26 Spice boxes

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Polish, 19th century

silver, cast, embossed, engraved

acquisition, 1912

According to Jewish religious law, keeping the Shabbat is a cornerstone of Judaism. There are rich, strictly regulated rituals surrounding the Shabbat. The ceremony separating the Shabbat from the following week is called Havdalah, which in itself means separation. The ceremony consists of blessings recited over wine, candlelight and fragrant spices. The central blessing of the Havdalah says:  “Blessed are You (…) who separates the holy from the weekday, light from darkness, Israel from the nations, the seventh day from the six days of creation.”  These spice boxes in the shape of a pear tree are among the items consciously acquired for the collection of the museum.  By 1912 the museum already had ten spice boxes, most of them purchased, since Jewish families did not easily part from objects in regular use. The spice boxed in the collection had all been in the shape of towers, which was more common at the time. These two spice boxes are in in the form of pear trees, which was more common in Polish areas. By purchasing these items, the curators wanted to fill a gap in the collection at the time.