An Illustration of Kiddush Levanah

Emor By :  Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary Posted On May 20, 2016 / 5776 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective | Prayer

Seder Birkat Hamazon (Mannheim, 1736)
Scribe: Simhah Pihem
ms. 8230

The middle of this week’s parashah (Lev. 23) details the cycle of the Jewish holidays. Each holiday is listed according to its month and its day. The months of the Hebrew calendar are strictly lunar, from new moon to new moon. Kiddush Levanah, a selection of prayers in honor of the new moon, is traditionally recited at the end of the first or second shabbat of each month.

The charming watercolor illustration of Kiddush Levanah above accompanies the text for this short service. It was included in an 18th century handwritten and hand-painted Seder Birkat Hamazon (or “bentsher,” as we often refer to these prayer booklets today); this decorated volume was created for a woman named Bella from Frankfurt. The inclusion of this monthly prayer in this short compendium along with the daily prayers of the Grace after Meals and the Shema recited at bedtime speaks to a symbolic significance of the moon: it waxes and wanes mirroring the fate of the Jewish nation throughout history.

Through Kiddush Levanah, as with reciting this chapter of parashat Emor, we reaffirm our commitment to sanctifying time and celebrating the Jewish holidays that are determined by the lunar calendar.

View the entire manuscript.