A 1782 Haggadah with Yiddish Commentaries

by Henry Poehlein FCRH ’22

Printed in Amsterdam in 1782 by Yohanan Levi Rofe and his brother-in-law Barukh, Haggadah shel Pesah: an merkung Enyeh Hagodeh oyf zolkhe ahrt in es Taytshe izt nimahlen in der velt geyezn is a Passover Haggadah with contains two sections, one written in Hebrew containing the Haggadah with commentaries, and the other, written in Yiddish containing Jewish songs and commentaries pertaining to the Passover holiday.[i] It also contains a kabbalistic commentary by Elhanan ben Moses of Schnaittach (Elḥanan Shnaṭikh), Arba’ Yesodot.

Hagadah Shel Pesaḥ : An Merkung Eyneh Hagodeh Oyf Zolkhe Ahrṭ in Eś Ṭayṭshe Izṭ Nimahlen in Der Ṿelṭ Geṿezn (Amsterdam: Be-vet ubi-defus Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-eḥaṿ, bi-shenat 543 [1782/3]). Spec Coll Judaica 1782 1

The book itself is not fancy in any way. It has a simple dark brown cover with no writing on it, with leather spine, which has faded Hebrew characters on it, and very small toolings. The book is 24 centimeters wide and contains 54 leaves. A book this size would not be able to fit into a pocket but could most likely be used in a household at the Passover Seder. The book is must have been used relatively often or for a long time, as many pages have dirt marks on them, water and wine stains, and ripped corners. Some pages are completely discolored from the stains. Some of the stains appear to be from water. Other stains are darker and look like wine, not unusual for Passover Haggadot. Some drop stains in yellow color; they appear to be wax from a candle. On one page, there are three small burn holes (fig. 1). The condition of this book clearly indicates frequent usage and handling.

Fig. 1. Burn holes

The typeset used shows many fonts, distinct for Hebrew and Yiddish sections. The printer uses larger fonts at the beginning of a section, or verse and as titles (fig. 2). The printer uses bigger fonts as he states the laws in the second half of the book.  A section from Elḥanan Shnaṭikh’s commentary on the Haggadah has a classic layout with a central text surrounded by commentaries (Fig. 3)

Fig. 2. Fragment of a page with laws concerning the counting of Omer, running head in large square Hebrew font, with laws in Yiddish, each paragraph beginning with a word in larger font.
Fig. 3. Section of Haggadah with Elhanan Shnaṭikh’s commentary Yesod Ha-Ahavah

In the book there are no annotations of any kind. There is one word handwritten in the book, along with a few drawn lines. There is also no color in this book, and almost no illustrations, indicating that it was not expensive. The one decorative element in the book is in black ink and looks like a bush of some kind. The illustration is also not very large, taking up less than a quarter of a page.

Although most of the pages are in poor condition, the binding of the book is still very tight, and indicates that the book has been recently rebound.

Passover is a Jewish holiday, which reminds Jews of their ancestors’ history as slaves in Egypt and how they managed to survive and flee. The celebration usually takes place around the dinner table, as family members get together and read from the Haggadah. The holiday continues to be widely celebrated across the Jewish community, as recent studies show that over 90% of all Jews celebrate yearly.[ii] To celebrate Passover, however, a family must have a haggadah. During Passover, family members are asked to spill droplets of wine on the book itself, which explains many, but not all, of the stains in the book.

The Haggadah with Shatnikh’s commentary Arba Yesodot was four times in the eighteenth century: 1782, 1788, and 1789 in Offenbach, and the 1782/3 Amsterdam edition, discussed here. The printer Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe in Amsterdam came from a family of printers and booksellers, who began printing in Amsterdam in mid-eighteenth century: Hirsz Levi Rofe, Yohanan’s brother, and Barukh, their brother-in-law.[iii] In 1797, Yohanan was joined by his son Benjamin, and they continued to print together till 1818.[iv] It is clear that they specialized in prayer books and liturgical texts for Ashkenazi Jews across Europe.

 Their books were published in Hebrew and Yiddish, the most common language spoken by Jews of northern and eastern Europe. The use of the Yiddish language has been used for centuries, with the first known writing dating back to the 14th century.[v] This language was used predominantly by Ashkenazi Jews, and the language itself combined both Hebrew and German.[vi] After printing was introduced in the Jewish community in the 15th century, the majority of works printed were in Hebrew, however, it was not long until works were translated and printed into Yiddish, the first book in Yiddish was published in 1534 in Cracow.[vii] Although this new, exciting idea of printing brought with it many books for people to buy, certain communities did not always agree with what was printed.

The book discussed here incorporates both Hebrew and Yiddish, making the laws and meaning of Passover accessible for those who may have only spoken Yiddish (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Pages from the section on Laws of Pesah with Shnatikh’s commentary Yesod ha-yirah in Yiddish.

Henry Poehlein is a senior at Fordham University. He wrote this paper in the fall of 2018, during his first semester at Fordham in Professor Magda Teter’s class HIST 1851 “Jews in the Modern World.”


Shnaṭikh, Elḥanan. Hagadah Shel Pesaḥ : An Merkung Eyneh Hagodeh Oyf Zolkhe Ahrṭ in Eś Ṭayṭshe Izṭ Nimahlen in Der Ṿelṭ Geṿezn … Ez Zaynen Arbaʻ Yesodot Ṿe-Arbaʻ ʻamude ʻolam Nehmlekh Dizeh Yesod Ha-Yirʼah Yesod Ha-Ahavah Di Andere Tsvey Yesod Ha-ʻavodah Yesod Ha-Berakhah Geheysn Ṿerdn. Nidpas be-Amśṭerdam : Be-vet uvi-defus Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-aḥiṿ, [5]543 [1782 or 1783], 1782.

Shoham, Hizky. “You Can’t Pick Your Family:Celebrating Israeli Familism around the Seder Table.” Journal of Family History 39, no. 3 (2014): 239-60.

Weinstein, Miriam. Yiddish : A Nation of Words. South Royalton, Vt. : Steerforth Press., c2001.


[i] Hagadah Shel Pesaḥ : An Merkung Eyneh Hagodeh Oyf Zolkhe Ahrṭ in Eś Ṭayṭshe Izṭ Nimahlen in Der Ṿelṭ Geṿezn … Ez Zaynen Arbaʻ Yesodot Ṿe-Arbaʻ ʻamude ʻolam Nehmlekh Dizeh Yesod Ha-Yirʼah Yesod Ha-Ahavah Di Andere Tsvey Yesod Ha-ʻavodah Yesod Ha-Berakhah Geheysn Ṿerdn (Nidpas be-Amśṭerdam : Be-vet uvi-defus Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-aḥiṿ, [5]543 [1782 or 1783], 1782), Non-fiction.

[ii] Hizky Shoham, “You Can’t Pick Your Family:Celebrating Israeli Familism around the Seder Table,” Journal of Family History 39, no. 3 (2014).

[iii] Sefer Magishe minḥah (Amśṭerdam : Be-vet uvi-defus ha-meshutafim Hirts Leṿi Rofe ṿe-ḥatano Ḳashman mokhre sefarim, 514- [1753 or 1754]); Maḥzor ke-minhag Polin, Raisen, Liṭa, Fihem, Merherin (Amśṭerdam : Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe ṿe-giso Barukh ṿe-eḥaṿ Hirts mokhre sefarim, 526 [1766])

[iv] Zot Ḥanukat ha-bayit (Amsṭerdam : be-vet uvi-defus Yoḥanan Levi Rofe u-veno Binyamin, [5]557 [1797]);  Seder tefilot mi-kol ha-shanah : ke-minhag Ashkenaz u-Folin (Amśterdam : Yoḥanan Leṿi Rofe u-veno Binyamin, 1818).

[v] Miriam Weinstein, Yiddish: A Nation of Words (South Royalton, Vt. : Steerforth Press., c2001).

[vi] Weinstein.

[vii] Magda,Teter, and Edward Fram, “Apostasy, Fraud, and the Beginnings of Hebrew Printing in Cracow,” AJS Review 30, no. 1 (2006): 31-66.

Roman Glass and Jerusalem Trade

By Daniel Ramazzotto

Jerusalem is a rich archeological site for various reasons.  It is an old city: the first archeological evidence of human settlement dates to before 2000 BCE.[1]  More importantly, the city has been settled and conquered by many different kingdoms and empires, each of which has left its own ruins. The Egyptians, Israelites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Suljuks, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans, British, Jordanians, and Israelis all held Jerusalem under their rule at some point in time.  During their reigns, these powers left behind their legacy in tangible, material ways, such as large public works, monumental buildings, and religious sites.  But they also left behind more mundane artifacts that are by no means less important.  Consumer goods used by common inhabitants of Jerusalem reveal much about the culture of Jerusalem and its place in the world.  Large projects may indicate the priorities of rulers, religious authorities, and other elites, but they do not capture what it meant to be an average inhabitant of Jerusalem.  Consumer goods are used in the daily lives of the people, and the logistics of producing such goods can provide a window into another aspect of  Jerusalem’s history.

Figure 1: Roman Candlestick Unguentarium

This small glass container (Figure 1), housed at Fordham’s Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art, is a Roman unguentarium, a simple container that implies much about the city under Roman rule.  An unguentarium is a container used for storing powders and liquids, typically used for cosmetic purposes.[2] 

Many unguentaria have been found at cemeteries, also suggesting that they must have served a religious or ritual purpose as well.[3]  It is thought that unguentaria were suspended by ropes, as no evidence of stoppers have emerged.[4]  Various materials were used, such as ceramic and glass, but Roman unguentaria were predominantly glass.[5]  Glass unguentarium come in different colors, a result of the metallic oxides added to the glass by the artisan.[6]  Two shapes of unguentarium are commonly encountered, fusiform and piriform. Fusiform, or spindle shape, have a conical base.[7]  Piriform are pear shaped, and have a flat base.  Another common shape of unguentaria is the candlestick shape, so called because its long neck resembles a candlestick.  The pictured unguentarium is an example of a candlestick unguentarium.

This particular unguentarium has some fairly common qualities that indicate it is mass produced.  Although it has corroded, it appears to have originally been a light blue translucent color.  This was a popular color for Roman glassware, and was achieved by adding varying amounts of cobalt oxide and copper oxide to the sand used in glass making.[8]  The base is half of a sphere, and the foot is flat, allowing it to rest without the support of ropes like other unguentaria.  The neck is long and slender, but slightly askew.  That is to say that the neck is not exactly perpendicular to the base.  The mouth has a circular rim that juts out past the neck, though it is not an equal thickness throughout.  From mouth to base the unguentarium stands just over eight inches tall.

