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March 29, 1985 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-03-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

2 - hriday- , — March 2g,=498`5-

- THE -1 aE4Rbli JEWI SH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Haggadah On The Agenda

What a glorious season — glorified by
the festivities marking mankind's quest
for freedom introduced by the Jewish Fes-
tival of Liberty, the Passover joys with
their thrills for people of all ages and the
specific opportunities for holiday joyful-
ness for children.
This is also a great occasion for dedica-
tion to art collecting, and for those who
have made it a life's habit to collect Hag-
gadot, Passover is a heyday for faddists.
But collecting Haggadot is more than
a fad. It specifies recognition of a specific
artistic attainment — the illustrated Hag-
gadah having become a symbol that makes
the Passover especially glorious.
There are many treasures in the Hag-
gadot collection, and especially notewor-
thy currently is the just issued Ashkenazi
Haggadah, which has already served
among the most noteworthy produced in
five centuries of artistry in Haggadah-
making and now enriches the art creations
produced by publisher Harry N. Abrams.
The absolutely beautifully produced
Harry N. Abrams Ashkenazi Haggadah,
provided with an equally attractive boxed
cover, has the Hebrew inscription on the
traditional right side, the English transla-
tion of the left, similarly printed on the
protective box container, which reads:
The Ashkenazi Haggadah is a He-
brew manuscript of the mid-Fifteenth Cen-
tury from the collections of the British Li-
brary written and illuminated by Joel Ben
Simeon called Feibusch Ashkenazi. With a
commentary attributed to Eleazar Ben
Judah of Worms."
This is a remarkable summary of
authorship and it invites study of an il-
luminated manuscript that assumes a
place of major importance among similar
documentaries related to Passover.
This unusual Haggadah is among the
first of the very important illustrated
Passover stories to be reproduced in fac-
simile. Like the Darmstadt Haggadah,
also reproduced in facsimile only a decade
ago, the pages of the Ashkenazi Haggadah
evidence the stains of wine that were spil-
led by the users of the old document.
It should be noted that the Darmstadt
Haggadah was offered for sale in a limited
edition of 500 copies at $600 each. The 24-
carat gold letterings boosted the price in a
matter of three years to $1,600, and for this
reviewer it is among his prized possessions.
The introduction to the Ashkenazi
Haggadah, by David Goldstein, curator of
Hebrew manuscripts and printed books at
the British Library, London, makes fre-
quent reference to the Darmstadt Hag-
gadah and similar historic facsimilies.
The introduction by Goldstein adds
immensely to the significance of the
Ashkenazi Haggadah. Its account of the
Passover observance, the historic values
related to the festival, its importancein the
practices and observances of the Jewish
people, provides scholarship to the labors
of a man steeped in research.
Goldstein, in his introduction, pro-
vides the definition for the Ashkenazi
Haggadah stating:
"The title of the Haggadah repre-
sented here is drawn from the name
adopted by its scribe while he was living
outside Germany. He was naturally known
there as 'the German,' or 'Ashkenazi.' "
Curator Goldstein proceeds to state
about this colorful Haggadah:
"Three factors make it famous: its
large size, which gave an unusual scope for
the art of the calligrapher and allowed
room for a substantial commentary; the
beauty of the Hebrew script, which varies
from the majestic to the minute and is used
not only to communicate the text, but
forms part of the graceful and quite indi-
vidual design of each double-page spread;
and the illustration and ornamentation

`Ashkenazi Haggadah' A Treasured Gem

which . . . were the works of more than one
artist.
"The colophon gives the name of the
artist as `Feibusch, called Joel,' no doubt
the same man as Joel Ben Simeon
Feibusch Ashkenazi, of Bonn, and Col-
ogne, of whom no fewer than 11 manu-
scripts (six of them Haggadot) are known,
nine of which survived.'
The informative introductory essay
has this interesting allusion to the wine
stains on the historic art work:
"Over and above its high aesthetic
value, this haggadah possesses another
quality which is more difficult to define. It
derives from our knowledge that the
manuscript was used many times at a
Seder table for the purpose of fulfilling the
Biblical commandment of observing the
Passover. The wine stains, which one
might think detract from the manuscript's
appearance, actually add an extra dimen-
sion, and demonstrate that the beauty of
script and image was chiefly intended to
enhance the fulfillment of a religious duty.
This manuscript ensured that duty could
be carried out with love and with
enthusiasm."
A definitive chapter in this immensely
artistic work provides a history of the Hag-
gadah, supplementing the basic facts
about the artist Feibusch, his travels, his
numerous other works. Thus, the Harry N.
Abrams facsimile serves as a notable con-
tribution to this year's Passover celebra-
tion and will continue as an immensely
valuable element in the artistic gifts in-
spired by the Festival of Freedom. The re-
produced illustrations provide only a mod-
icum of examples of the creative works left
as legacies by the Ashkenazi Haggadah's
artist.



