As the Shabbat falls this evening, Jews around the world will gather around tables to share perhaps the most important meal of the year: the Passover seder. This important ritual recalls the exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egypt, with an array of foods and cups of wine symbolizing various aspects of the story—and, indeed, of Jewish identity. Passover is a moment to reflect on the enduring power of faith—and the importance of traditions that date back thousands of years. The works below, all from The Met collection, also prove that this festival has inspired beauty in many media. Chag sameach!
A Special Meal
A reading of the Haggadah (or “telling”) is a crucial complement to the sensory experience of the seder meal. The book’s core text comes from the Book of Deuteronomy—lines that give thanks for events in turn recounted in the Book of Exodus. Today, the Haggadah may be the most commonly printed Jewish book, with many modern editions containing illustrations, commentary, and more.
The Passover ritual calls for consuming four cups of wine. Wine symbolizes freedom, and is associated with royalty; rabbis, meanwhile, have proposed numerous, richly theological explanations for the tradition of sipping from four cups.
This medieval plaque presents a Christian variant on the event that set the Israelites’ exodus in motion, and which Passover commemorates annually: the sacrifice of a lamb, whose blood Moses ordered elders to use as a mark of protection on their households, thus sparing them from God’s wrath and allowing their escape from Egypt. Here, the tau character stands in for lamb’s blood as a sign of God’s favor.
A Continuing Tradition
May you and your family have a blessed and joyous Passover!