Friday, March 21, 2014

Arthur Szyk's Pesach

"Blessed are you, Lord our G-d Sovereign of the Universe who has kept us in life, sustained us and who has enabled us to reach this season." --A prayer from the Szyk Haggadah

In the 1930s Jewish artist
, Arthur Szyk, living in his native Poland set to work to create a beautiful Haggadah, a religious book used during the Passover meal. Passover or Pesach, has been observed by the faithful since antiquity. It is an experience that is near universal in the faith life of Jews the world over. With beautiful calligraphy, stunning imagery, Szyk (pronounced Schick) created what some regard as a masterly and most meaningful work of its era.

A prominent Jewish artist during the 1930s rise of Fascism in Europe, his book was an offer of hope to the Jews in that dark time. Using the tradition of the Haggadah as his guide with illuminated text, Szyk created a testament and visual commentary on the struggle for human freedom. The major figures of Torah are depicted from Moses to Ruth, triumph over the injustice and oppression around them. A volume of the original The Szyk Haggadah translated into
English, in re-print, now allows English speakers to come to know the work and vision of its creator, Arthur Szyk.

Pesach, that spring time festival of hope, renewal and redemption begins well in advance of the day. There are a number of preparations to be made. It is a spiritual pilgrimage; it has to be made. Pesach doesn' t just happen. A home based festival, it is one of cleaning out and cleaning up both of one's home and of one's spirit. The night of the meal, the Seder is special; it is a meal, an experience of hope, an education, a time for prayer and for communal sharing.

More than food needs to be prepared before the Seder meal. Each individual must prepare spiritually for the observance. Contemplating how each of us may be liberated from those things spiritual and material which enslave us is a principle task. What those things are leads to a discovery of how they may be either managed or eliminated so that one may shine as the truest work of G-d's creation. Following this or any Haggadah is a path to the spiritual progress of human freedom. It entails both the profound, the sacred and the mundane, the cleaning of the home, the heart and the prayers of freedom.

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