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Nomi Schneck

May 13, 2018


Dr. Pamela Patton
Art, Culture, and Identity in Medieval Spain
“And You Shall Tell Your Children”: Intergenerational Storytelling and Historical Memory in
Medieval Iberian Haggadot
Illuminated Iberian haggadot are valuable textual and visual sources for reconstructing
medieval Jewish identity. Over ten extant illuminated haggadot trace back to late thirteenth and
fourteenth-century Iberia. While the concentration of these manuscripts lends itself to studies on
the social life of medieval Iberian Jewry, scholarship such as Katrin Kogman-Appel’s
Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain: Biblical Imagery and the Passover Holiday has
centered on iconographic sources for the extensive biblical cycles placed at the beginning or end
of the manuscripts.1 Shifting away from artistic sources, Marc Michael Epstein’s The Medieval
Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination,2 presents broad themes from four
haggadot, such as eschatology, covenant, and redemption. Epstein’s work remains tightly within
iconographical analyses, decontextualized from the political and social landscape of the
manuscripts. A number of recent studies have moved beyond an iconographic focus to consider
how power dynamics are visualized in the haggadah imagery, through exploring questions of
assimilation, 3 gender,4 and the status of Muslims.5 These works show the potential of the
haggadot for studies on social history, while at the same time, do not take advantage of the full

range of sources that may contextualize the haggadah images, from comparative iconography, to
1
Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain: Biblical Imagery and the Passover
Holiday (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press), 2006. Through analyzing the
iconography of the pictorial narratives of six haggadot, Kogman-Appel argues that the manuscripts rely
on Christian iconography but insert midrashic additions while removing Christological symbolism. Other
2
Epstein, Marc Michael, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination, (New
Haven: Yale UP), 2011.
3
Harris, Julie A., “Good Jews, Bad Jews, and No Jews at All: Ritual Imagery and Social Standards in the
Catalan Haggadot,” in Church, State, Vellum, and Stone: Essays on Medieval Spain in Honor of John
Williams, ed. Therese Martin & Julie A. Harris (Leiden: Brill), 2005.
4
Harris, Julie A., “Making Room at the Table: Women, Passover and the Sister Haggadah (London,
British Library, MS Or. 2884),” Journal of Medieval History 42.1 (2016), 131-153.
5
Barlow, Jane, “The Muslim Warrior at the Seder Meal: Dynamics Between Minorities in the Rylands
Haggadah,” in Postcolonising the Medieval Image, ed. Eva Frojmovic and Catherine E. Karkov (London:
Routledge), 2017.
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contemporary Jewish legal and philosophical sources, as well as the text of the haggadah itself.
Through focusing on both text and image, this paper will demonstrate how the haggadah imagery
articulates a nuanced sensitivity to contemporary Jewish identity and practice, not only through
inserting midrashic visual details and removing typological ones, but also by reflecting daily life
and values of the Jewish community of medieval Iberia.
As a case-study for the growing field of pre-modern family history, this paper will focus
on the status of children in the nine Iberian haggadot whose images are accessible through online
catalogues and facsimiles: the Golden Haggadah (BL, MS Add. 27210),6 the Kaufmann
Haggadah (MS 422),7 the Sarajevo Haggadah,8 the Sister Haggadah (BL, MS Or. 2884),9 the
Barcelona Haggadah (BL, MS Add. 14761),10 the Brother Haggadah (BL, MS Or. 1404),11 the
Rylands Haggadah (John Rylands Library, MS Heb. 6),12 the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah (BL,
MS Or. 2737),13 and the Prato Haggadah (JTS, MS Misc. 9478).14 Combined, these haggadot

6
The Golden Haggadah dates to mid-fourteenth century Catalonia. It contains 101 folios including a
picture cycle of fifty-six miniatures in color and gold and two textual illustrations. The haggadah is
digitised on the British Library Digitised Manuscripts online catalogue
<http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_27210_f001r>.
7
The Kaufmann Haggadah dates to mid-fourteenth century Catalonia. It contains fifty-three folios
including two picture cycles, one of twenty-two miniatures and one of thirty miniatures, as well as sixteen
textual illustrations. For a facsimile, see The Kaufmann Haggadah: Facsimile Edition of MS 422 of the
Kaufmann Collection in the Oriental Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, (Budapest:
Publishing House of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), 1957.
8
The Sarajevo Haggadah dates to mid-fourteenth century Castile. It contains eighty-three folios including
a picture cycle of sixty-nine miniatures and seven textual illustrations For a facsimile, see The Sarajevo
Haggadah, ed. Cecil Roth (New York: Harcourt), 1963
9
The Sister Haggadah dates to mid-fourteenth century Catalonia. It contains sixty-four folios including
thirty-four full-page miniatures and eleven textual illustrations. The haggadah is digitised on the British
Library Digitised Manuscripts online catalogue
<http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=or_2884_fs001r>.
10
The Barcelona Haggadah dates to mid-fourteenth century Catalonia. It contains 161 folios including
thirty historiated initial-word panels with biblical, midrashic and ritual scenes full-page miniatures and
fifteen textual illustrations. The haggadah is digitised on the British Library Digitised Manuscripts online
catalogue <http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_14761_fs001r>.
11
The Brother Haggadah dates to mid-fourteenth century Catalonia. It contains fifty-one folios including
a picture cycle of thirteen full page miniatures and ten textual illustrations. The haggadah is digitised on
the British Library Digitised Manuscripts online catalogue
<http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=or_1404_fs001r>.
12
The Rylands Haggadah dates to mid-fourteenth century Catalonia. It contains fifty-seven folios
including a picture cycle of twenty miniatures and eleven textual illustrations. The haggadah is digitised
on the University of Cambridge Digital Library <https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-HEBREW-MSS-
00006/1>.
13
The Hispano-Moresque Haggadah dates to late thirteenth or early fourteenth century Castile. It contains
ninety-three folios including a picture cycle of sixty-three full-page miniatures and five textual
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contain over ninety images of children, from engagement in ritual to biblical imagery. The
majority of studies on medieval childhood, such as Shulamith Shahar’s Childhood in the Middle
Ages15 and Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Children16 consider family life in western Europe.17
Similarly, works on Jewish medieval children center on Ashkenazi sources, such as Ivan
Marcus’s Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe18 and Elisheva
Baumgarten’s Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe.19 Within the more
limited range of studies on Sephardi family life, such as Yom Tov Assis’s chapter, “Jewish
Society,” in his work, The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry, the status of children within the
society is ignored.20 Focusing on illuminations of children in the Iberian haggadot presents one
way to approach the neglected field of medieval Sephardic family history. An analysis of how
children are depicted in the haggadot in light of the relevance of children to the Passover holiday
in medieval Iberia will show how children were at the core of the Passover experience, and their
literal and symbolic function was necessary for both the active recitation of the haggadah as well
as in linking the Passover rituals back in time through historical memory.
Children appear in the following haggadah scenes:

Golden Kaufmann Sarajevo Sister Barcelona Brother Rylands Hispano- Prato


Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Moresque Haggadah
Haggadah

a. Seder II I I III I
scene

illustrations. The haggadah is digitised on the British Library Digitised Manuscripts online catalogue
<http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=or_2737_fs001r>.
14
The Prato Haggadah dates to early-fourteenth century Iberia. It is an unfinished haggadah and contains
eighty-five folios including three full-page miniatures. The haggadah is digitised on the Special Treasures
from the Jewish Theological Seminary website
<http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=or_1404_fs001r>.
15
Shahar, Shulamith, Childhood in the Middle Ages (London: Routledge), 1990.
16
Orme, Nicholas, Medieval Children (New Haven: Yale UP), 2001.
17
Important exceptions include Avner Gil'adi’s Children of Islam: Concepts of Childhood in Medieval
Muslim Society (Houndmills: Macmillan in Association with St. Antony's College, Oxford), 1992 and
Eve Krakowski’s Coming of Age in Medieval Egypt: Female Adolescence, Jewish Law, and Ordinary
Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 2017.
18
Marcus, Ivan, Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe (New Haven: Yale UP),
1996.
19
Baumgarten, Elisheva, Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe (Princeton:
Princeton UP), 2004.
20
Assis, Yom Tom, “Part 5: Jewish Society,” The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry (Portland: Vallentine
Mitchell), 1997, 237-298.
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b. II I
Collecting
food for
the seder

c. I I
Searching
for hametz

d. I I I I
Synagogue
scene

e. II
Havdalah

f. “The one I I
who does
not know
how to
ask”

g. “And I
with signs”

h. Lot’s I I
children

i. Sacrifice I II III
of Isaac

j. Rebecca I
births Esau
and Jacob

k. Isaac I I
blesses
Jacob

l. Joseph VI III VI

m. I V V
Benjamin

n. Joseph’s I I
sons

o. Baby I I I I
thrown
into river

p. Moses I III I I I

q. Moses I I I I
and
Zipporah’s
sons

r. Slave I
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s. Plagues I II I IIII

t. Leaving II IIII II
Egypt/
Crossing
the Red
Sea

Golden Kaufmann Sarajevo Sister Barcelona Brother Rylands Hispano- Prato


Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Haggadah Moresque Haggadah
Haggadah

This chart shows three categories of images of children in the haggadot: scenes of
contemporary ritual (a. through e.), children illuminating words in the text of the haggadah (f. &
g.), and biblical scenes (h. through t.). These categorizations of where children are depicted
highlight the varying degrees of necessity for this iconographic choice. In the biblical images,
children are fundamental components to the narrative context. In order to portray Jacob and
Esau’s birth or Moses placed in a basket in the Nile, the depiction of children is essential.
The Joseph cycle is an important example of how images of children in the biblical
scenes are essential to visual storytelling. Narratives of Joseph’s life consume a significant
percent of the biblical images. In the Golden Haggadah, fifteen of the fifty-one biblical images
relate to Joseph. In the Sarajevo Haggadah, Joseph is in nineteen of the sixty-two biblical
images, and in the Sister Haggadah, he is in twenty-two of the sixty-two images. These scenes
are helpful in understanding stages from childhood to adolescence, as they show Joseph’s
maturation from his youth in Jacob’s house in Canaan to his growth as a leader in Egypt. Each
of these haggadot depict Joseph’s growth in three stages, which are organized on the following
chart:

Sarajevo Haggadah Golden Haggadah Sister Haggadah

Childhood 1. Joseph’s dreams 1. Joseph’s dreams 1. Joseph’s dreams

2. Joseph admonished 2. Joseph admonished 2. Joseph admonished by his


by his father by his father father
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3. Joseph cast into a pit 3. Joseph and the angel 3. Joseph and the angel

4. Joseph’s sale 4. Joseph cast into a pit 4. Joseph cast into a pit

5. Joseph’s sale 5. Joseph’s sale

6. Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

Young 1. Joseph and 1. Joseph and 1. Joseph interprets butler and


Adult Potiphar’s wife Potiphar’s wife baker’s dreams

2. Joseph interprets 2. Joseph before Pharaoh


butler and baker’s
dreams

3. Joseph before
Pharaoh

Adult 1. Joseph selling grain 1. Joseph interprets 1. Joseph appointed leader in


butler and baker’s Egypt
2. Joseph’s brothers dreams
come to Egypt 2. Joseph’s brothers come to
2. Joseph before Egypt
3. Joseph’s meal with Pharaoh
his brothers 3. Joseph and Benjamin
3. Joseph’s brothers
4. Joseph and the goblet come to Egypt 4. Joseph’s meal with his
brothers
5. Joseph and Judah 4. Joseph and Benjamin
5. Joseph and Judah
6. Joseph reunites with 5. Joseph reunites with
Benjamin Jacob 6. Joseph reunites with
Benjamin
6. Jacob blesses
Joseph’s sons 7. Joseph reunites with Jacob

