Who knows three? Enigmatic drawings in the Gutwirth-Zucker Haggadah

By: Yair Achituv, Bar-Ilan University


The text of the Gutwirth-Zucker Haggadah, an 18th century manuscript written in Prague in 1707 and exhibited in Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv, is accompanied by drawings. Drawings in illustrated Haggadot are usually related to Passover customs and Passover-related events, the Exodus. However, there are drawings in the Gutwirth-Zucker Haggadah whose connection to Passover is obscure. Three of these appear in sequence at the end of the Haggadah. One depicts the prophet Jonah thrown from the ship and vomited out from the mouth of the fish. The second shows four cows and a woman standing next to what looks like a loom. The third drawing, found before the hymn “Adir Hu”, shows a black eagle next to a house.

The solution to these enigmatic drawings is found on the map that accompanies the Haggadah printed in Amsterdam in 1695. This was the first Haggadah to include copper engravings and a map prepared by Abraham Bar Yaaqov, a convert to Judaism. The map, at the end of the text, describes the route of the children of Israel from Goshen in Egypt to the Land of Israel. There is an illustration of a ship in a storm in the Great Sea and the prophet Jonah vomited out by a great fish that looks a whale with a curled tail. Inclusion of the picture of Jonah in the sea follows a tradition of map-drawing during that period. In order not to leave the sea as an empty space on the map, it was a practice to depict subjects related to the sea, such as Poseidon (Neptune – the god of the sea), ships, or sea monsters. In the Amsterdam Haggadah, Jonah replaced these figures. In the Amsterdam Haggadah, an eagle is depicted on the left side of the map and, above it, the verse from Exodus 19:4 “You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I bore you on eagle wings and brought you to myself”. Next to the house, one can notice three beehives and, below them, the word “honey” appears. Under the four cows in the middle of the word “milk” is printed. The woman standing next to a loom is probably a later addition to the drawing. These two drawings are related to the description of the land of Canaan by the spies that sent by Moses,” We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and these are its fruits” (Numbers 13:27). The description of the Land of Israel as a land of milk and honey is repeated several times in the Bible. It should be noted that an illustration showing the spies carrying a branch with a cluster of grapes is found on the first page of the Gutwirth-Zucker Haggadah.

The illustrator of Gutwirth-Zucker Haggadah omitted the verse from Exodus above the eagle, the beehives and the two key words “milk” and “honey” from his drawings and left us in the dark. The Amsterdam Haggadah reveals the meaning of many of these illustrations, including the three mentioned above.

The invention of print did not exclude the tradition of writing and painting the Haggadah by hand, and many were created in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some were influenced by the printed Haggadah. The illustrations of the Amsterdam Haggadah were the model used by the many artists, including the illustrator of the Gutwirth-Zucker Haggadah. The Amsterdam Haggadah was printed twice, first in 1695 and a second printing, different from the first, in 1712. The Gutwirth-Zucker Haggadah was written in 1707, only 12 years after the first Amsterdam Haggadah was printed. To the best of our knowledge, this was one of the first Haggadot, if not the first, hand written Haggadah to be inspired by the Amsterdam Haggadah.

Beit Hatfutsot