April brings with it one of the major Jewish spring festivals, Passover, or Pesach. Passover is a seven day festival that marks the beginning of spring and recalls the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
The Torah recounts how the Children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt by a Pharoah who feared them. After many generations of oppression, God spoke to an Israelite man named Moses and instructed him to go to Pharoah and let God's people go free. Pharoah refused, and Moses, acting as God's messenger, brought down a series of ten plagues on Egypt. The last plague was the Slaying of the Firstborn; God went through Egypt and killed each firstborn, but passed over the houses of the Israelites leaving their children unharmed. This plague was so terrible that Pharoah relented and let the Israelites leave. Pharoah then regretted his decision and chased the Children of Israel until they were trapped at the Sea of Reeds. But God instructed Moses to stretch his staff over the Sea of Reeds and the waters parted, allowing the Children of Israel to walk through on dry land. The waters then closed, drowning Pharoah and his soldiers as they pursued the Israelites.
The Passover seder, meaning order, retells the story of the exodus from Egypt and rich symbolism appears throughout. Near the end of the seder a cup of wine is poured for Elijah the Prophet and the front door is opened to welcome Elijah into the home. Elijah is often associated with a protective, peaceful presence and he is thought to be the prophet who will announce the advent of the Messianic age, a time of peace.
Ori Resheff (b. 1955) is a third generation silversmith from Tel Aviv. Resheff followed the path of his grandfather, Michael Filmus, and his mother, Judith Filmus Resheff, creating beautiful pieces of silver Judaica. Resheff went to on teach at the Bezalel Academy and his work can be found in museums and synagogues worldwide.
This piece is featured in our temporary exhibition Israel at 70: A History in Art and Artifacts which runs through June 3, 2018. More information can be found here