Although each haggadah includes a slightly different selection of scenes from the Joseph

narrative and portrays the characters in distinct ways, the division of Joseph’s growth into three
stages shows how the artists distinguish childhood from adulthood. In the Sarajevo Haggadah,
growth is marked by height. In each stage, Joseph essentially looks the same but is taller (ex.
Figures 1 & 2). In the Golden Haggadah and the Sister Haggadah, in addition to height, aging is
shown through the growth of a beard (ex. Figures 3 & 4). Joseph has a beard in his last stage of
development, adulthood, which in the Golden Haggadah starts with his first meeting with
Pharaoh, and in the Sister Haggadah begins when he is appointed a leader in Egypt. This division
of Joseph’s life into stages of growth shows that childhood and adulthood is not only marked by
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reality, but extends from the themes of the text. Joseph’s age is indicated a number of times in
the biblical text. He was seventeen when his brothers sold him,21 thirty when he became second
in command in Egypt,22 thirty-nine when his family came to live in Egypt,23 fifty-six at Jacob’s
death,24 and one-hundred-ten at his own death.25 The passage of time marked in the haggadah
illuminations does not simply mark literal aging, but stages of maturation, marking Joseph’s
development as a leader. The concept of childhood beyond young age, as drawing on narrative
themes, also expresses with the portrayal of Benjamin. Although Benjamin was most likely born
before Joseph was sold into slavery, and so, at most, they were seventeen years apart in age,26
when he reunites with Joseph, the haggadot portray him as a small boy (ex. Figures 4 & 5).
While Benjamin was the youngest of the brothers, the images exaggerate his youth, stressing
Joseph’s concern for his younger brother and the emotional impact of their reunification.
Another example of how the appearance of children extends beyond a literal reading of
the biblical text and relates to narrative themes is in scenes from the Exodus from Egypt. Three
of the haggadot portray children in this context: the Golden Haggadah, the Kaufmann Haggadah,
and the Sarajevo Haggadah, in a total of eight scenes. In the Golden Haggadah, a mother holding
a small baby stands at the front of the group leaving Egypt (Figure 6). A mother and baby,
perhaps the same pair, also appear in the scene of the crossing of the Red Sea, as well as a father
with a small child sitting on his shoulders (Figure 7). The Kaufmann Haggadah contains four
images of the Exodus, each including a child or children (ex. Figure 8), and in the Sarajevo

Haggadah, small children are squeezed in the crowded scene of Israelites crossing the Red Sea
(Figure 9). The biblical text only describes the exodus of “six hundred thousand men on foot.”27
The images of children are significant, as Pharaoh agreed to free the Israelites, as long as the

21
Genesis 37:2.
22
Ibid., 41:46.
23
Ibid., 45:6.
24
Ibid., 47:28.
25
Ibid., 50:22.
26
Joseph’s dream of eleven stars bowing down to him indicates that Benjamin was already born, although
the text does not explicitly report their difference in age.
27
Exodus 12:13. All biblical translations are from JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (Philadelphia: The Jewish
Publication Society), 1999.
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children stayed behind, but Moses was adamant that “we will go with our sons and daughters.”28
By including children in scenes of the Exodus, an emphasis is placed on Moses’s commitment to
freeing all of the Israelites as a complete family unit.
The depiction of children as illuminating text of the haggadah also reflects narrative and
thematic necessity. For example, both the Kaufmann Haggadah and the Prato Haggadah show
children next to the text of the Hebrew word “She’eino,” or “The one who does not,” which is
part of a longer phrase, “The one who does not know how to ask” (Figures 10 & 11) The text of
the haggadah presents four types of sons who should be included in the seder: the wise son, the
evil son, the simple son, and the one who does not know how to ask. Although these sons need
not refer to small children, depicting a son who does not know how to question as a small child is
a logical translation of the words. Beyond this literal understanding, the thematic emphasis of
this son as young and not yet mature is highlighted by the fact that the other three sons in these
haggadot are portrayed as adults (ex. Figures 12 & 13). The exclusive status of the son who does
not know how to ask as a child lends significance to the unique identity of this last type of son, in
contrast to the other sons.
While the biblical scenes and illuminated texts call for images of children both out of
literary and thematic necessity, their appearance is more surprising in the contemporary scenes of
ritual practice. The most popular contemporary scene with children is the seder, which appears
eight times in five of the haggadot. These scenes depict different points of the seder, including

the festive meal, prayers after the meal, the ritual of raising a wine glass and singing psalms,
drinking the four cups of wine, telling the story of the Exodus, the act of breaking a matzah in
half and saving it for the end of the seder, and raising the matzahs at the seder and calling
attention to them (ex. Figures 14-17). Children are also portrayed as involved in other rituals
relating to Passover, from collecting dough for matzah, cleaning the house in preparation for the
holiday, attending synagogue, and reciting the havdalah prayer if the holiday falls on a Saturday
night (ex. Figures 18-21). All of these scenes could be portrayed without children. In fact, the

