Getting inspired:

Leading the Passover Journey, the Seder’s Meaning Revealed, the Haggadah’s Story Told

by, Rabbi Nathan Laufer

This is a great source for learning about the objects on the seder table and the rituals associated with them.  His commentaries suggest many ideas that could be translated into beautiful and meaningful artworks.  For example:

1) See Pages 11-13 if you are interested in designing a seder plate

2) See Pages 22-24 if you are interested in designing a set of four cups of wine.

3) See page 26 if you are interested in designing the pitcher and basin for the ritual of washing the hands or making a cloth to dry the hands.

The Miracle Hater a Novel by Shulamit Hareven   (only 95 pages)

This telling of the story of the Exodus from the flight out of Egypt to the arrival in the Promised Land  is so powerful for its imagery, psychological reading of the people who made the journey and its surprising nuanced definition of ‘freedom.’   …a wonderful place for painters to imagine… I suggest reading this book alongside the JPS TANAKH (pages 85-151).

A Passover GO FORTH Haggadah AND LEARN by Rabbi David Silber with Rachel Furst

The Maggid section of the Haggadah (telling of the exodus story) is used to demonstrate how a written text can be approached. The interpretive possibilities offer artists many wonderful ideas with which to   reveal what has for so long been hidden.

New American Haggadah edited by Jonathan Safran Foer with new translation by Nathan Englander, designed by Oded Ezer with four running commentaries by Nathaniel Deutsch, Jeffrey Goldberg, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Lemony Snicket…..a wonderful collaborative work of art

Personal Musings

1) The words matzot and mitzvot are spelled exactly the same in Hebrew (mem, tsade, vav, tav).  These two words frame the Passover story:  bread of affliction/slavery and G-d’s commandments in the /freedom.  The letters and the vowel signs, the impact of visual similarity connecting beginnings and endings could be expressive of the Passover experience by a calligrapher.

2)  The Haggadah speaks of physical slavery and mental idolatry as two conditions that preclude freedom.  How does one who has never experience freedom imagine freedom? This might suggest a montage of contemporary idols and slaves.   Learn about a North Korean young man who escaped a prison camp because he was hungry and because the inflicted hunger had broken the bond between boy and mother.  Follow the link

3) How many times is the Passover story being told in the Haggadah?  This might be a research project for a poet, writer, calligrapher.

4) How does the Haggadah reflect the Book of Exodus in the Torah?

5) On the night before the exodus, the Israelites were commanded to gather as family/neighbor units and eat roasted lamb with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs until all the food is eaten. Freedom is experienced as a family/community.  Freedom in this context includes responsibilities for providing food for one another.

The setting for reenacting this experience is at the seder table with family and friends.    The seder table is set with a plate of three matzot, sometimes understood to represent the three ritual classes of the Jewish people: cohanim, leviim, yisraelim and  is covered.  The community is fractured when the middle matzah is broken, and the larger piece is wrapped up and put away for dessert.  The seder is not complete, there is no freedom, until the that broken piece, the afikomen, is returned and eaten by the participants.

6)  Rabbi Laufer suggests the large broken piece represents Moses and the smaller piece is Aaron.  Fabric artists might take up the challenge  of creating  specials covering for the 3 matzot and  special cloths for wrapping the afikomen.

7)  Who are the women who helped grasp the possibility of freedom and move the journey forward? What did they experience emotionally?…Midwives Shifrah and Puah, Yocheved, mother of Moses, Miriam, sister of Moses,  Pharaoh’s daughter and her maids, Zipporah….

Who are the women today driving the journey to freedom today?