web analytics
May 23, 2015 / 5 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Jewish Depictions Of Hell


Wecker-Menachem

There are countless other stories, from Reb Moshe Leib of Sossov (1744/5 -1807) leaping into hell and forcing the angels to order the Satan not to fuel the fires to the Maggid of Mezhirich (Reb Dov Ber of Mezhirich, 1710-1772) planning to teach Torah in gehinnom, which would draw the righteous to visit from heaven, effectively creating a satellite heaven there. Other Talmudic stories address the appearance of the Satan and demons, most notoriously, perhaps, in the Kabbalistic tractate of Chibbut Ha’Kever.

But it’s not surprising that many erroneously believe Jews don’t believe in hell.  What is interesting is that many in the art history community aren’t aware of Jewish representations of hell.

Ezekiel narrative at the synagogue at Dura Europos.

A fresco at the third century synagogue at Dura Europos (present-day Syria) doesn’t necessarily depict hell, but the gaping hole in the ground—from which the dry bones emerge, representing Ezekiel’s vision—could be a representation of She’ol. The Dura fresco is really difficult to decipher, which might be expected given the opacity of the text. Three bearded figures with curly brown hair, all dressed in red robes with green pants and white socks (or boots), occupy the central position, gesticulating and waving their arms as if they are about to fly away. Above them, four hands (cropped to the wrists) reach down, presumably angels or God refashioning the bodies. Beneath their feet lie several disembodied heads and hands, not yet restored, and in a chasm to the right, more severed heads and hands emerge from the abyss.

Although the narrative in Ezekiel 37 does refer to graves, it does not suggest that the resurrected bones came from any kind of pit. The artist (or artists) who frescoed Dura’s walls chose to render the abyss in a deep black color, which evokes the pit that swallowed Korach, Datan, and Abiram in Numbers 16:32.

Representations of demons as grotesques appear in various Hebrew manuscripts, such as the 14th century Barcelona Haggadah from Spain. Depictions of the angel of death also surface in haggadot. The 15thcentury Ashkenazi (“Washington”) Haggadah, named for its author Joel Ben Simeon (called Feibusch Ashkenazi), represents the 10 plagues of Egypt on the same page in which the text addresses the plague. For the final plague, the illuminator painted an Egyptian firstborn lying dead on the ground, with a figure bearing an enormous sword hovering above. This demon has no legs, and thus might be compared to another depiction of the plague of the death of the first born.

“The Plague of the first born.” Unknown illustrator of the Golden Haggadah. Catalonia, early 14th century: British Library.

The representation of “The Plague of the first born” in the early 14th century Golden Haggadah (Catalonia) also shows a truncated angel of death wielding a sword. The angel of the Golden Haggadah is far more stylized than that of the Ashkenazi Haggadah and has wings and wears a red robe. Both of these haggadot show an angel as the mediator of the final punishment on Egypt.

Yet there is also another visual and scriptural tradition with respect to the plague. In Meir Jaffe ha-sofer’s so-called First Cincinnati Haggadah (named for its location, Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati), also published in the 15th century in Germany, the final plague is represented by three corpses lying on the ground. A hand emerges from the clouds above bearing a sword. The disparity between the Ashkenazi haggadah and the Cincinnati haggadah can be accounted for by a discussion in the text of who killed the first born. The text simultaneously maintains that “God Himself” took the Jews out of Egypt alone, “and not an angel; and not a Seraph; without a messenger; but God Himself and alone with His glory,” per Exodus 11:4-5, and that, per Exodus 12:23, the “mashchit” (literally, “destroyer,” i.e. the Satan) is to be let loose on the population.

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Jewish Depictions Of Hell”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Tzipi Hotovely, new Deputy Foreign Minister.
Foreign Minister Hotovely: Tell the World ‘God Gave Israel to the Jews’
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

To what extent is your child displaying defiance?

Respler-052215

This therapist kept focusing on how “I could do better,” never on how we could make the marriage work.

South-Florida-logo

Mistrust that has lingered after the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri, has edged the issue forward.

“The observance of a kosher diet is a key tenet of Judaism, and one which no state has the right to deny,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Orthodox Union.

Two weeks of intense learning in the classroom about Israel culminated with Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Students attended sessions with their teachers and learned about history, culture, military power, advocacy, slang, cooking, and more.

The nations of the world left the vessel to sit rotting in the water during one of the coldest winters in decades and with its starving and freezing passengers abandoned.

Rabbi Yisroel Edelman, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, declared, “The Young Israel of Deerfield Beach is looking forward to our partnership with the OU. The impact the OU has brought to Jewish communities throughout the country through its outreach and educational resources is enormous and we anticipate the same for our community in Deerfield Beach as well.”

Our goal here is to offer you recipes that you can make on Yom Tov with ingredients you might just have in the house. Enjoy and chag sameach!

Gardening can be a healthy, wholesome activity for the whole family.

Unfortunately, the probability is that he will not see a reason to change as he has been acting this way for a long time and clearly has some issues with respecting women.

All of these small changes work their way into the framework of the elephant and the rider because they are helping the elephant move forward.

It’s hard not to be intrigued by recipes with names like Thanksgiving Stuffing Soup, Braised Chicken with Rhubarb Gravy and Vidalia Onion Fritters with Sambal Yogurt Dip.

More Articles from Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker

The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”

Weck-051812

It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.

The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?

Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/jewish-depictions-of-hell/2011/11/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: