New on display: Pesach Haggadah and a map of Israel  1 april 2014

The Portugese Synagoge always exhibits special books from Ets Haim in the  treasure chambers. This time, a few books on Portuguese songs and parodies for Purim are displayed in the exhibition case. 

Pesach Haggadahהגדה של פסח Haggadah sjel Pesach. Pesach Haggadah, Amsterdam, 1695.

The Haggadah tells the story of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt and how God assigned Moses to guide the Israelites through the desert to the Holy Land. According to Jewish tradition this liberation is commemorated with the celebration of the Passover festival (Pesach). The Amsterdam Haggadah has been made for the Ashkenazic as well as the Sephardic congregation. The Grace after Meals (Birkat Hamazon), for example, is represented in both traditions. In this Haggadah one can also find the abridged version of Isaac Abravanel's (1437-1508) commentary.
It was for the first time in the history of the Jewish Book that copper engravings were used instead of woodcuts. This achievement is proudly mentioned on the title page as the 'elevation of light above darkness'. The engravings were made by the proselyte Abraham ben Jacob, based on the designs for the Protestant Bible of Mattheus Merian the Elder (1593-1650). The Amsterdam Haggadah was revolutionary in its kind and has had and still has a great influence on the lay-out and illustrations of many modern Haggadot.

Map of IsraelMap of Israel. Part of: הגדה של פסח Haggadah shel Pesach. Pesach Haggadah, Amsterdam, 1695.

Part of the Haggadah displayed here, is a map of the Holy Land with the routes that the Israelites took from Egypt to Israel. It also contains a list of the 41 places where the People of Israel paused during their journey through the desert. The Bible names 42 places and it is not clear why Abraham bar Jacob, the maker of the map, decided to represent only 41. Just the copper etchings in the Haggadah itself can be traced back to Mattheus Merian. This map, however, finds its origin in a much older map made by  the illustrious mapmaker Christian Adrichom (1522-1585). The map on display is oriented eastwards with the Mediterranean at the bottom, Damascus to the left and Egypt to the right. Israel itself is divided into tribes. Bottom right, one sees the goddess of the Nile, riding a crocodile, and a ship in the storm. As an example for this ship, Abraham bar Jacob used Adrichom's map, but the figure of Jonah, who was saved miraculously, goes back to Merian's etchings.