Sonnets of Celebration: Hebrew Wedding Poems and Riddles in Honor of the Bride and Groom

Wedding Riddle

Rome? ca. 1770
Bride: Mazal Tov daughter of the late Yekutiel Tagliacozzo
Groom: Moses Jacob son of the late Mordecai Rossello

Poems were typically presented to the newlyweds during the wedding festivities. Notations on some poems suggest they may have been set to music. Whether sung or recited, they were performed either by their author or by a group of actors and singers. This lavishly decorated example contains the notations: 1 à solo and 2 à solo indicating that the poem was meant to be performed by two voices. Above the text are three classical figures. The figure on the right is the personification of Constancy. Armed with the sword of righteousness, she embraces a column, a symbol of stability. The flames at her feet are representative of her unshakeable faith. In the center is an image of Charity, a woman nursing an infant with another child at her side. The figure on the left holding a compass may represent Urania, the muse of Astronomy. A sash decorated with the signs of the zodiac encircles her body. This figure is a play on the bride's name, Mazal, the Hebrew word for constellation.

The lower part of the page contains a riddle, written in fourteen stanzas. The riddle is introduced by three separate elements. In the center is a zurat ha-hiddah, containing an image of the double-faced Janus, the Roman deity of dwellings and beginnings. To his right is a Hebrew motto and to his left is an Italian interprete. These two rhymed compositions provide further clues to the solution of the puzzle.