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Haggadah -- A Different Night

A Different Night
Classic Edition

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The Four Childen in the Haggadah

Reliving the Exodus - Haggadah in the classroom

Hanukkah -- A Different Light

Photos from A Different Light Hanukkah anthology

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Nevarech Illustrated Bencher

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Gallery #1:
Art of the Four Children,

These drawings, representing 500 years of The Four Children, are from A Different Night. To see a larger size version of any drawing, with commentary, click on it.

More art of the Four Children:  1526-1923 | 1960-1982 | 1985-present

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Prague Haggadah, 1526
The woodcut figures represent adult types. The wicked "child" is the soldier dressed in showy clothes with a feather in his ornate hat. His body language expresses arrogant self-assuredness and almost bursts the framework of the picture, while his black sword pierces the woodcut frame at a threatening diagonal. This figure has effectively read himself out of his people by assimilating to the military culture of Europe. By contrast, the wise "child" is represented by an elderly scholar whose body is smaller and weaker than that of the soldier. The simple child submissively points and gazes downward while the questionless child is wholy absorbed in the parent's story.

Amsterdam Haggadah, 1695
This is the first illustrated Haggadah to arrange pictures of the four children in one series. The artist is a convert from Christianity named Abraham ben Jacob. These copper-plate engravings are copied from various paintings of the Swiss Christian artist Matthaeus Merian. The wise child is a copy of Hannibal the general of Carthage as he swears to conquer Rome. The wicked child is simply a Roman soldier. The simple child is Merian's King Saul as a bashful young man about to be anointed by the prophet Samuel. The youngest child is another version of Hannibal. As in many medieval Haggadot the children are represented by adult types. The wicked stereotype is as usual the soldier who represents evil in two senses — the spilling of blood and the anti-type to the medieval Jewry with its scholarly and merchant traditions. The body position of the soldier reflects dynamism though a lack of stability, while the wise "Hannibal" stands confidently and commands attention. The simple "Saul" is closed within himself as he relies on the staff for support. The child who does not know how to ask is childlike only in the sense that he is the smallest of the four figures, although his hands open as if asking a question.     

The Immigrant Family, Chicago Haggadah, 1879
Here the generation gap between Eastern European immigrants to the U.S.A. and their assimilated wicked son is foremost. Having adopted new-fangled American ways, the son smokes, dresses in black clothes with a modish cut and dances on his tilted chair. He takes the initiative in attacking his parents with an accusatory finger as if to say derisively, "what is this ritual for you?" The simple and the silent children, distinguished only by their hand motions, are mesmerized by the wicked son who sits at the head of the table holding forth. The other three figures — mother, bearded father and wise child with kippa — are dressed traditionally in pale white. Their body language bespeaks paralysis, passivity and lack of communication. The conversation is dominated by the three children in black, all with uncovered heads and backs turned. The family is divided culturally and generationally. Only the wise child identifies with the old ways.     

The Boxer as Rasha, 1920, illustrated by Lola
The wicked child is a new kind of soldier. The culture of the naked physique, of sports, of the aggressive boxer is contrasted with a middle class seated scholar with a tie, glasses and a book. The passivity and introspection of the intellectual whose head is supported by his arm reflects the defensive status of traditional Jewish culture, when contrasted with the rise of American sports and perhaps contemporary Zionist youth movements that praised the values of the body. For example, two in a series of great Jewish boxers of this era were "Battling Levinsky" (nee Barney Lebrowitz, light heavy weight, 1916-1920) and Al McCoy (see Albert Rudolph, middle weight, 1914-1917) (E.J. 15:305).     

German Expressionism: Jakob Steinhardt, 1923
The woodcut reflects post World War One "expressionism." Strong feelings are expressed in nonrealistic distorted facial expressions. Born in Poland and living through the horrors of war and the breakdown of traditional society, Steinhardt transforms the Prussian soldier with his pointed helmet and sword, the hero of his new land — into the wicked type whose face is graced with a bizarre smile. The wise type is smaller than the soldier, yet holding his book and pointing heavenward, he tries to reason with the soldier. The simple type wears a dunce hat and a ridiculous facial expression. The wise man points aloft to God, while the wicked soldier points at the simple one, reflecting a derisive attitude.