- Publisher: J Levine/Millennium
- Pages: 104
- Illustrations: Full color throughout
- Contents: Includes a black ribbon marker
- Dimensions: 9 3/4'' x 10''
- Format: Hardcover
- Author: Mark Fisch
- ISBN: 9780674051171
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During Passover, the Haggadah is the book that is read at the Seder meal and forms the structure of the evening. It exists in countless versions, each containing the same text, but differing in commentary and emphasis in order to appeal to different audiences and interests. The Old Master Haggadah uses seventeenth century old master paintings to illustrate selections from the Old Testament. Generally, each of the paintings illustrates an Old Testament scene, and each entry describes the artist, as well as the background to the biblical story shown. Many of the artists are familiar to most readers, such as Rembrandt, Rubens, and Velazquez. Others, though famous in their day, and even presently hanging in the great museums of the world, have fallen out of general knowledge. These great painters, in the custom of the day, drew heavily on the Old Testament for inspiration, relying on the viewing public's familiarity with the incidents depicted, as well as opportunities for pictorial drama that the biblical text afforded. The selections are themselves from different sections of the Old Testament, and rarely have a direct bearing on the text of the Haggadah. However, the first twenty entries tell the narrative of the Jewish nation from the flood all the way through the patriarchs, enslavement, exodus, the giving of the laws, and the entry to the Promised Land. It is critical to understand this entire historical sweep to grasp the meaning of Passover and the purpose of the Seder, but many of these stories are now vaguely familiar to most participants. The final ten selections illustrate a variety of stories and events taking place after the entry into Israel. These scenes are intended to give a sense of the varied and full history that awaited the Jews in the Promised Land.
Each year dozens of new editions of the Haggadah are published, and it is not at all uncommon for a typical Seder table to be laden with as many editions as there are participants. The hopeful purpose of all of them, with this addition being no exception, is the same: to make the Seder more accessible, more enjoyable, and more meaningful to those gathered than the simple recitation solely of the traditional text would accomplish. The combination of the full-page sumptuous illustrations from old master paintings with the traditional text certainly makes this version of the Haggadah a delightfully unique addition.
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