Jewish Holiday Art
As people who highly appreciate their religion and religious holidays, Jews are traditionally turning out to expressing appreciation through art. This is how we good Judaica, or Jewish ceremonial art. This art is devoted to religion and showing the best side of each holiday.
There is a lot of work and thinking in ceremonial art. For Jews, not just anything is worth being dedicated to God. Throughout the years, Jews collected a significant number of ritual objects from different craftsmen and artists.
How Jews came to the idea of praising God through art? From the Hebrew comment of the Bible. These comments coming from Rabbis are known as midrash literature, and all promote the same – glorify God by performing its commandments; have a beautiful sukkah, lulav, tefillin, etc.
Art items used on Shabbat
On Shabbat (Saturday, the sixth day of the week), Jewish people use certain items to celebrate. We will list a couple of those for you.
- Kiddush cup – nicely decorated cups from China, made out of porcelain, silver, pewter, and nickel. Literally, Kiddush is “sanctification” or blessing recited over grape juice or wine on Shabbat
- Shabbat candlestick holders
- Hand washing cups
- Havdalah candle and candle holder
- Havdalah spice box
- Challah cutting board and cover
Traditionally, Shabbat is celebrated at home with a brief prayer ceremony of Havdalah.
Hanukkah art items
For sure, one of the most recognizable items in Jewish art culture is Menorah. It’s a candlestick used for Hanukkah. There are eight candles, and every night after the sun is down, you should light one of the candles. Besides Menorah, for Hanukkah, we have dreidels, gelt holder, and candles for Menorah.
Among others, we have a Sukkot Etrog box wrapped in silky fiber, stored in a special box, usually made from silver. Also, there is Sukkot art, such as craftwork and paintings for the wall you should add to your sukkah.
Jewish holiday paintings
Besides the traditional items, all the Jewish artists give great attention to holiday motives. Therefore, in Jewish paintings, you can find the motives of Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and many other holidays. One of the nicest paintings representing Jewish tradition is made by Polish painter Maurycy Gottlieb – Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. The painting was made back in 1878 and showed Jews during one of the most valuable holidays, Yom Kippur. The central figure is an artist himself, who is leaning his head on his hands while praying and asking for forgiveness.
One of the most famous Jewish artists, Marc Chagall, said he lived at a time when you had to choose if to hide your Jewish origins or express them publicly. He decided to show the world he is honored to be Jew through his art. That’s how we got paintings of Golgotha Crucifixion: Dedicated to Christ, Portrait of an Old Jew, Jew at Prayer. All these were showing Jewish tradition and Jewish prayers during Shabbat and other holidays.
Another painter, N. Henry Bingham, expressed his appreciation for Jewish holidays through his painting called Simchat Torah: Rejoicing with the Torah, Jewish holiday. This is an oil painting and was made as a part of Judaica art.
As you’ve had a chance to see, Jewish art is more than art in its basic meaning. It’s paintings, objects, handcrafts. We have to admire people who went above and beyond to preserve their tradition and leave a mark in the art world.