Collection cup

Spain, 1319

Stone, 13.2 x 12.5 cm

On permanent loan from the Musée de Cluny ‒ Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, gift of Alphonse de Rothschild

Tronc à aumônes, Espagne, 1319

Tronc à aumônes, Espagne, 1319

This collection cup, dated 1319, was bequeathed to the Musée de Cluny by Baron Alphonse de Rothschild in the late 19th century. One of the very few objects dating from before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, it is a unique material testimony to medieval Spanish Judaism, whose sphere of influence extended as far as Languedoc and Provence in the 14th century. It was used in the synagogue to collect alms for the poor during the Festival of Lots (Purim), commemorating the failure of a plan to exterminate the Jewish people in Persia in the 4th century BC recounted in the Book of Esther. On that day it is ordained that one must give presents to one’s family and gifts to the poor (Esther 9, 22). Two inscriptions refer explicitly to the festival: rey Ahasveros y la reyna Ester (“King Ahasuerus and Queen Esther”), and zekhira del nes (“memory of a miracle”). Although there is no mention of divine intervention in the text, the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma, 29a) considers it to be the last miracle.

These inscriptions in Judeo-Spanish engraved in Hebrew characters are one of the most ancient examples of the use of a language other than Hebrew or Aramaic on a Jewish ritual object.

 

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