|John K Clark
|Queen’s Park Synagogue
Major Festivals - Text
The Spring Season
This is simply a spring window showing a hazy and still cool sun. The time of year when nature comes to life again after a long dark winter. The atmosphere is the coolness and freshness of early spring. The new growth on the earth and in the waters combine to give nourishment and sustenance.
On the first day of Pesach prayers for dew are said.
A part of the "Song of Solomon"
"For Lo the winter is past, the rain is over and gone,
In the three agricultural festivals; Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkot, the seven types of
agricultural produce; wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates,
are shown during three stages.
"The righteous will flourish like a palm tree",(PS 92:12).
The Season of Freedom
An alternative version of the above passage from the Song of Solomon reads;
"for the winter of bondage has passed
This is only now symbolically linked with nature, the emphasis is now on national redemption.
"..and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself."
however it should also be seen as symbolic of the "Angel of Death" which passed over the homes of the Israelites during the final and most
devastating plague on the Egyptian captors. The killing of the first-born. This Passing
Over is regarded as the meaning of Pesach.
Festival of Matzot - Seder
This panel represents the Seder Meal. This is the main meal of the festival, held on the evening of Passover. Its origin is extremely ancient and possibly goes back to the time of Abraham. And certainly to the time of the Exodus.
The symbolism begins at the base of the window with the ritual burning of any leaven which is in the house.
In Exodus 12 it is written
15. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; howbeit the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosover eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
The house is searched rigorously for any leaven or anything containing leaven.
There is a token of the heating of cooking implements in the fire, (Koshering) until they become red hot. Above that is boiling water in which other implements are being heated, (another method of Koshering)
Above this is the main Seder dish containing:
Matzot - unleavened bread, commemorates the hasty exodus from Egypt.
Seder Dish comprises.
The shankbone - A Roasted bone placed on RHS, represents the Paschal Lamb.
The egg - Hard-boiled egg, slightly roasted placed on LHS represents the second lamb which was sometimes needed on Passover when there was not enough for the assembled group. It did not carry the same restrictions as the Paschal lamb.
The bitter herbs - Horseradish symbolizing the bitterness of bondage, this is placed in the centre of the dish. Lettuce can also be used as at first it tasted sweet then becomes bitter.
Charoset - compound of apples nuts cinnamon and wine. symbolizing the mortar used by the slaves in their labour.
Karpass (vegetable) - usually parsley which is dipped into salt water.
Salt water - represents the tears shed by the Israelites.
Three Matzot, known as the bread of affliction. The centre one is broken and a piece hidden. Known as the Afikomen.
4 Cups of wine - Drunk in token of the 4 expressions of redemption.
and I shall bring out
and I shall deliver
and I shall repent
and I shall tame.
During Passover, wine represents as follows,
The first cup as the Kiddush
The second in hope that the next Passover may take place in the Messianic kingdom.
Third is part of the grace after meals,
Fourth looks to ultimate redemption.
The cup of Elijah - 5th cup of wine kept for Elijah.
The Leviathan (great fish or whale) and Behemoth (the great red ox) although mostly associated with Sukkot seemed to be also appropriate here representing the Messianic age which is hoped and prayed for at each Passover. The fifth cup of wine, here represented by the golden cup is designated for Elijah the Prophet. It is believed that before the beginning of the Messianic age, Elijah will return and it is expected that he will return during Pesach.
The scales are for one of the four times of judgement mentioned in the introduction. This time for the Day of Judgement for grain.
This is also the time of the beginning of the counting of the Omer.
The Giving of the Torah
This window focuses on the event on Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the Decalogue.
By tradition the Giving of the Torah occurred 49 days after the escape from Egypt.
It is considered to be the fulfilment of the Exodus.
The central image is the tablets of the law. Above are horns blowing, lightning flashing and a pillar of fire descending on the mountain.
It is also said that the mountain-side flowered.
At the base of the window is the burning bush recalling another mountain-side at an earlier time. This is used as a symbol for the Calling of Moses and to bring together the whole series of events culminating in the receiving of the Torah.
Above is the golden calf surrounded by darkness.
First Fruits in Israel
As with the Spring Season the main symbols in this window are again the seven biblical species now in their fruit stage.
The two main symbols are the palm and the tree with several species.
At the base of the window a sickle is being used to cut wheat giving a link to the next window.
