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JUDAICA SILVER: A SELECTION OF JEWISH RITUAL OBJECTS
|The early historical books
of the Bible show that even a nomad tribe in their
desert wanderings were able to carry the art of the
goldsmith to a high state of perfection fifteen
centuries before the commencement of the Christian era.
The malleability of gold must have been well understood
by him who 'did beat gold into thin plates' (Exod. xxxix.
3) and could 'cut it into wires to work it into the
linen with cunning work.' Adorning it with jewels must
have been a familiar art to those who 'wrought onix
stones enclosed in ouches of gold' (Exod. xxxix. 6); and
what more like work of some modern artist than the
candlestick wrought by the Israelitish smith of old,
with its six branches of beaten work 'his shaft, his
branch, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers of the
same; three bowls made after the fashion of almonds in
one branch, a knop and a flower; and three bowls made
like almonds in another branch, a knop and a flower: so
throughout the six branches going out of the
candlestick' (Exod. xxxvii.)(endnote)
Since ancient times silver was the preferred material
for making the Kiddush cups, Hanukkah lamps, Torah
decorations and the dozens of other objects used in
observing the 'Mitzvot' (commandments).
Although silver has been important in the fashioning of
secular and religious objects for millennia, very little
has survived which was made specifically for Jewish ritual use before
the 17th century.
Most of the objects in museum and private
collections of Judaica date from the 17th, 18th, and
'Judaica' is highly appreciated by antique
silver collectors and Sotheby's and other primary
auction houses dedicate specific auctions to this theme.
In Europe, Jews were not normally allowed to be
silversmiths or goldsmiths because they were excluded
from membership in the guilds. So, many of the
ceremonial objects in Judaica collections, though used
by Jewish communities, were made by non-Jewish
manufacturers or artisans on commission. As a result,
there are often mistakes in the Hebrew because the
people who made the objects didn't know Hebrew and could
only copy it from inscriptions written out for them.
catalog of 'Judaica Silver ...'
catalog of 'Fine Judaica and Silver'
The Judaic ceremonial art had its first public display
in the late 19th century.
The collecting and displaying of Jewish ceremonial art
for aesthetic as well as educational purposes was
unknown until the nineteenth century, as up to that time
they were used only in the life cycle and holiday
ceremonies in the home and in the synagogue.
Some Jewish ceremonial objects were displayed in 1875 in
the Amsterdam Historische Tentoonstelling and a private
collection of eighty-two objects was displayed in 1878
at the Exposition Universale of Paris.
The first major independent public display on Judaica
art was held in the 1887 Anglo-Jewish Historical
Exhibition and its 2945 item catalog was the first
significant catalog of Jewish art.
Rimmonim - Torah finial
Yad - Torah pointer
An element often included in Torah decoration is the
pointer. It is called a yad, the Hebrew word for 'hand.'
The pointer usually hangs on a chain from the Torah
staves. Because everything connected with the Torah is
particularly sacred, it is considered disrespectful to
touch the text when reading the passages. This is not
only for reasons of respect but also because the
constant touching with the finger would eventually soil
the Torah and require it to be reinscribed. When not in
use, the yad is hung next to the Torah shield and over
Chanukah lamp or Menorah
Every year between the end of November and the end of
December, Jewish people around the world celebrate the
holiday of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. Chanukah
begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev,
but the starting date on the western calendar varies
from year to year. The Jewish Feast of Lights celebrates
a miracle in the struggle of the Maccabees for religious
freedom. A Chanukah lamp, or Menorah, lit on each of the
festival’s eight nights, is an enduring symbol of Jewish
Etrog container (Spice box - Esrog Box)
Etrog holders are used during Sukkot, the Festival of
Booths, to store the etrog fruit, an oval shaped citron
fruit. According to the Book of Leviticus, the etrog is
one of the four fruits which Jews are required to bring
into the sukkah (booth) on Sukkot. Etrog, according to
rabbinic tradition, was considered to be representative
of the "fruit of goodly trees," which was believed to be
one of the four species of plants. Although the using of
etrog during Sukkot dates back to ancient times, the
etrog container is of relatively recent origin
Kiddush cup (Kiddush goblet - Kiddush beaker)
A kiddush cup or wine goblet is used on Sabbath. On
Friday evening it is filled with wine, often from Israel,
at the beginning of the Shabbat meal. The word 'kiddush'
actually refers to the blessing which is recited over
the wine before the meal begins. After Kiddush has been
made, everyone present shares the wine. The goblet may
be used again at the Havdallah ceremony at the end of
According to rabbinic legend, each Jew receives a
special soul (neshama yetera) on the Sabbath. As this
extra spiritual dimension departs from the body at the
close of the Sabbath, one is overcome with a certain
degree of sorrow. The spices are interpreted as a means
of comfort at the moment of transition to the new week.
As it was customary in ancient times to welcome the
Sabbath with branches of myrtle, so during the service
to usher out the Sabbath — the Havdalah ceremony —
people inhaled the fragrances of their branches.
In the course of generations, aromatic spices (most
popularly cinnamon and cloves in Ashkenazi communities)
began to replace the myrtle. The use of sweet-smelling
herbs and spices roused the creative instincts of
artisans and they fashioned spice boxes in widely varied
designs and shapes — in gold, silver, brass, glass and
wood. In Ashkenazi circles, the spice box took many
forms, from flowers to miniature trains. Most popular,
however, from around the sixteenth century, was the
tower form, which was stylistically influenced by local
endnote: from Old English Plate by Wilfred Joseph Cripps -
London, 1899, pp. 1 and 2
I apologize for any possible error about the
description of Jewish rituals. Your help, correction
and addition will be greatly appreciated