Monday, November 5, 2018

18C Jewish Holiday & Ritual Observances

Blessing the Sabbath Candles

It is impossible to know which customs 18C Jewish immigrants brought with them & observed in the British American colonies.  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