As with the Spring Season Window, the colouring here emphasises the season of the year. Therefore it is warm and bright.
The scales represent The Time of Judgement for the fruit of the trees.
Since it is the summer festival, the people brought the first produce of the fields to the sanctuary as thanksgiving.
"The choicest first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God."Exodus 23:19.
Wheat Harvest in Israel
This and The First Fruits window have the colouring for a summer harvest festival.
This window emphasises the wheat harvest which is the background to the story of Ruth which is read during Shavuos. She is represented by a hand gleaning behind the sickle.
15. When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed the men to glean right among the sheaves. 'Do not find fault with her,' he added;
16. 'you may even pull out some ears of grain from the handfuls as you cut, and leave them for her to glean;...Ruth 2:
At the top on either side is a representation of the burnt offerings which would have been offered at the Temple in Jerusalem.
"Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are homeborn in Israel shall dwell in booths" Lev 23:42.
The Booth known as a Tabernacle or a Sukkah is traditionally built in the garden. The most important part of the booth is the roof (sekhakh) through which you must be able to see the stars if the sky is clear. It is not important which trees the branches for the roof come from.
By tradition the booth is a symbol of the destroyed temple and a reminder of the wanderings in the wilderness.
It should be decorated festively and fruits are hung from the roof.
Ingathering of Crops
"..... on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of the Lord seven days;..." Lev 23:39.
The arched area of this panel has the other possible interpretation of the Sukkah, Cloud by day and fire by night. It also contains a reminder of the Exodus in the form of the parting of the sea as in window No 6. Again the crops shown here are the seven types of produce which have been represented throughout the agricultural windows have now been harvested and put in storage. Sukkot was widely and joyfully celebrated in the days of the Temple. It was considered the most joyful of the festivals and was sometimes called simply the Festival. The four species were identified with the final harvest the fertility of the land and for the giving of thanks to God. Flowers and fruit are symbols of joy.
The Four Species
"And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." Lev 23:40.
The four species, consisting of the lulav, etrog, hadass, arava. dominate this window by circling the arch, this refers to the waving in all directions of the four species during prayers. The scales are again shown as a time of judgment for water. The lulav is used on the first 7 Days of Sukkos excepting the Sabbath. The four species were identified with the final harvest the fertility of the land and the thanksgiving. It is used by the Reader (Chazan) in the synagogue service. It is waved in all directions indicating the whole universe. This window is also dominated by Hoshanah Raba the 7th Day of Sukkot, the day of judgement for water. The temple ritual reached a climax on this day for prayers for water and there was a water libation ceremony over the alter in the Temple. In ancient days the water was drawn from a well at the foot of Jerusalem, the vessel used was a golden flask. approximately 3 pints. At the same time, Levites played trumpets and harps, flutes and cymbals. At each part of the water libation ritual, priests blew trumpets. The Hoshanah is a cluster of willow twigs. In the days of the Temple these were branches with which the ground surrounding the alter was circled and beaten with the willow branches. In more recent times after a procession with the Torah around the Bimah, etrog and the lulav are laid aside and willow branches taken up, five of them bound with a leaf from the lulav. At the end of the Hoshana prayers the worshippers beat the branches on the ground and chant a ritual passage. According to ritual law it is necessary only to beat them five times but the mass of the congregation goes on beating until all the leaves have fallen off. Everyone performs this ceremony including women and children. Some carry the twigs home to act as a broom during the searching for Chometz on the next Passover.
Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law)
"Let us be glad and rejoice with this law, For it is strength and light for us"
The day is called Shemeni Azeret the eighth day of solemn assembly. Later Shemeni Azeret also came to be known as Simchat Torah "Rejoicing of the Torah". In the Diaspora this name was applied to the second day of the festival sometime after the 10th Cen C.E. In the prayer book it is still referred to as Shemeni Azeret. Although it is now considered as the concluding part of Sukkot it is in fact a separate festival. A tradition grew in this period of celebrating the ending of the annual reading of the Torah. This was justified by reference to the Midrash which described how Solomon had celebrated when he was granted wisdom. The people should therefore celebrate when they have received the wisdom of the Torah. This theme is symbolised in the window.
The centre of Jewish worship focuses on the Torah, which is housed in a specially
built and often elaborately decorated ark. The scrolls are rolled toward their centre