Jewish ceremonial art
Jewish ceremonial art, also known as Judaica refers to an array of objects used by Jews for ritual purposes. Because enhancing a mitzvah by performing it with an especially beautiful object is considered a praiseworthy way of honoring God's commandments, Judaism has a long tradition of commissioning ritual objects from craftsmen and artists.
The tradition of artistically embellished haggadahs, the Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder, dates back to the Middle Ages. The Sarajevo Haggadah of 1350 is a celebrated example. Major contemporary artists have produced notable haggadahs, such as the Szyk Hagaddah.
The menorah (or hanukkiah) used on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is perhaps the most widely produced article of Jewish ceremonial art. The Lindo lamp is a particularly fine example by an 18th-century silversmith. Contemporary artists often design menorahs, such at the gold-plated brass menorah with 35 moveable branches designed by Yaacov Agam. A silver menorah by Ze'ev Raban from the 1930s is in the Judaica Collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art.
The close of the Jewish Shabbat is marked by the brief prayer ceremony of Havdalah, which usually takes place in the home. Part of the ceremony requires sniffing a sweet-smelling spice or plant. In Jewish communities around the Mediterranean, a sprig of a sweet-smelling shrub was customarily used, in Northern Europe by the twelfth century there are literary references of the use of a specially designed spice box or container. The oldest surviving spice boxes for Havdalah date to the mid-sixteenth century. The Jewish Museum (New York) has a German example c. 1550 thought to originate in Frankfurt am Main.
Notable Judaica collections
Museums with notable collections of Jewish ceremonial art include the Israel Museum, the Jewish Museum (London), the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris, the Musée d'the Jewish Museum in Prague, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum (New York) and the Musée alsacien in Strasbourg. The Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco.
- Jewish Ceremonial Art, Abram Kanof, New York, 1979
- Luminous Art: Hanukkah Menorahs of The Jewish Museum, Susan L. Braunstein, Jewish Museum, New York, 2004
- Lighting the Way to Freedom: Treasured Hanukkah Menorahs of Early Israel, Aaron Ha'tell, Yaniv Ben Or, Devora Publishing (November 29, 2006)
- Art of Hanukkah, Nancy M. Berman, Universe, 1998
- Agam Brass Menorah
- Mending Wounds in the Judaic Collection – North Carolina Museum of Art | Untitled
- The Jewish Museum - Spice Container, Judaica, Ceremonial Art
- The Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco