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Spice Container

Spice Container

Zelig Segal (Israeli, b. 1933)
Jerusalem, Israel, 1986
  • Silver: cast and pierced
  • 3 3/4 x 2 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. (9.5 x 6.4 x 9.5 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Sanford C. Bernstein Foundation Fund, 1995-72
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Spice Container

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Since at least the 12th century CE, people have created special containers for besamim (Hebrew for "spices"), the spices used at the havdalah service that concludes the Sabbath. Zelig Segal's contemporary spice container comprises simple geometric forms. Like havdalah itself, Segal's work is a study in contrasts: round versus square, rough versus smooth, two dimensions versus three. Segal also plays with the contrast of soft and hard: He has created the illusion of flexibility in the metal plate by hammering out protrusions in its hard surface.

Discuss with students:

  • What shapes and textures do you see on this spice container? What material do you think it is made of?

  • Does it look like other spice containers you have seen? How is it similar or different?

  • Could you imagine this object on the table in Kaufmann's painting Friday Evening? Why or why not?




Linen

Studio Armadillo: Hadas Kruk (Israeli, b. 1970), Anat Stein (Israeli, b. 1972), Sharon Samish-Dagan (Israeli, b. 1971)
Petah Tikva, Israel, 2002
  • Linen: sewn and starched
  • 78 1/2 x 43 x 12 1/2 in. (199.4 x 109.2 x 31.8 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Contemporary Judaica Acquisitions Committee Fund, 2004-41
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Linen

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Linen


In Linen, by Hadas Kruk, Anat Stein, and Sharon Samish-Dagan of Studio Armadillo, a white tablecloth hangs in the air above where the Sabbath table should be. The forms of the candlesticks and challah loaves recall the traditional observance reflected in Kaufmann's painting Friday Evening. However, in this symbolic work, it is not just the table and challah that are covered in cloth. The white linen covering outlines the wine bottle, wine cups, and dishes set for the Sabbath meal. The ghostly forms suggest the hovering presence of the sh'chinah--the divine spirit. But this work also raises questions about sanctity and ritual. What is it that makes the Sabbath table holy?

Compare Linen with Kaufmann's painting Friday Evening:

  • What do the two works have in common?

  • How would you describe the mood of Linen?

  • Why do you think it is called Linen?

  • Why do you think the tablecloth was designed to hang in mid-air? What effect does this create?

  • What makes a Sabbath table special? Is it the tablecloth? The candles? The ritual objects that adorn it? Or the family that gathers around?



Sabbath/Festival Lamp

Sabbath/Festival Lamp

Johann Valentin Schüler (1650-1720; master 1680)
Frankfurt am Main (Germany), 1680-1720
  • Silver: cast, repoussé, and engraved
  • Height: 22 1/4 in. (56.5 cm) Diameter: 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, JM 37-52
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Sabbath/Festival Lamp

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In medieval Europe, both Jewish and non-Jewish families used star-shaped oil lamps to light their homes. The lamp was filled with oil, and a wick was placed at each point of the star. The basin below was meant to catch any dripping fuel.

By the 16th century, such lamps fell out of use among non-Jews, but Jews continued to use them to kindle the flames that begin the Sabbath and festivals. This kind of lamp came to be known as a Judenstern, German for "Jewish star."

This elaborate Judenstern was crafted by Johann Valentin Schuler of Frankfurt. If you look closely above the base of the central shaft, you'll see a series of figures alternating with balustrades. Each one of these figures is holding up an object representing either the Sabbath or a Jewish holiday. One figure, for example, carries the Tablets of the Law, which symbolizes the festival of Shavuot.

Discuss with students:

  • What kinds of designs and decorations do you see on this object? Are there any clues about how or when it was used?

  • This is an oil lamp that was used to kindle Sabbath and holiday lights. Why might people have used a lamp like this, rather than the candles used today?

  • How do you think this lamp worked?