus' 3-year ministry, he downplayed his role as Messiah and sometimes even told people whom he healed not to say anything about the miracle to others. Palm Sunday is the one exception in which his followers loudly proclaimed his glory to all.
Entry into Jerusalem in Armenian Manuscript