Haggadot For
Vegetarians, Children

Just before Passover, a variety of
Haggadot made their appearance.
Many, if not most of the Passover
Seder guide books, are for children. The
Union of American Hebrew Congrega-
tions, under the editorship of former De-
troiter Rabbi Daniel Syme, usually issues
a delightful book or two.
There are many that are challenging,
like the one just produced by and for veg-
etarians. It is a thought-provoking as well
as informative volume.
And there are some children's books
that will not only delight the adults but
will prove as valuable and informative for
them as they are for the very young.
Exemplary in the narratives intended
for the youth that are applicable to all ages
is Ask Another Question by Miriam
Chaikin (Houghton Mifflin Clarion
Books). Miss Chaikin tells the story and
meaning of Passover and does it so
explicitly, with a simplicity so definitive,
that adults will delight to share it with the
youth. It will do the elders much good
themselves to imbibe this well-told ac-
count.
Miss Chaikin relates the Passover
story and tells how the customs arose in
various lands. At the same time she deals
with the quest for freedom, giving em-
phasis to the Passover as an initiator of the
libertarians cherished in the celebration of
the Festival of Freedom. Hers is among the
excellent Passover books meriting recom-
mendation.
Taking into account current history,
Miss Chaikin's historical record takes into
account the Holocaust, tells how Passover
celebrants resisted the tyrannical, pays
honor to the survivors from Nazism.
Miss Chaikin's Ask Another Question
is attractively illustrated by Marvin
Friedman.

The Ho Lakhma page from the Ashkenazi Haggadah.

The cook book is another element of
fascination in the Passover experience.
One such for children is especially attrac-
tive. Matzah Meals by Judy Tabs and Bar-
bara Steinberg, illustrated by Chari R.
McLean (Kar-Ben Copies) is the "Passover
Cookbook for Kids" that will inspire the
mothers and grandmothers as well.
The fact that 72 pages could be devoted
to the subject, that the book contains re-
cipes for scores of delicacies immediately
recommends this book. Besides, it begins
with the Passover story, with a guide to
setting the table for the Seder and the
Seder symbols.
This is a collective effort that will add
to the glories of Passover in the youthful
ranks, thereby also inspiring the elders.
It's a small book inviting immense pleas-
ure.
The vegetarians have come forth with
a demand for recognition, emphasizing
their place at the Seder without abusing
their specific privileges. Haggadah for the
Liberated Lamb by Roberta Kalechofsky
(Micah Publications) is the Passover regu-
lation for Jewish vegetarians.
The claim for recognition and respect
is understandable. Vegetarianism is grow-
ing in Jewish ranks. As the publishers of
this volume indicate, seven percent of the
Israeli armed forces are vegetarians.
It is indicated that suitable substi-
tutes for the lamb in the culinary Passover
preparations are grapes, olives and grains
of unfermented barley for the shankbone.
The following excerpt from the
Kalechofsky volume shows the emphasis
on the importance of vegetarianism for
Jews and the propriety of applying it to the
Seder and the entire Passover observance:
Among the intuited visions in

prophetic writing is the need for
recognition between natural man
and historical man to heal the
human condition. The vision from
Isaiah, so often quoted, but rarely
felt, is found in differing ex-
pressions through prophetic writ-
ing, and compels us to rethink the
relationship the prophets sensed
between human justice and a just
world for animals.
The practice of vegetarianism
is a good place to begin this proc-
ess of healing. Merely by ceasing to
eat meat, merely by practicing re-
straint, we have the power to end a
painful industry. We do not have to
bear arms to end this evil, we do
not have to contribute money, we
do not have to sit in jail or go to
meetings or demonstrations or
engage in acts of civil disobedi-
ence. Most often, the art of repair-
ing the world, of healing moral
wounds, is left to heroes and tzad-
dikim, saints and people of un-
usual discipline. But here is an ac-
tion every mortal can perform .. .
surely it is not too difficult!
Moreover, vegetarianism is
less a break with tradition than a
return to an historical trend. Ex-
cept for the reference to the pasc-
hal lamb, there is no command-
ment to eat meat in the Bible, nor is
there any blessing to be said for the
eating of animal flesh. ". . Meat is
never included among the staple
diet of the children of Israel, which
is confirmed by agricultural prod-
ucts, of which the constantly re-

Continued on Page 22

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