With these qualities in mind, the provenance of this unguentarium may be ascertained.  Given that this unguentarium is the common aqua blue and has imperfections in its shape, it is safe to assume that this unguentarium was part of a mass production.  This being so we can assume several possibilities about the unguentarium’s origin.  According to Pliny, the source for raw materials used in the majority of Roman glassware came from two locations in Egypt, Wadi Natrun and el-Barnugi, with the material from el-Barnugi being superior.[9]  Given this piece’s common qualities, the glass used could have come from either site, though it is impossible to say without a chemical analysis.  Raw materials here would be manufactured into glass in bulk; this process is referred to as primary glass working.  These massive slabs of glass would be broken up and shipped to a location that worked the glass into usable vessels.[10] 

There is no way of knowing where this vessel was shaped but Diocletin’s price edict is illuminating.  In the edict, Diocletien fixes prices for various goods, including glass.  Interestingly, the price between “Judean plain glass cups and vessels” and “Alexandrian plain glass cups and vessels” is different: Judean is listed as 20 denarii and Alexandrian as 30 denarii.[11]  This price difference suggests that there were sites in Judea that worked glass into vessels.  Unfortunately, there is virtually no extant evidence of glass working workshops in the Roman Empire, so it is difficult to say where exactly this piece may have been made.  Another possibility is that Judea itself contained primary glass working facilities. If there were different primary sites, the quality of glass would have been different than the Egyptian glass due to the different raw materials used to make the glass. Inferiority in Judean raw materials would explain the difference in price between Judean and Alexandrian glass, though this is uncertain due to lack of archeological evidence of the Roman glass industry in general.[12]

All of this begs the question, what is a vessel of Roman design, made of Egyptian materials, doing in Jerusalem?

The question of the provenance of the unguentarium provides a lens into  Jerusalem’s place within the vast trade network that made up the Roman Empire.  The unguentarium’s construction was possible due to trade between various entities: the sites that made glass from raw materials, those that shipped this raw glass, and those that fashioned the glass into usable goods. This is a sophisticated process, indicating a highly organized trade structure.  Though the Peutinger map is not contemporaneous with the Roman Empire, the map details the cities and road networks that made up the empire.[13]  The map shows hundreds of cities, including Jerusalem, labeled as Aelia Capitolina.  Jerusalem is connected to this network by three roads, one of which leads to the major commercial hub of Antioch.  Additionally, the major cities of Alexandria and Constantinople are relatively close to Jerusalem.  All of this indicates that Jerusalem had access to a large amount of goods, such as this unguentarium, from all across the empire.

Figure 2: Section of Peutinger Map showing Jerusalem (Aelia Capitolina)

This unguentarium speaks to what the average person may have had access to, as it is most likely a cheap, mass produced item. This line of reasoning may hold true for a number of new goods under Roman rule of the city, much like modern international trade enabling unprecedented access to goods on a global scale.  Aside from the commercial aspects of the unguentaria, there is the fact that they were commonly used in funeral rituals.  Prior to Roman rule, this would have been an impossibility, as Jerusalem would not have access to these vessels beforehand.  This indicates that Roman religious practices may have affected local practices.  All of this forces us to examine what legacy – not only military but also commercial – the Romans left on Jerusalem.

Roman rule of Jerusalem ushered Jerusalem into a pan-Mediterranean trade network; the city would eventually transition to trade in the East.  Jerusalem is often considered for its religious importance. But there are many references in historical literature to Jerusalem’s centrality in trade, too.  Jerusalem had a significant commercial importance as early as the Iron Age, as the rise of the Assyrians led to increased trade in the region.[14]  But this trade mainly benefited the elite, as very few imported goods like pottery have been discovered.[15]  It is thought that trade routes were limited due to the difficult topography around Jerusalem.[16]  Trade networks significantly expanded during the Roman period, in part because of the vast road system that the empire built. 

Perhaps the most famous reference to Jerusalem mercantilism is the episode of Jesus chasing out the money changers, which appears in all four canonical gospels.[17]  The narrative details Jesus expelling currency exchangers out of the Second Temple.  The fact that there are multiple currencies to be exchanged show that Jerusalem has garnished a reputation for a city of international trade; such a profession would not be necessary if goods were all purchased with a single currency.  Rather, currency from different sources show that traders from different regions would come to Jerusalem to purchase things.  Another reference to Jerusalem as a great trading city is found in Al-Muqaddasi’s The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions.  In his praise of Jerusalem, Al-Muqaddasi mentions that many amenities from around the world are available in Jerusalem’s market, and he says that this is one of the reasons why Jerusalem is one of the best cities in the world.[18]  Al-Muqaddasi composed his text in the tenth century, when Jerusalem was under Abbasid  rule, well after Roman rule of the city. This indicates that Jerusalem maintained its commercial status after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.[19]

This Roman unguentarium found near Jerusalem allows us to infer many things about the status of trade in Jerusalem during and after Roman rule of the city.  The production of the unguentarium was enabled by the vast trade network of the Roman Empire.  The glass industry was able to utilize raw materials for production in distant areas, and allowed for transport of final goods for sale in far-reaching regions.  While Jerusalem gained the status of a commercial city under the Romans, this status endured through the medieval period.  The world’s foremost religious city was a worldly city as well.

Daniel Ramazzotto is a senior from New Jersey studying Biology. He enjoys reading, running, and history.

This blog post was originally written for Prof. Sarit Kattan Gribetz’s “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish Christian, Muslim Perspectives” course; the Mahzor and this essay will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at Fordham’s Walsh Library. 


[1] Dorell, “Jerusalem has History.”

[2] Telli, “Unguentarium As A Ceramic Vessel,” 1.

[3] Telli, “Unguentarium As A Ceramic Vessel,” 1

[4] Telli, “Unguentarium As A Ceramic Vessel,” 21

[5] Telli, “Unguentarium As A Ceramic Vessel,” 20

[6] “How Glass Was Made in the Ancient Roman World.”

[7] Telli, “Unguentarium As A Ceramic Vessel,” 20

[8] “How Glass Was Made in the Ancient Roman World.”