28
Ibid., 10:9-10.
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depiction of just one child amongst a number of adults in many of the images indicates that the
scene is not of an actual family, but is ensuring the inclusion of a child in the image.
The purposeful inclusion of children in the haggadah scenes is highlighted when the
images are analyzed in the context of similar scenes outside of the haggadot. Katrin Kogman-
Appel compares the haggadah miniatures to Italian and French-Gothic style miniature painting.29
The rise of French narrative cycles in Bibles and Psalters starting in the mid-thirteenth century
played a role in shaping the images in the haggadot. Vivian Mann argues for Iberian sources
from the twelfth century and on, such as church frescoes and the portal of the cathedral in
Valencia.30 These studies mainly focus on comparisons of biblical narrative and ignore the
contemporary images. Although these scenes are unique to Jewish ritual, stylistic similarities
may be found in medieval art. For example, comparing the seder scenes with contemporary
medieval religious and secular banquet scenes from Iberia, France, and Italy shows a number of
similarities, including the draping of the tablecloth, the placement of dishes on the table, the
arrangement of figures behind the table with their feet shown, and the engagement in eating,
drinking, and discussion (Figures 22-27). However, these scenes all portrayal the feast as
centered around adults. The specific incorporation of children into the festive meal seems be to a
unique phenomena in the haggadot.
The iconography of children in these scenes extends from notions of the Passover holiday
in medieval Iberian Jewish life. The observation of the Passover holiday, centered around the

consumption of matzah and abstaining from unleavened bread, traces back to the biblical text:
“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of
the Lord... And you shall explain to your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for
me when I went free from Egypt.’31
The phrase, “And you shall explain to your son,” became the source for the seder ritual.

29
Kogman-Appel, Illuminated Haggadot from Medieval Spain: Biblical Imagery and the Passover
Holiday. See also, her earlier article, “Hebrew Manuscript Painting in Late Medieval Spain: Signs of a
Culture in Transition,” The Art Bulletin 84.2 (2002): 246-272.
30
Mann, Vivian, “Observations on the Biblical Miniatures in Spanish Haggadot,” Images 4.1 (2010), 1-
17.
31
Exodus 13:6-8.
Schneck 10

The central feature of the seder, the activity of telling the Passover seder, called Maggid, stems
from the biblical words, “And you shall explain to your son,” or “V’higadita l’bincha.” The word
“haggadah” shares this same root of storytelling. In Jewish practice, the role of intergenerational
storytelling became a central feature of the seder, as for example, is written in the traditions of
the Mishnah:
They pour a second cup for him. And here the son asks his father. And if the son
has no knowledge, his father teaches him. Why is this night different from all
nights? On all nights, we eat leavened and unleavened bread, but on this night, we
only eat unleavened bread...And according to the son's knowledge, his father
teaches him... 32
The seder is not simply the act of recounting the story of the Exodus from Egypt,
but centers around the importance of pedagogy between parent and child. The biblical
phrase, “And you shall explain to your son,” appears twice in the text of the haggadah in
the context of framing the purpose of the night. The first time is in response to how one
should engage the son who does not know how to ask: “And the one who does not know
hot to ask, you engage him, as it says, ‘And you shall explain to your son on that day, it is
because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt.”33 The second time the
phrase appears is explaining the central purpose of the act of telling the story of Exodus:
“In every generation, man is obligated to see himself as if he left Egypt, as it says, ‘And

you shall explain to your son on that day, it is because of what the Lord did for me when
I went free from Egypt.’” This text further explains the role of parent-child learning at the
seder. Through the process of storytelling, the speaker and listener are transported back to
another place and time and join their ancestors in the march from slavery to freedom. The
act of intergenerational storytelling is a transformative experience, fusing memory with
history to reenact the exodus as if it were playing out again in the present. This
experience cannot be accessed without the presence of the child in which to share the
32
Mishnah Pesahim 10:4. Translation is my own.
33
All haggadah translations are my own.
Schneck 11

story.
This unique role of the child is stressed in an extra text in the Golden Haggadah before
the standard text of Maggid (Figure 28). The haggadah relays the series of rituals that take place
at the seder, from drinking wine, to washing hands, to dipping vegetables, and concludes, “in
order that the young children will ask and say the haggadah.” This text shows a two-directional
pedagogical process, not one centered around parents teaching children, but on children initiating
questions. Thus, the presentation of four sons in the haggadah is a lesson in pedagogy on how to
reach out to a range of children, from the engaged to those who are resistant in participating.
The focus in the haggadah in appealing to the children relates to the role of the child in
the historical narrative of the Exodus. The slavery in Egypt began with Pharaoh plotting to kill
the baby boys from Jewish families, first by commanding the midwives to strangle them at the
site of birth,34 and then by turning to his nation to throw the baby boys into the Nile.35 The scene
of the killing of the children is depicted in four haggadot. The Kaufmann Haggadah shows a
naked baby thrown into a river (Figure 29), while the Golden Haggadah and the Sister Haggadah
each contain one scene of both Pharaoh commanding the midwives as well as a baby being
tossed into the river (Figures 30 & 31). In the Golden Haggadah, a dead baby is already drowned
in the water. The Hispano-Moresque Haggadah shows two figures, each dangling a baby upside
down, tossing them into the river below, with a third baby already drowning, his legs sticking out
from the Nile (Figure 32). The significance of this moment is stressed in the text of the

haggadah: “‘And our toil,’ these are the sons, as it says, ‘All of the sons who are born shall be
tossed in the river...’” The focus of Pharaoh’s attempted destruction of the baby boys in both
liturgy and image contributes to the historical memory surrounding children, which is
transformed from eradication to triumph. In the imagination of the speaker, the children who
were once persecuted are now sitting at the seder table, questioning their parents on this very
event and recalling how they were saved. This direct link between past and present at the seder is
emphasized in the beginning of the text of Maggid: “And had the Lord not saved our fathers
34
Exodus 1:16.
35
Ibid., 1:22.
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from Egypt, we and our sons and our sons’ sons would still be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
This reversal from persecution to redemption is depicted visually through the changing of
roles between the Israelite children and the Egyptian children. Once the plagues begin, their
impact affects the children in Egypt. A number of the haggadot show Egyptian children afflicted
by the plagues. For example, the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah portrays children itching with
lice, cowering from wild animals, covered in boils, running from hail, and trapped in darkness
(ex. Figures 33 & 34), while the Sarajevo Haggadah depicts a child with a bowl filled with blood
from the river and children with lice (Figures 35 & 36). There is no basis in the biblical text for
the Egyptian children in the scenes of the plagues. The inclusion of their plight highlights how
the theme of their role-reversal with the children of Israel.
The status of children in the plagues is most emphasized in the Golden Haggadah and the
Sister Haggadah with the tenth plague, which shows Pharaoh’s wife sitting with her dead baby
on her lap, and Pharaoh next to them (Figures 37 & 38). In the Golden Haggadah, Pharaoh
gestures, either in consolation or in mourning, while in the Sister Haggadah, he stands above
them and reaches out to his dead son in grief. The biblical text on this event states, “In the
middle of the night the Lord struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-
born of Pharaoh who sat on the throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon,
and all the first-born of the cattle.”36 The deceased were not necessarily small children, but the
first-born children of the house, as is visually shown through the adult first-born son who lies

dead to the right of the scene of Pharaoh’s son in both the Golden and Sister haggadot. However,
depicting Pharaoh’s son as a baby highlights the emotional poignancy of this scene, as well as
how it fulfills the reversal of the beginning of slavery, which started with Pharaoh’s decree to
throw the baby boys in the river. What began as Pharaoh’s plot to kill the baby boys of a foreign
nation ends in a complete reversal, with the death of the boys in his nation, including his own
son.
The salvation of the Jews in Egypt begins with a child, as well. The birth of Moses

36
Ibid., 12:29.
Schneck 13

symbolizes the emergence of hope, as he ultimately leads his people out of Egypt. Although the
significance of his role is downplayed in the recounting of the story at the seder by the fact that
his name does not appear in the text of the haggadah, the images fill in this gap, as each
haggadah portrays Moses in numerous scenes.37 Four of the haggadot specifically depict Moses
as a baby, and all of these contain the scene of Moses rescued from the Nile (ex. Figures 39 &
40). As opposed to the fate of the Israelite baby boys who drowned in the Nile, Moses, who
ultimately rescues the Jews, avoids their fate through his survival in this same river. The contrast
between Moses’s rescue and the death of the other Israelite boys and how that sets him apart in
his unique role, is emphasized through the juxtaposition of the two scenes of the babies thrown
into the Nile and Moses’s rescue in the Golden Haggadah, the Sister Haggadah, and especially in
the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, where each scene is depicted on a full page, and they are
presented directly opposite each other.
In the Sarajevo Haggadah, the significance of Moses’s discovery as a baby is highlighted
through presenting the scene immediately below Joseph’s burial (Figure 41). Joseph is placed in
a coffin in the Nile, while Moses is discovered in a rectangular basket, which shares visual
parallels to the coffin, in the same river. Before Joseph dies, his last words are to his brothers. He
turns to them and says, “I am about to die. God will surely take notice of you (pakod yifkod) and
bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to
Jacob.”38 He then makes them swear, “When God has taken notice of you (pakod yifkod), you

shall carry up my bones from here.”39 When Moses is first given his mission to save the Israelites
at the burning bush, God tells him to tell the leaders of Israel these very words, “I have taken
note (pakod pakaditi) of you.”40 Ultimately, when the Israelites leave Egypt, the very last act

37
According to Narkiss, Moses’s exclusion from the text of the haggadah is due to a recension of the text
in the eighth century during the Karaite controversy in Babylonia. Rejecting the rabbinic traditions, the
Karaites emphasized Moses as the central teacher of Jewish law, and in response, the rabbis of Babylonia
ordered the deletion of Moses’ name from most ritual texts, including the haggadah. By the thirteenth
century, the text of the haggadah was fixed, and Moses reentered the haggadah through liturgical poetry
and illustrations (Narkiss, Bezalel, The Golden Haggadah [California: Pomegranate Artbooks], 1997, 9).
38
Genesis 50:24.
39
Ibid., 50:25.
40
Exodus 3:16.
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Moses completes as he leaves the land is retrieving Joseph’s bones from the Nile, remembering
Joseph’s oath, “God will be sure to take notice (pakod yifkod) of you.”41 The repetition of the
Hebrew words, pakod yifkod, connecting Joseph’s death and the start of the slavery, with
Moses’s redemption, is emphasized in the Sarajevo Haggadah through paralleling the scenes of
Joseph’s death and Moses’s birth and rescue. This further stresses the importance of the moment
of Moses as a baby in light of the broader story of Israelite salvation.
The significance of Moses’s childhood is further highlighted in the visual storytelling of
the Golden Haggadah and the Sister Haggadah. In the Golden Haggadah, after Batya, Pharaoh’s
daughter, finds Moses, she brings him before her father. A crowd of men stand around Pharaoh,
and one in particular looks at Pharaoh and points to baby Moses (Figure 42). In the Sister
Haggadah, the same scene appears (Figure 43), but the text below identifies these men
surrounding Pharaoh: “The daughter of Pharaoh who presents Moses to Pharaoh and the
magicians say that in the future, he will destroy Egypt.”42 These magicians are not mentioned in
the biblical text, but are a rabbinic interpolation of the text:
“‘And Pharaoh decreed to his whole nation’... His astrologers said to him, ‘The
redeemer of Israel’s mother has conceived him’...Why did they decree to toss
them in the Nile? Because his astrologers saw that the savior of Israel would be
struck through water, and they thought that he would drown in water.”43

