CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Jerusalem | Art & CultureMarch 15, 2010

Jewels of Pessah

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In 15 days is the Jewish holiday of Passover. ( Hebrew: Pessah)

The miracle of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt is perpetuated in Jewish tradition of the holiday of Pessah.

The holiday symbolizes the release from slavery and the gift of freedom, the journey from Egypt to the land of Israel.

The core of the holiday is the “Seder night”, during which the story of the Exodus is told as it was written in the “Pessah Haggadah”.

During the eight days of the holiday, it is forbidden to eat leavened bread and most baked goods, for the Torah commanded Jews to eat only Matza, which is unleavened bread, during Pessah.

In Jewish communities the holiday was celebrated according to all the laws and several important folklore symbols were added to it, which made the holiday very special.

On my trip to Europe, a gentleman called Eitan with a strong Israeli accent calls me on the phone.  " Miss Joelle? My name is Eitan and I would like to introduce you to MDM, we have one of a kind line of Judaica from Israel, the- kind of- things- I- assure -you will like.

" Busy with the Brussels edition at that time , my answer was " And Mr Eitan, how exactly would you know about  the kind of ' stuff' I'd like?"

Eitan who I was referred to by an  Israeli architect living in New York who happens to know me well and  my taste for luxury and impeccable craftsmanship,  promised to say no more words until I saw some pictures of the pieces and met personally his associate Moshe Mizrahi who lived in Jerusalem.

They would both come to New York before Pessah and I will be presented " G-D willing to some pieces of the  valuable collection, mostly in 22k in silver, 24k gold and  semi precious stones " Wow!

In the meantime, on my arrival to New York, the countdown is approaching and as the Jewish world bravely confronts the great holiday of Pessah myriad preparatory requirements. Among them is the pre-Pessah  ritual in Jewish households of house-cleaning frenzy overwhelming  families.

I too do my part, carefully cleaning and dusting inside out closets, kitchen shelves, cupboards,  fridge and freezer for the legendary eradication of the so called Chamez. This specific  eradication  ("leavening") refers either to a grain product that is already fermented ( yeast breads, certain types of cake, and most alcoholic beverages), or to a substance that can cause fermentation (yeast, sourdough or high fructose corn syrup -

Believe it or not, no matter how many year have passed every Jew has never total certainty about what he should keep and what he should put away during this frenetic cleaning.

The consumption of Chametz is forbidden during Passover in most Jewish traditions. According to Halakha, the ownership of Chametz is also proscribed from the house. It is the symbolic drive to put everything in the house in its proper place, shiny, spotless and dusted. Mine is ready. I can now receive the  " Jerusalem boys" .

Eitan, announces his arrival in the city on an e-mail.  Before we talk further I ask if he and his partner can bring along  some of the impressive Seder Plates I saw in the pictures as well a selection of their valuable hand written , and marvelously  hand-painted painted  leather Haggadots .

Since the holiday is approaching the traditional table full of symbols has to be set in place ; nothing better than  finding some inspiration from Jerusalem experts coming to the Big Apple just to be at my total service in my own house!

The two men dressed in dark, are at my do0rway with a bunch of dark suitcases, one of them is wearing a formal hat that goes perfectly well with his dark beard.

" Joel? This is a name of a man! " - he says- Your name in Israel is YaelShalom Miss Yael, my name is Moshe Mizrahi, nice to meet you I am Argentinian of origin, could you please tell me where my assistant Eitan can leave the content of these suitcases, as you see the Seder Plate I have brought for you to see weights 20 kilos.

The beautiful pieces come out from the suitcases  one after the other in a Houdini manner and then carefully mounted over a wooden table in my living room facing Central Park.

Six ormolu silver cups are placed on top of a tray placed over a box with  six small silver inlaid gate doors . Behind beautiful hand painted scenes of the Seder ritual and a three shelves container for the three Matzot kept for later blessings.

Semi precious stones and Hebrew letters engravings embellish the composition of the piece. A  majestic Kiddush silver and  24 k gold goblet, is reserved for  the prophet Eliahu Hannabi possible appearance at the family dinner .

You see Miss Yael, a Seder table must look is traditional of Jewish families to gather on the first night of Pessah (first two nights in communities outside the land of Israel) for the special dinner, called a Seder (derived from the Hebrew word for "order", referring to the very specific order of the ritual).

The table must be set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal.

During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. Four cups of wine are consumed at various stages in the narrative.

The Haggadah divides the night's procedure into 15 parts: Kadeish - recital of Kiddush blessing and drinking of the first cup of wine , Urchatz - the washing of the hands - without blessing, Karpas - dipping of the karpas in salt water, Yachatz - breaking the middle Matzo; the larger piece becomes the Afikoman which is eaten later during the ritual of Tzafun, Maggid - retelling the Passover story, including the recital of  "the four questions" and drinking of the second cup of wine,

Rachtzah - second washing of the hands - with blessing , Motzi - traditional blessing before eating bread products, Matzo - blessing before eating Matzo. Maror - eating of the maror, Koreich - eating of a sandwich made of matzo and marorShulchan oreich - lit. "set table"—the serving of the holiday meal, Tzafun - eating of the afikoman, Bareich - blessing after the meal and drinking of the third cup of wine, Hallel- recital of the Hallel, traditionally recited on festivals; drinking of the fourth cup of wine, Nirtzah - conclusion

Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nissan (equivalent to March and April in Gregorian calendar), the first month of the Hebrew calendar's festival year according to the Hebrew Bible. In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that YHWH inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Hebrew slaves, with the tenth plague being the killing of all of the firstborn, from the Pharaoh's son to the firstborn of the dungeon captive, to the firstborn of cattle.

The Hebrews were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term "passover". When Pharaoh freed the Hebrews, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise.

In commemoration, for the duration of Passover, no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is called "The Festival of the Unleavened Bread". Matza (unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday. This bread that is flat and un-risen is called Matzo.

The Seder is replete with questions, answers, and unusual practices (the recital of Kiddush which is not immediately followed by the blessing over bread, which is the traditional procedure for all other holiday meals) to arouse the interest and curiosity of the children at the table.

The children are also rewarded with nuts and candies when they ask questions and participate in the discussion of the Exodus and its aftermath. Likewise, they are encouraged to search for the afikoman, the piece of matzo which is the last thing eaten at the Seder. Audience participation and interaction is the rule, and many families' Seders last long into the night with animated discussions and much singing.

The Seder concludes with additional songs of praise and faith printed in the Haggadah, including Chad Gadya ("One Kid Goat").

The Haggadah ( "telling") is a Jewish religious text that sets out the order of the Passover Seder.  As Moshe explains the different stories I contemplate speechless the MDM Haggadots . Fully hand-painted, scribed with Kosher ink on carefully selected parchment  they are sown by pairs to another with blue silk thread and gold. Mostly, Eitan tells me, take up to 4 years to be completed.

Reading the Haggadah is a fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to each Jew to "tell your son" about the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus in the Torah.

Beginning on the second night of Passover, the 16th day of Nissan Jews begin the practice of the Counting of the Omer, a nightly reminder of the approach of the holiday of Shavuot 50 days hence.

Each night after the evening prayer service, men and women recite a special blessing and then enumerate the day of the Omer. Moshe and Eitan very proudly showcase a spectacular piece in massive silver with a beautiful enamel clock and suggestive prayers describing the different stories related to the 49 days of the Omer counting.

When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, a sheaf of new-cut barley was presented before the altar on the second day of Unleavened Bread. Since the destruction of the Temple, this offering is brought in word rather than deed. One explanation for the Counting of the Omer is that it shows the connection between Passover and Shavuot.

The physical freedom that the Hebrews achieved at the Exodus from Egypt was only the beginning of a process that climaxed with the spiritual freedom they gained at the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Another explanation is that the newborn nation which emerged after the Exodus needed time to learn their new responsibilities vis-a-vis Torah and mitzvot before accepting God's law. The distinction between the Omer offering—a measure of barley, typically animal fodder—and the Shavuot offering—two loaves of wheat bread, human food—symbolizes the transition process.

Joelle's Tips:

All hand painted illustrations as well as the Judaica object d' art are from the Jeruslame private collection of MDM.

They can be made to order if not available in stock, price is on demand and can be delivered personally to your home.

MDM : Original Judaica on Parchment and Silver

Contact Info in the US :  Eitan Nissanian  / Tel +1( 718) 544-0180 / cell +1 ( 917) 582 57 51 / (646) 270-0680

Desert photo Copyrights : common  writes / Wikipedia

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