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

Wedding Poem

Padua? ca. 1680
Bride: Esther daughter of David Gans Levi
Groom: Meir son of Abraham Luzzatto
Author: Hayyim Moses son of the late Isaiah Azriel Cantarini

Although Italian Jews were not granted official coats of arms, the social desirability of this status symbol, coupled with the absence of any overt prohibition, led many families to adopt their own unofficial crests. In honor of the groom, Meir Luzzatto, the artist formed this poem in the shape of the Luzzatto family emblem, a rooster crowned by three stars, standing on a stalk of grain. The outline of the rooster is composed of the traditional dedication by the poet to the bride and groom. The stalk of grain upon which the rooster stands incorporates a multiple play on words based on a Biblical verse (Genesis 27:37): "Behold, I have made him your lord (gevir), and all his brothers have I given to him for servants; and with grain (dagan) and wine have I sustained him". Instead of the Hebrew gevir, (lord), the poet writes gever, (rooster). The dagan, (grain) which in the verse sustains the gevir, here supports the gever as the stalk of grain that the rooster stands on. Additionally, the stars above the rooster serve not only as part of the groom's crest, but are also a play on the name of the bride, Esther, commonly rendered into Italian as Stella (star) or in Hebrew kokhav.