[9] Jackson, et al, “Glassmaking Using Natron.”

[10] Jackson, et al, “Glassmaking Using Natron.”

[11] Barag, “Alexandrian and Judaean Glass in the Price Edict of Diocletian,” 184.

[12] Zeitzer, “The Roman Glass Industry,” 25.

[13] “Explore Peutinger’s Roman Map”: https://isaw.nyu.edu/exhibitions/space/tpeut.html

[14] Tebes, “Was Jerusalem a Trade Center.”

[15] Tebes, “Was Jerusalem a Trade Center.”

[16] Tebes, “Was Jerusalem a Trade Center.”

[17] Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 2.

[18] Al-Muqaddasi, The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions, 251

[19] Trade in medieval Jerusalem is also explore in Boehm and Holcomb, Jerusalem, 1000-1400, 9-26.


Barag, Dan. “Alexandrian and Judaean Glass in the Price Edict of Diocletian.” Journal of Glass Studies 47 (2005): 184-186.

Boehm, Barbara Drake and Melanie Holcomb, Jerusalem, 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016).

Dorell, Oren. “Jerusalem has history of many conquests, surrenders.” USA Today. 6 December 2017. Accessed December 9, 2020, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/12/05/jerusalem-history-israel-capital/923651001/

Explore Peutinger’s Roman Map. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://isaw.nyu.edu/exhibitions/space/tpeut.html

“How Glass Was Made in the Ancient Roman World.” Department of Classics. July 26, 2019. Accessed December 09, 2020. https://www.colorado.edu/classics/2018/10/11/how-glass-was-made-ancient-roman-world#:~:text=The ancient Roman glass industry,the raw materials were available.

Jackson, C.M., Paynter, S., Nenna, M.D. et al. “Glassmaking Using Natron from el-Barnugi (Egypt): Pliny and the Roman Glass Industry.” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 10 (2018): 1179–1191. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-016-0447-4

Muqaddasi, Muhammad Ibn Aohmad. The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions: Translation of Ahsan Al-taqasim Fi Marifat Al-aqalim. Translated by Basil Anthony Collins. Doha: Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, 1994.

Tebes, Juan Manuel. “Was Jerusalem a Trade Center in the Late Iron Age?” 2020. Accessed December 09, 2020, from https://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/wtc2357913.shtml

Telli, Elçin. “Unguentarium As A Ceramic Vessel.” Conference Paper delivered at the 1st International Aromatic Plants & Cosmetics Symposium, 2019.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338984815_Unguentarium_As_A_Ceramic_Vessel

The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

Zeitzer, Ryan. “The Roman Glass Industry: An Analysis of Roman Era Glass Production and the Lives of Glassblowers.” Master’s thesis, Brandeis University, 2018.

Duodecim Prophetae, cum glossa: A Glossa Ordinaria from La Bussiere, France

By Sara Paola Guerra Rubí

The gloss on the Bible, also known as the Glossa Ordinaria, is a pedagogical and devotional text that became popular during the High Middle Ages.  Beginning around the twelfth century onwards, the text of the Latin Vulgate was commonly copied by scribes into structured manuscripts accompanied by commentaries from various authoritative sources.  These referenced  texts include the Church Fathers, Cassadorius, Isidore, Bede, and other medieval exegetes and intellectuals.  The term “gloss” comes from the Latin and Greek word for tongue (language) and it should not be confused with texts labeled as “commentaries,” as these only pertain to compilations that house the comments of a single author.  Glosses, in their most common form, are manuscripts that contain a series of biblical texts accompanied by a “set of marginal and interlinear comments and explanations.”[i]  These added excerpts discuss different interpretive theories or mention subjects like etymology and terminology as they relate to the biblical text on the page.

The format of the Gloss is one of the most distinctive features that distinguishes it from other Christian compositions; some Jewish exegetical texts also adopted these gloss formats.  The layout and script of the manuscript is meant to guide the reader through the text.  Scripture is laid out continuously in the center of the page, and the font of this text is much larger than the comments added in the margins.  This is done in order to visually distinguish between the holy words of Scripture and the exegesis of scholars.[ii]  This means that in some structural aspects, glosses not only had a practical purpose; their features also pointed to theological ideas and concepts, like the special, inspired status of the Bible.  In addition, the biblical text is double spaced to allow for several smaller glosses to weave between the scriptural lines.  All comments on a certain verse or passage are included alongside the Scripture on the same page.  In addition, glosses often employ the use of different symbols and markers to signal where a comment or biblical passage begins.  In the manuscript displayed in this exhibit, each separate comment is marked with a sign that looks like the modern indent symbol, each new verse is signaled with a larger capital letter, and the transition from one book of the Bible to the next is announced by a decorated initial.

Figure 1: The different font sizes help the reader of the gloss distinguish between the Scripture and the theological commentary.  This image depicts the decorated initial (V) that marks the beginning of the book of Micah.  A smaller, distinguishable “A” in the word Audite (listen) points to the beginning of the second verse in the first chapter.

Figure 2:
The symbol that looks like a modern indentation sign helps the reader know when a comment from a patristic or authoritative source begins and ends.

