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Miriam Cup

Miriam Cup

Amy Klein Reichert (American, b. 1959) Manufacturer: Stephen Smithers (American, b. 1951)
Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States, 1997
  • Silver: cast and hammered
  • Height: 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm) Diameter: 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Lorraine and Martin Beitler Foundation Gift and Judaica Acquisitions Fund, 1997-131
On view

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Miriam Cup

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A cup of wine is traditionally placed on the seder table for the Prophet Elijah, who, it is said, will return to herald the coming of the Messiah. In recent years, some families have added a second cup--this one filled with water for the Prophet Miriam, who was Moses' sister. The Torah relates that after the crossing of the Red Sea, with timbrel--a percussion instrument similar to a tambourine--in hand, Miriam led the women of Israel in songs and dances of praise to God. According to legend, because of Miriam's merit, a well followed the children of Israel and sustained them as they wandered through the desert. When Miriam died, the well dried up.

Amy Klein Reichert is an architect and exhibit designer. Her Miriam Cup was one of the first objects of Judaica she created. She has said, "What are the sounds of freedom? The wind rustling through grasses, the murmuring of exiles, desert sounds, a joyous song with a tambourine. Miriam's cup is a restless vessel, like her ancient well accompanying the people of Israel along their journey. It is heard as well as seen, its cymbals dancing in response to the slightest vibration of the table."

Discuss with students:

  • What do you notice about the design of Reichert's Miriam Cup? What do you think this object sounds like?

  • The artist has asked, "What are the sounds of freedom? The wind rustling through grasses, the murmuring of exiles, desert sounds, a joyous song with a tambourine." What do you think freedom sounds like?

  • The inclusion of the Miriam cup at the seder table is a relatively new ritual. Water is put in the cup at the seder to remember the role Moses' sister Miriam played in the Exodus. What does water symbolize to you? What other kinds of modern rituals do you know of?


Seder Plate

Seder Plate

Tiered Seder Set

Eastern Galicia or western Ukraine, 18th-19th century
  • Brass: cast and engraved; wood: painted and stained; ink on paper; silk: brocade; linen; cotton
  • 13 3/4 x 14 in. (35 x 35.5 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of the Danzig Jewish Community, D 115
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Seder Plate

Tiered Seder Set

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Tiered Seder Set


This seder set includes holders for the symbolic foods, a pedestal for Elijah's cup, and wooden trays down below to hold the matzot (the plural form of matzah). Rampant lions carry plaques displaying the blessings that are said over the symbolic foods. The curvature of their bodies and their notched paws echo the shapes of the grillwork surrounding the matzah trays. Although there are other tiered seder sets from the 19th century, this one is unique in its elaborate design and use of brass rather than silver as a primary material.

Discuss with students:

  • Look closely at this seder set. What kinds of designs do you see? How do you think this set was used?

  • This seder set includes holders for the symbolic foods and trays for the matzot. Compare it with Neil Goldberg's seder plate. How are these objects similar? How are they different?

  • If you were having a seder, which would you prefer to use? Why?



      Pharaoh's Daughter Receives the Mother of Moses

      James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)

      Pharaoh's Daughter Receives the Mother of Moses, c. 1896-1902

      • Gouache on board
      • 8 5/8 x 10 7/16 in. (22.5 x 26.5 cm)
      • The Jewish Museum, New York
      • Gift of the heirs of Jacob Schiff, X1952-146

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      Pharaoh's Daughter Receives the Mother of Moses

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      Pharaoh's Daughter Receives the Mother of Moses


      At the Passover seder, participants retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt through text, ritual, and symbolic foods. This painting, by the 19th-century French artist James Jacques Joseph Tissot, captures a particular moment in that story.

      Chapter 2 of Exodus tells the story of Moses' mother Yoheved, who sent her infant boy down the Nile in a basket because Pharaoh had ordered the death of all male Jewish babies. Moses' sister Miriam followed the basket, and when Pharaoh's daughter discovered the baby among the bulrushes, Miriam offered to find her a nursemaid from among the Hebrews. Unbeknownst to the princess, Miriam brought Moses' own mother to nurse and take care of him. In this painting, you can see Moses in a basket among the bulrushes. On the left stands the Pharaoh's daughter with her handmaidens; on the right, Miriam and Yoheved bow down before her.

      This is one of nearly 400 paintings by Tissot depicting stories from the Hebrew Bible. During the last two decades of his career, Tissot painted two large biblical series--one based on the Christian Bible and one on the Hebrew Bible. He based his work on sketches he had made of the landscape, archaeology, and people of Palestine and the Near East. Although Tissot's paintings are not always historically accurate, he created rich, romantic, accessible images that have even influenced contemporary visions of the Bible on film and television.

      Discuss with students:

      • What do you think is happening in this painting? Who are these people? How are they related? Where are they?

      • This painting is titled Pharaoh's Daughter Receives the Mother of Moses. How does the title help you understand the scene? Which woman do you think is Pharaoh's daughter? Why? Which one is Moses' mother?

      • How would you describe the artist's style--the way he painted the image? What choices did he make about the way he painted the figures? The background? What sort of atmosphere has he created?

      • What do you think will happen next in this picture?