According to this text, Pharaoh’s decrees are an effort to avoid the future salvation of the

Israelites through destroying the birth of their savior. Pharaoh’s basis of knowledge is through
his magicians, and it is these magicians who appear in the Sister Haggadah, warning him that this
baby, Moses, will be the future leader of the Israelites. The juxtaposition of the destruction of the
Israelites with the discovery of Moses in the river and presented before Pharaoh is more than a
turnaround of events, but shows the ineffectiveness of Pharah’s decree, as the one who he sought
to kill ended up growing up in his home. This theme of Moses’s mysterious identity as a child in
41
Ibid., 13:19.
42
Translation is my own.
43
Genesis Rabbah 1:18. Translations of Genesis Rabbah are my own.
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Pharaoh’s house in light of Pharaoh’s astrological advisors is presented in the Kaufmann


Haggadah in more detail, in a scene of Moses as a child reaching up to grab Pharaoh’s crown,
and then in the scene below, Moses touching hot coals (Figure 44). These images are also based
on a rabbinic interpretation extending from Pharaoh’s paranoia and the ineffective intervention
of his astrologers:
“And it was that Pharaoh would kiss him (Moses) and hug him, and he would
remove Pharaoh’s crown and place it on his own head, as he would do to him in
the future when he was great...And some of the observers sitting among them
were the magicians of Egypt that said, ‘We are wary of this, that he is taking your
crown and placing it on his head, that he not be the one we say will take the
kingship from you.’ Some said to kill him and some said to burn him. And Jethro
was sitting among them and said to them, ‘This child has no intent. Rather, test
him by bringing in a bowl gold and a coal. If he stretches his hand toward the
gold, he has intent, and you should kill him. And if he stretches his hand toward
the coal, he does not have intent, and he does not deserve the death penalty.’ They
immediately brought the bowl before him (Moses), and he outstretched his hand
to take the gold, and Gabriel came and pushed his hand, and he grabbed the coal.
He then brought his hand along with the coal into his mouth and burned his
tongue, and from this was made (Ex. 4:10) “slow of speech and slow of tongue.”44

The top scene shows Moses reaching for Pharaoh’s crown, with the magicians watching.
They continue watching in the bottom scene as Moses is tested. Pharaoh sits behind Moses
carefully watching, sword in hand, ready to strike, while the angel Gabriel flies in from above to
redirect his hand. The midrash continues to develop the magicians’ careful watch over a future
redeemer of Israel, and the irony in their warnings as Moses flourishes before them. Once again,
their fears are unrecognized, as Moses’s true role is not identified. Moses as a child symbolizes

44
Ibid., 1:26.
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the seeds of Israelite salvation even while they endure slavery, and the failure of Pharaoh’s
ability to combat their savior. The visual depictions connect to the importance of children on the
seder night and their role as engaging in the storytelling due to their persecution by Pharaoh.
This focus on children at the seder appears in contemporary Jewish life in Iberia, as well.
The prominent medieval Sephardic Jewish scholar, Maimonides, was born in twelfth-century
Cordoba. Although he moved throughout his life to Morocco, Palestine, and Egypt, his writings
on Jewish law were followed in medieval Sepharad, extending to the Jews of Ashkenaz, as well.
Assis comments on “the rapid spread of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah throughout Spain and its
adoption by a growing number of communities in the Crown of Aragon in the course of the
thirteenth century as the code of Jewish Law.45 Maimonides begins a chapter of laws on the
importance of telling the story of the exodus from Egypt at the seder with the following
instruction:
“It is a positive biblical command to tell the miracles and wonders that happened
for our forefathers in Egypt on the fifteenth night of Nisan... And even if one does
not have a son, even great sages must tell the story of the exodus…. It is a
commandment to tell the children even if they ask no questions, as it is written:
"You shall tell your son." The father should teach his son according to the child's
understanding...”46

The seder centers around involving the children, regardless of interest, and trying
to engage them by teaching on the basis of how each one will understand. This
pedagogical focus is still emphasized in texts of thirteenth-century Iberian Jewish
scholars. For example, the Sefer ha-Chinuch, a work on the commandments of the Torah
based on Maimonides’ system of thought, was published anonymously in thirteenth-

45
The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry, 69. See also 305-307. For another source on Maimonides’ later
impact in medieval Iberia, see Baer, Yitzhak, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, vol. 1, trans. Louis
Schoffman (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America), 1961, 96-110.
46
Mishneh Torah, “Leavened and Unleavened Bread,” 7:1-2. Translation is my own. Maimonides also
discusses this topic in his work, Sefer HaMitzvot, “The Positive Commandments,” ch. 157. The Hebrew
text for all medieval Hebrew commentaries is found on the Global Jewish Database (The Responsa
Project) at Bar-Ilan University.
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century Iberia. The twenty-first chapter in the text discusses the obligation to retell the
story of the Exodus from Egypt:
The commandment to recount the Exodus from Egypt: To tell about the Exodus
from Egypt on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan (the first night of Pesach) - each
person according to his own ability... as it is stated (Exodus 13:8), "And you shall
tell your son"... And that which the verse states, "Your son," [does not mean]
exclusively one's son; but rather even with anyone (Pesachim 116a)...And even
one who is by himself - if no other people are present - is obligated to verbally
express these matters, so that his heart will be inspired in this matter; for the heart
is inspired through verbal expression.47