The Gloss included in this exhibition (Latin 17222) was produced in the Cistercian Abbey in La Bussiere, France during the first half of the thirteenth century.  It contains within it the biblical books categorized as the “twelve minor prophets,” along with patristic and exegetical commentary.  The twelve minor prophets appear in the manuscript in the following order: Hosea (Osee), Joel (Ioel), Amos, Obadiah (Abdias), Jonah (Ionas), Micah (Micaeas), Nahum, Habakkuk (Habacuc), Zephaniah (Sophonias), Haggai (Aggaeus), Zechariah (Zacharias), and Malachi (Malachias).  This is how the minor prophets are arranged in the Vulgate, as this is believed to be the proper chronological order of the texts.  For the sake of this brief introduction to the Latin 17222 manuscript, we will focus on the books of Hosea, Nahum, Zephaniah, and Zechariah, as their contents relate to the city of Jerusalem.  After a short discussion of these books of Scripture, this introduction will turn its focus to the added patristic commentary featured alongside each mentioned passage or chapter.

The Latin 17222 manuscript opens with a set of two prefaces to the minor prophets.  Most notably, the first preface comes from Jerome’s introduction to this set of books in his Vulgate, as it was compiled by Carolingian scholars.  All these features are common among Glosses.  In his brief prologue, Jerome dedicates these Scriptural translations to two individuals named Paula and Eustochium (Paula’s daughter).  The narrative of the life of Saint Paula is especially linked to Jerusalem.  In a letter penned by St. Jerome, he attempts to comfort Eustochium after the death of her mother.  Jerome mentions Paula’s famous pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she visited many holy sites in Jerusalem and venerated them with ardent devotion.  As mentions in the letter, “What tears she shed there (in the Lord’s tomb), what groans she uttered, and what grief she poured forth, all Jerusalem knows; the Lord also to whom she prayed knows.”[iii]  At the end of her journey, Paula decides to remain close to Jerusalem, in the town of Bethlehem, where she remains until her death.  Finally, Jerome mentions in his preface the different sets of Hebrew prophets that were contemporaneous with each other.  He also claims that the order in which the books are compiled is a feature handed down from Jewish tradition, which orders the books of the prophets according to their date of composition.

Figure 3:
In this image of a sentence in St. Jerome’s “Prologue to the Twelve Prophets,” he names his two patrons.  “I would only you were warned this, O Paul and Eustochium: the book of the Twelve Prophets to be one; (not in the picture) and Hosea a contemporary of Isaiah; (and) Malachi in fact to have been of the times of Haggai and Zachariah.”

The book of Hosea is the first book included in the list of the minor prophets, and it focuses on the theme of loyalty to God. It is believed to have been composed from 750-725 BCE.  The first three chapters of Hosea, especially, represent Jerusalem through the figure of a prostitute or harlot.  This personified Jerusalem has gone after her lovers and made God rightfully resentful of her abandonment.  It is because of this that God makes her path difficult and punishes her through the suffering of her children and the defilement of her status.  God then tells Hosea to “love a woman who is a lover and an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the people of Israel” (Hosea 3:1).  However, despite the current state of Jerusalem and the people who used to live within it, God still points Hosea to the possibility of redemption and a promised, eventual return to the divine presence of God and their sacred spaces.  Jerome, in his Three Books of Commentary on the Prophet Hosea to Pammachus, mentions that the term “fornication,” as it is used in the book of the prophet Hosea, refers to the idolatrous practices of the Israelites.  Jerome also links this specific action attributed to the personification of Jerusalem to the heretics of his time.  He mentions that “heretics go after these (foreign) lovers according to spiritual understanding; when often they are deserted by them, they are turned back to the bosom of mother church by the weight of evils.”[iv]  Finally, Jerome re-interprets the story in this biblical book through a Christian lens.  Though he acknowledges that the period of suffering mentioned in Hosea refers directly to the seventy years of exile in Babylon when there were no priests or a temple in Jerusalem, he says that Christians should think of this story in relation to the end of times when the people of Israel will see their mistake in rejecting Christ.  This rejection is, according to Jerome, analogous with the abandonment of God by Israel before the first destruction of the temple.  In a similar way, Jerusalem and the Jewish people will be punished for fornicating with other figures and ideas and not accepting Jesus, who was sent primarily to save them.

The prophecy of Nahum centers on the downfall of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyria Empire.  This disaster came about because the people in this city failed to listen to God.  The fall of the major city featured in this prophetic book mirrors the fall of Jerusalem and is meant to remind the Jewish people of God’s will, power, and judgment, for it is only God who can liberate them from the oppression of a foreign empire by destroying the Neo-Babylonian’s most important city.  The book of Nahum was written between 630 and 612 BCE.  For both the Israelite authors and the Christian scholars commenting on this book, Nahum’s text describes the ultimate governance of God over his creation.  Since Christian and Jewish thinkers only made reference to Nineveh in relation to the exile and Jerusalem, this significant site was only necessary as long as it played a role in the prophetic narrative.  This status of liminal and secondary importance held by this Assyrian city differs greatly from the historical, cultural, and religious significance linked to the city of Jerusalem.

The book of Zephaniah dates to around 630 BCE.  Zephaniah himself is believed to be a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum, and Habakkuk.  This prophetic book discusses the idolatry and injustice occurring in Jerusalem and admonishes the Jewish and Gentile nations of an impending day of doom.  The final prophet discussed in this entry, Zechariah, dates his work to “the second year of Darius the king (1:1), which would be around 520 BCE.”[v]  This biblical book is apocalyptic in style and highly messianic.  Jerusalem is represented in Zechariah as the dwelling place of God’s people. By this time in Jewish history, the exiles were released from captivity in Babylon by the Persian emperor Cyrus and had returned to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is depicted in Zechariah through two literary senses.  The first refers to the rebuilt, physical city of Jerusalem.  The second refers to Jerusalem as the dwelling place for the people of God in which they will accept the coming of the Messiah and the end of times.[vi]  Jerome, in his biblical commentary, posits a third image of Jerusalem.  This Jerusalem represents not an earthly or heavenly city, but the Christian church.  As he mentions in his commentary on Zechariah, “Jerusalem and Zion… can be understood as the church, which does not consider the wars of this world, nor lowly and earthly things, but peace and harmony and the heights of the heavens.”[vii]  Jerome mentions that the decline in the bureaucratic and moral state of the Church will cause the church to be handed over to dangers and persecutors, in order to test the valuable members of the Church.  Although the adversaries sent to test the people will destroy the earthly, physical Jerusalem (the Church), Jesus will arrive at the end of time to build his Church back up.  Jerome repeats the language utilized by Jewish scholars, prophets, and exegetes when talking about Israel and Jerusalem, but places these images of a heavenly institution or space in conversation with Christian theological imagination.

