Judith lights eight nights

16 Aug

George Kahlert the Younger, “Hanukah Lamp,” 1760, German Parcel-Gilt Silver, auctioned by Sotheby’s 12/14/2011 (Lot 12)

George Kahlert the Younger, “Hanukah Lamp, detail of Judith,” 1760, German Parcel-Gilt Silver, auctioned by Sotheby’s 12/14/2011 (Lot 12)

The Hanukkiyah, Hanukah lamp, Menorah all refer to the same article: the eight-branched candelabrum that is used to celebrate the miracle of eight days of light from the oil that as only meant to burn for one day in the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.   The customary Hanukah lamp has nine flames: the ninth flame is the shamash (“the servant”) to light the others.   So the other lights are only to “publicize the miracle.”    the Hanukkiyah may be made out of any material, but many prefer metal, to remember that the Maccabees found eight metal spears left by the Greeks, from which they fashioned the first hanukkiyah – beating of spears into eternal light.  (and all my Jewish readers already know this but this goy needs a refresher)

This particular Hanukah lamp elicited comment from  of Jewish Press, who considered it to be remarkable in focus on the role of Jewish women.

Of special note is a German parcel-gilt (partially gold leafed over silver) silver Hanukah lamp from Breslau, 1758-60 (Lot 12).  Its ornate design and depiction of a menorah crowned by a conch shell is enhanced by two figures depicting Judith and her maidservant in their triumph over the evil general Holofernes.  The servant holds a pitcher, presumably for oil, and a long torch for lighting giving her an important role in the mitzvah of proclaiming the miracle.  Across from her stands Judith, beautifully dressed, who proudly holds an enormous sword in her right hand and dangles the head of Holofernes in her left.  The sumptuous design and execution proclaims the joy of the holiday almost as much as Judith’s beaming smile.  Her smile is the first overt expression of a woman joyously triumphant I can recall in Jewish art.

Yes, such joy upon whacking off the head of your enemy.  I wonder why we don’t re-enact this story during the holiday?

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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Cacciatore


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