The Talmud scholar Yom Tov ben Avraham Asevilli, who was born in Seville in
1260 and spent most of his life in Zaragoza, wrote a commentary on the haggadah, where
he includes the importance of engaging the children at six different points of his
commentary.48 Rabbi David Abudraham, a fourteenth-century scholar from Seville,
explains that the source of the word Haggadah is based on the importance of the biblical
command of telling the story to your children.49
These texts show the importance of the child in the seder scenes. Similar to the
children in the biblical scenes, these children are not extraneous but essential to both the
literary and thematic message of the text. The inclusion of children in the seder scenes, as

well as the other rituals, emphasizes the role of the child, who represents the meaning of
the seder night as an experience of storytelling and pedagogy. Even if there is no child
present, the individual must recount the story as if a child were there to whoever is
listening, and if no one is available to listen, he must still proceed, just as if a child were
there. The child is thus not just literal, but symbolic of the role of historical memory
relating to Passover.
47
Sefer ha-Chinuch, ch. 21. Translation is my own.
48
The Passover Haggadah of the Ritva.
49
The Book of Abudraham: The Order of the Haggadah and its Commentaries.
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The role of the child on Passover necessitates the parent-figure, leading the discussion
and engaging the child. In the haggadah scenes, this figure is distinguished, in that he sits at the
head or the corner of the table, with the rest of the figures usually facing him. This figure leads
the discussion or ritual, whether holding up wine, engaging with the matzah, or telling the story
of the Exodus (ex. Figures 14-17). The important role that the leader of the seder holds is
stressed in the small text about the seder image in the Sister Haggadah, which states, “the ba’al
habayit (leader of the house) and the children of his house that complete the seder on the night of
Passover. The role of the ba’al habayit is also stated in the text by the images of the seder
preparations in the Sarajevo haggadah: “The ba’al habayit gives out haroset,” and “The ba’al
habayit gives out matzahs,” and in the Golden haggadah: “The ba’al habayit commands to give
matzahs and haroset to the young children.” The relationship of the ba’al habayit to the child on
the seder night is emphasized in the Sarajevo haggadah and the Sister Haggadah, where the table
is filled with adults, but the one child sits right by the leader, and turns to him, engaged, while
the ba’al habayit turns his attention on the child.
The focus on the leader-child relationship changes the nature of the seder from a meal to
an educational experience. The seder is not simply a banquet, and thus elicits a need to insert
children for this ritual of teaching and learning. Although the participants sit around the table, the
objects on the table, such as the matzah, wine, and haggadot, are instruments in the telling of the
story, rather than in consuming the meal. In this way, the seder scenes draw a parallel with the

many scenes of scholars engaged in study throughout the haggadot, and specifically, the images
of scholars teaching students. Within the text of the haggadah are images of pedagogy of first
and second-century sages who played central roles in redacting the Mishnah, such as Rabbi
Akiba, Rabban Gamliel, and Rabbi Yossi (ex. Figures 45 & 46).50 Juxtaposing these two
categories of images shows the role of the ba’al habayit as an educator and highlights the
centrality of pedagogy to the haggadah experience and the role that children play within this
50
An image of Rabbi Akiba sitting at a table teaching two students is in the Kaufmann Haggadah (42r),
Rabban Gamliel engages a group of students in the Sarajevo Haggadah, the Barcelona Haggadah (59v),
and the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah (20v), and Rabbi Yossi teaches students in the Barcelona
Haggadah (51v).
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pedagogical framework.
The ba’al habayit as educator and children as students is clear in how they appear in the
ritual scenes beyond the seder scenes, where the parent as teacher looks at the child and directs
him or her, while the child turns to the parent to receive instruction, or the child sits in a front
and central position. For example, in the Kaufmann Haggadah and the Barcelona Haggadah, a
child sits or stands in the front row of the synagogue, watching the cantor (Figure 47 & 48),
while in the Sarajevo Haggadah, in the front of the throng of parents and children leaving the
synagogue is a father, guiding his son and daughter (Figure 20). In the Golden Haggadah and the
Sister Haggadah, the father and son face each other as they search for leavened bread in their
house on the eve of Passover (Figures 19 and 49), and in the Barcelona Haggadah, a child holds
a candle for his father who recites the havdalah ritual (Figure 21). The parent-child as educator-
student relationship is especially poignant in the synagogue scene of the Sister Haggadah, where
a child sits in the synagogue and reads or listens to a text from the book in his hand while an
adult is turned away from the leader in the synagogue, ensuring the engagement of the child in
study (Figure 50).
Images of children in the haggadot of medieval Iberia serve as visual sources for the
seder as an informal pedagogical experience between parents and children. This model fits
within Yom Tov Assis and Yitzhak Baer’s understanding of education in medieval Iberia.51
Through their evaluation of primary sources, both scholars conclude in a lack of a formal, public

educational system, not only for girls, but for boys, as well. The rich and members of the middle
class hired tutors for their children for a limited period of time, while there are some cases of
communal charity supporting private initiatives to teach poor children. While engagement in
51
Chapter 6.6, “Jewish Education in the Crown of Aragon,” in The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry, 327-
332; A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, 237, 431. Similar to the general topic of childhood,
questions of children’s education have been more focused on in Ashkenazi sources. See, for example,
Kanarfogel, Ephraim, Jewish Education and Society in the High Middle Ages (Detroit: Wayne State UP)
1992; Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe, ch. 2, 3, & 5; Marcus, Ivan, “Ch.
1: Birth, ‘Bris,’ Schooling,” in The Jewish Life Cycle: Rites of Passage from Biblical to Modern Times
(Seattle: University of Washington Press) 2004; Grossman, Avraham, “Ch. 7.6: Girl’s Education,” in
Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe, trans. Jonathan Chipman (Waltham: Brandeis
UP), 2004; Baumgarten, Elisheva, “Religious Education of Children,” in Essays on Medieval Childhood,
ed. Joel T. Rosenthal (Donington: Shaun Tyas), 2007.
Schneck 20