Figure 4:
In this biblical verse one can see Jerusalem and Zion mentioned along with some added commentary.  Part of the verse reads: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I have been zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great zeal” (Zechariah 1:14).

Why were the compilers of these types of manuscripts so interested in including these patristic commentaries that point to Jerusalem’s inherent theological importance?  This question points the reader to the cultural, artistic, and literary impact of the Crusades.  During this period the repossession of Jerusalem symbolized (for the European Christian population) the superiority of Christianity, the prestige of the Western church, and the effective safe-guarding of the patrimony of Jesus, the apostles, and other holy figures.[viii]  This clerical and popular interest in the city is reflected in the continued appeal of pilgrimage to its holy sites and the resulting literature and manuscripts that attempted to take the reader to Jerusalem through their narratives.  Even pedagogical texts like glosses concerned themselves with placing patristic commentary on Jerusalem next to Scriptural depictions of the city, making it clear that, in some way, these texts were interested in establishing the importance of this particular city in the Christian theological and devotional imagination.  Even after the Crusader states fell, Jerusalem still continued to loom large in the minds of medieval writers and artists, who widely copied texts that depicted the Holy city within the Crusader context.[ix]  As one can see, the effects of the Crusades and the campaigns that stirred up support for these enterprises were felt throughout the High Middle Ages.

The Latin 17222 manuscript references personifications and images of Jerusalem as they relate to prophetic narratives.  The Scripture points to how Jerusalem was portrayed by the Jewish authors of the texts named after the minor prophets, and the comments in the margins and between the lines, authored by Christian readers of the biblical texts, complement or challenge these interpretive claims.  These additions to the biblical text through the Christian glosses introduce their own historical and theological concerns.  This, inevitably, shifts the role and importance of Jerusalem in the medieval imagination.  This interest in reinterpreting Jerusalem through a Christian lens might also be linked to the historical and cultural developments that followed the advent of Crusader culture.

Sara Paola Guerra Rubí is a senior History and Theology major from a small town in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico.  She currently enjoys painting, hanging out with her dogs, and reading about the Biblical Apocrypha. 

This blog post was originally written for Prof. Sarit Kattan Gribetz’s “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish Christian, Muslim Perspectives” course, and is featured in the exhibition catalogue “Jerusalem in the Stacks.” 


[1] Smith, Glossa Ordinaria, 1.

[2] Smith, Glossa Ordinaria, 5.

[3] Jerome, “Letter 108,” 6.

[4] Jerome & Scheck, Commentaries on the Twelve Prophets, 162.

[5] Melhus, “The Minor Prophets,” 95.

[6] Melhus, “The Minor Prophets,” 96.

[7] Jerome & Scheck, Commentaries on the Twelve Prophets, 9.

[8] Armstrong, Jerusalem, 427.

[9] Westwell, “Medieval Depictions of the Crusades,” 1.


Armstrong, Karen. “Chapter 13: Crusade,” in Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, 426–59. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997.

Doob Sakenfeld, Katharine, James Raymond Mueller, and M. Jack Suggs. The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Jerome. “Letter 108.” Translated by W.G. Martley, W.H. Fremantle, and G Lewis. Church Fathers: Letter 108 (Jerome), 1893. https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001108.htm.

Jerome, trans. by Kevin P. Edgecomb. “Jerome, Prologue to the Twelve Prophets (2006).” tertullian.org. Accessed December 5, 2020. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_preface_prophets.htm.

Jerome, and Thomas P. Scheck. Commentaries on the Twelve Prophets. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2017.

Melhus, Dan. “The Minor Prophets.” padfield.com, n.d. https://www.padfield.com/acrobat/asher/minor-prophets-mehus.pdf.

Smith, Lesley. Glossa Ordinaria: The Making of a Medieval Bible Commentary. Boston: Brill, 2009.

“Twelve Minor Prophets.” Latin-English Study Bible (with translation notes), 2020. http://www.sacredbible.org/studybible/.

Westwell, Chantry. “Medieval Depictions of the Crusades.” Medieval manuscripts blog, March 29, 2017.

The Casale Pilgrimage and Drawings of the Holy City

By Yuet Ho

This illustrated manuscript depicts holy places throughout Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and mainly Palestine.  It is small, 93 x 154mm, and it contains many colorful illustrations along with Hebrew captions.  The manuscript does not give itself an official name, but Cecil Roth, who published an English translation of the book in 1929, called it The Casale Pilgrim and identified it as an illustrated account of the holy places in Palestine.  The original manuscript is housed in the Leeds University Library’s archive, classmarked at MS ROTH/220.[i]

The manuscript’s first few pages of text provide information and hints about this book’s origin.  The Hebrew text on the title page, for example, says that the book was finished in the year 5358 at Casale Monferrato, in Italy.  The year 5358, the traditional Jewish calendar date, translates to the year 1598 C.E., when the author completed this work.  Under the Hebrew writing, there is cursive Italian handwriting, which is a point of interest as the book itself is written fully in Hebrew; all captions in the remainder of the book are written in Hebrew, and this cursive Italian writing is only found on the first few written pages.  This could suggest that the Italian was written after the manuscript’s completion, perhaps by its owner rather than by the person who produced the manuscript.  The Italian on this page reveals that the manuscript belonged to Mr. Leone Vida Piazza.  Interestingly, the following pages also contain some cursive Italian script identifying the book’s owner as a Jew of Florence.  The manuscript was completed in Casale Monferrato, yet its owner records that he lives in Florence, two different locations in Italy, 268 kilometers apart.

