The Visitors

In honor of the first night of the Passover holiday, here is an excerpt from the source of these illustrations in my book Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009):

‘The Visitors’ featured in this illustration for Parasha B’Shallakh are Eliahu Ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet) and Miriam, Moses’sister. Elijah, flying from house to house is the perpetually honored guest at every Passover seder. Attired in clothing reminiscent of Eastern Europe, Elijah is the perpetual guest at the Passover seder. He carries an ‘Elijah’cup customarily set aside for him and a candelabra, the light of tradition. To emphasize his immortality, the prophet also wears the satchel which Moses carried on his exile from Egypt. Below Elijah is a paschal lamb, represented as a sacrificial symbol in the traditional seder plate.

The ‘Miriam’ in this illustration is the 20th century counterpart of Moses’ sister. In similar period costume, she holds her special cup with her ancient name written in Mesha (Paleo-Hebrew) script, uniting past and present. The cup commemorates Miriam’s well, one of ten magical objects called into existence on the sixth day of Creation. This phenomenon appeared to the Hebrews during their journeys only as needed. Including a Miriam’s Cup on the seder table has become traditional in recent decades as a reminder of the equal and important role of women in the time of redemption. In honor of her namesake ‘Miriam’ is shown with a tambourine. The object below her is a ‘mayim achronim’ or ritual washing implement.

For all of you that observe this holiday that is one of the cornerstones of the Jewish year, I wish you a joyous and thoughtful journey through the next eight days…

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