these primary sources is beyond the scope of this project, it is an important next step in
reconstructing both the visual and social history of medieval Iberia. The role of children in the
medieval Iberian haggadot serves as a model of how images may be studied within and beyond
art historical models in dialogue with texts to gain insight to the cultural norms and practices
from where they emerged. The medieval Iberian haggadot are a critical source for a Jewish
community that formed its identity not only in light of the surrounding Christian population but
in connection to textual and ritual traditions that developed within the community. The focus on
children within the haggadah imagery, combined with textual sources on teaching children both
within the haggadah text and in contemporary rabbinic sources, articulates a notion of the child
as a critical and valued member of the family, vital both in theory and in practice for the memory
and practice of the Passover traditions.
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Figure 1: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 6v, Joseph Figure 2: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 7r, Joseph
reports his dreams. All images from this haggadah are interprets Pharaoh’s dreams.
courtesy of The Sarajevo Haggadah, ed. Cecil Roth.

Figure 3: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 5r, Figure 4: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 7r,
Joseph reports his dreams. All images from this Joseph hugs Benjamin.
haggadah are courtesy of British Library Digitised
Manuscripts online catalogue.

Figure 5: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 9v, Joseph hugs Benjamin.
All images from this haggadah are courtesy of British Library Digitised
Manuscripts online catalogue.
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Figure 6: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 14v, Figure 7: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 14v,
Exodus. Crossing the Red Sea.

Figure 8: Detail from the Kaufmann Haggadah, 37r, Figure 9: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 14r, Crossing the Red
Exodus. All images from this haggadah are courtesy of The Sea.
Kaufmann Haggadah: Facsimile Edition of MS 422 of the
Kaufmann Collection in the Oriental Library of the
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
.
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Figure 10: Detail from the Kaufmann Haggadah, 14v, The Figure 11: Detail from the Prato Haggadah, 6v, The one
one who does not know how to ask. who does not know how to ask. All images from this
haggadah are courtesy of the Special Treasures of the
Jewish Theological Seminary website.

Figure 12: Detail from the Kaufmann Haggadah, 12r, The Figure 13: Detail from the Prato Haggadah, 5v, The wicked son.
wise son.
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Figure 14: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 49v, Seder scene. Figure 15: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 18r, Seder
scene.

Figure 16: Detail from the Barcelona Haggadah, 17v, seder Figure 17: Detail from the Prato Haggadah, 36r, Seder scene.
scene. All images from this haggadah are courtesy of British
Library Digitised Manuscripts online catalogue.
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Figure 18: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 15r, Distributing Figure 19: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 15r,
matzah and haroset. Cleaning for Passover.

Figure 20: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, Figure 21: Detail from the Barcelona Haggadah, 26r, Havdalah.
17r, Leaving the synagogue.
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Figure 22: Detail from M. 456, Avis aus Roys, Book III, Figure 23: Detail from Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César, Book
Chapter 5, 81r, ca. 1340-1360, France, Banquet scene. 6, 40r, ca. 1325-1349, France, Banquet scene. Image
Image courtesy of The Index of Medieval Art online courtesy of The Index of Medieval Art online catalogue.
catalogue.

Figure 24: Detail from M. 751, Chronicles, 23v, ca. 1300- Figure 25: Panel from Duccio di Buoninsegna, Maestà, ca. 1308,
1310, France, Banquet scene. Image courtesy of The Index Italy, Last Supper scene. Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
of Medieval Art online catalogue.

Figure 26: Detail from painting by the workshop of Master of Figure 27: Detail from Altarpiece of the Corpus Christi from the
Soriguerola, ca. 1280-1299, Catalonia, Banquet scene. Image monastery of Vallbona de les Monges, ca. 1335-1345, Catalonia,
courtesy of The Index of Medieval Art online catalogue. Banquet scene. Image courtesy of Museu Nacional d’Art de
Catalunya online catalogue.
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Figure 28: The Golden Haggadah, 27v, Figure 29: Detail from the Figure 30: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 8v, Pharaoh
Directions of engaging the children during the Kaufmann Haggadah, 22v, commands the midwives.
seder. Baby thrown in the Nile.

Figure 31: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 11v, Pharaoh commands the midwives. Figure 32: Detail from the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah,
64v, Babies thrown in the Nile. All images from this
haggadah are courtesy of British Library Digitised
Manuscripts online catalogue.
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Figure 33: Detail from the Hispano-Moresque


Haggadah, 71v, Lice. Figure 34: Detail from the Hispano-Moresque Haggadah,
75v, Boils.

Figure 35: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 11r, Blood. Figure 36: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 12v, Lice.
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Figure 37: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 14v, Death of the Figure 38: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 16r, Death of the
firstborn sons. firstborn sons.

Figure 39: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 12r, Moses discovered in the Figure 40: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 9r, Moses
Nile. discovered in the Nile.
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Figure 41: Detail from the Sarajevo Haggadah, 10r, Joseph’s death and Moses’s discovery.

Figure 42: Detail from the Golden Haggadah, 9r, Figure 43: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 12r, Batya presents Moses to
Batya presents Moses to Pharaoh. Pharaoh.
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Figure 44: Detail from the Kaufmann Haggadah, 5v, Moses is tested.

Figure 45: Detail from the Kaufmann Haggadah, 28v, Rabbi Akiba.
Figure 46: Detail from the Barcelona Haggadah, 59v, Rabban
Gamliel.
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Figure 47: Detail from the Kaufmann Haggadah, 36r, Synagogue Figure 48: Detail from the Barcelona Haggadah, 65v, Synagogue
scene. scene.

Figure 49: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 17r, Searching for Figure 50: Detail from the Sister Haggadah, 17v, Synagogue
leavened bread.
scene.