Looking at this manuscript’s historical context provides further insight into its origins.  Before and during the 16th century, Europe saw a surge of persecutions and expulsions of Jews.  The Spanish expulsion of Jews meant that some Jews from Spain and its territories, such as Sicily and Sardinia, would have migrated to Northern Italy.[ii]  Northern Italian cities had relatively large Jewish populations, with Casale Monferrato having 600 to 700 Jewish residents and Florence having about 500.[iii]  The Jewish community in Florence would have been culturally diverse because of immigration.  There was already an existing community of Jews in Florence made up of merchants, doctors, and bankers that settled there in the 15th century because the city needed more moneylenders.[iv]  The Medicis showed favor to Jewish refugees, allowing Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal to settle in Florence, along with Jews escaping from the anti-Jewish decrees of the Papal States, policies which Florence did not follow. 

Figure 1: Title page of manuscript, with two different Hebrew writings as well as Italian
Figure 2 (left): Cover of book
Figure 3 (right): Map of Italy, indicating the two locations mentioned on the manuscript’s title page

Perhaps this manuscript traveled from Casale Monferrato to Florence in the inventory of a migrating Jew and then got passed on to Mr. Leone Vida Piazza.  But it is also possible that the manuscript was commissioned by Mr. Leone Vida Piazza for use as a codex during his own pilgrimage or that of a relative.  Its usage as a pilgrimaging guide is supported by the fact that it is quite small for a manuscript.  Being only half a foot in length, it would have easily fit into a travel bag. 

The first inscription in the manuscript describes the text: “These are the journeyings of the children of Israel which they journey, from strength to strength, to prostrate themselves upon the sepulchers of the righteous: until they come with tears and supplication to pray for the welfare of their brethren which are in the diaspora.  May the Lord hasten our deliverance: Amen!”[v]  This introduction makes clear that the travels of Jews to the land and to the graves of righteous ancestors is meant to bestow blessings not only on the travelers but also on those who stayed back home.

By the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire controlled the places that this manuscript illustrates and describes.  Many exiled Jews from Europe settled in the Ottoman Empire, where they found more success and better treatment.[vi]  The relative safety of the Ottoman Empire and the settlement of exiled Jews in its territories led to a significant increase in Jewish pilgrimages to holy sites within the Empire, including to Jerusalem.[vii]  Italian trading cities such as Florence would have had trade routes that connecting to important cities within the Ottoman Empire, and so travel was relatively straightforward.  Figure 4 depicts the village of Gaza, which would have been one of the first towns a pilgrim would visit when traveling from the Holy Land to Egypt.  It is possible that either Mr.  Leone Vida Piazza or the author of the book travelled to Egypt through common trade routes and Gaza could have been considered a welcoming first site for pilgrims traveling the Levant, given how the gates were drawn so wide and golden.  The caption calls it a fair and beautiful place.  Considering the increase in Jewish pilgrimage within the Ottoman Empire, perhaps the author created this book from their time as a pilgrim in order to document their experience and save it for other pilgrims, of which Mr. Leone Vida Piazza could have been one.

Figure 4: Illustration of Gaza, on the way to Egypt from Jerusalem

The vast majority of the sites illustrated in this manuscript are burial places for important religious figures.  Some of the burial sites include Mount Hor where Aaron the Priest was buried, the Hidekel river where Ezekiel lies, Damascus with the cave of Elijah, Babylon where the three Holy Children and Daniel are buried, Basra where Ezra the priest was buried, Edrei where lies Eldad and Medad, Jacuc with the burial site of the Prophet Habbakuk, Arbel where lay the children of Jacob and a cave where Seth (Adam’s Son) was buried.  There are also places such Gibratin, Alyukemeh, Shechem, Bethshean, and Tiberias, where many named rabbis and their families are buried.  These sites were the resting places of figures from the Hebrew Bible, prophets, and notable rabbis.  They would have been sacred places for a pilgrim to visit, as they would be standing in the presence of their ancestors  and reflecting on the significance of those buried there.  In addition to the many burial places, the manuscript also illustrates the holiest sites for Jews: Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, and the Temple Mount.   

In addition to the theological importance of these sites, there was also an element of awe at their marvelousness.  Occasionally, the author points out how beautiful a synagogue or tomb is.  The caption for the image in Figure 5 describes an Aleppo synagogue as “large and beautiful,” to which “none other can be compared.”  The site is enhanced by surrounding trees, vines, and orchards, which are described as places under which to pray.  The illustration and caption provide a sensory experience of the place.  It is interesting that the author calls this synagogue’s beauty unrivaled, yet the illustration of it is not as large nor as detailed as other depictions of synagogues such as the illustration of a synagogue in Cairo, featured in Figure 6.  Perhaps its beauty lies in the surrounding plant life, which is more elaborate than in the other synagogues illustrated.  A pilgrim that visits this place can pray under the peaceful and quiet trees, such lush plant life reminiscent of Eden.

By being a guide to holy places, this manuscript functions like a tour brochure.  It describes the specialness of the places a pilgrim can visit and creates further interest in visiting them.  Figure 7 contains one of the most unique illustrations in the book.  It depicts the burial site of the prophet Daniel in Babylon.  Daniel is buried in a metal coffin, hanging by iron chains onto an elaborately decorated bridge.  There is a sign that reads “Daniel, of blessed memory.”  The caption narrates lore about the site; among the many fishes in the river under the bridge, there is an old fish that existed in Daniel’s time; fishing was banned near this site out of respect for Daniel.  This page offers quite the marvelous site to behold.  Not only is it theologically significant because it is the burial site of a prophet, but it is also physically unique as no other burial site in the book involves hanging a coffin under a bridge.  For a pilgrim reading this page, such a story might have inspired a visit to the site, whether to honor Daniel’s memory, or to view the unique burial site, or the chance to see the old fish that lived during Daniel’s time.

Figure 5: The Aleppo synagogue is described as “large and beautiful,” to which “none other can be compared.” 
Figure 6: A synagogue in Cairo
Figure 7: The burial site of the prophet Daniel in Babylon

The manuscript holds a special place for the city of Jerusalem.  It is one of the first places mentioned in the text, following Jericho, Hebron, Tekoa, Halhul, and Sarata.  One of these early pages, which depicts Tekoa, mentions Jerusalem and adds “may it be rebuilt and established speedily in our days!” in prayer for redemption, a common Jewish sentiment, and this line is repeated each time the name “Jerusalem” appears in the manuscript.  The first discussion of Jerusalem in the manuscript highlight’s Jerusalem’s state of destruction: “Jerusalem… is waste through our sins.  Nothing is left of the old construction save somewhat of the foundation; but now recently they have built the whole wall at the bidding of the King – a laudable and beauteous construction.”[viii]

A particularly interesting page in the manuscript depicts the Temple Mount.  This page is part of a series of pages that depict sites a pilgrim would visit when they arrived at Jerusalem.  The short description calls this the Temple with twelve gates; the text explains that two gates were permanently closed and that from then on they were called the Gates of Mercy.  The building above the Temple Mount is interesting because it has only one gate.  The mention of the Gates of Mercy in the captions makes it possible that the building is supposed to be an illustration of it.  The next page describes the Temple Mount to have two great domes covered in gold and silver; these could correspond with the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the al-Aqsa Mosque.  The gated building is flanked by two great domes which could be the previously mentioned ones.  Given the mention of the Gates of Mercy on this page and the location of the domes, this might be an illustration of the Gates of Mercy.  But there is a fault to this interpretation in the fact that the illustration only depicts one gate when it explicitly mentions that there are two.  Jewish pilgrimage scrolls in the 16th century, such as the Genealogy of the Patriarchs (Yichus ha-Avot), depict two distinctly separate gates.[ix]  The author might have had access to these pilgrimage scrolls as it was common in the 16th century for Jews in Palestine to send emissaries with scrolls abroad to promote pilgrimage to the Holy Land.[x]  It is then interesting that they would only draw one gate.  Perhaps the illustration depicts another gate beside the Gates of Mercy, but it would be strange to mention those gates, and then decide to draw a completely different gate. 

Figure 8: Page depicting the Temple
Figure 9: Mount of Olives with the Tomb of Hulda and other places of burial

The illustrations of sites from Jerusalem represents a fascinating view into the city at the end of the sixteenth city.  The following pages describe the Western Wall, “whence the Presence God has never moved”; the Gate of Benjamin, which the text identifies by its Arabic name as well (Bab-el-Sabin, the Gate of the Tribes); Zion, the place of King David’s palace, where the ark of the covenant was housed before the temple was built; the Tower of David; the city’s three markets, where all kinds of goods are sold; and an ancient synagogue.  After describing Jerusalem proper, the text describes the Mount of Olives, noting the tomb of Hulda the Prophetess and those of many others on the mount itself and all the way to Ramah.

The Casale Pilgrim manuscript was published as a facsimile with an English translation in 1929 by Cecil Roth, who was born in London in March 1899 and became one of the greatest and most prolific Jewish historians of his generation.  Fordham’s Special Collections holds the fourth copy of a total of 38 printed, signed by Roth himself.  Roth went on to publish over 600 of his works; the Cecil Roth Collection at Leeds University is one of the most extensive archives on Jewish History.

Figure 10: Cecil Roth’s signature in Fordham’s copy of The Casale Pilgrimage

Yuet Ho is a senior Computer Science major from New York City. He enjoys programming mini-games and editing images in photoshop.

This blog post was originally written for Prof. Sarit Kattan Gribetz’s “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish Christian, Muslim Perspectives” course; a facsimile of the Casale Pilgrimage and this essay is featured in an exhibition at Fordham’s Walsh Library, on display August – December 2021. 


[i] “Cecil Roth Collection,” University of Leeds.

[ii] Bell, Jews in the Early Modern World, 43.

[iii] Bell, Jews in the Early Modern World, 45.

[iv] “Florence, Italy,” Jewish Virtual Library.

[v] Roth, The Casale Pilgrim.

[vi] Jacobs and Montgomery, “Turkey.”

[vii] Deutsch, Eisenstein, and Franco, “Pilgrimage.”

[viii] Roth, The Casale Pilgim, 41.

[ix] https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/688582

[x] Berger, “The Dome of the Rock as the Temple in Pilgrimage Scrolls,” 229.


“Cecil Roth Collection.” University of Leeds Library: https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/114260.

Bell, Dean Phillip. Jews in the Early Modern World. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.     

Deutsch, Gotthard, Judah David Eisenstein, and M. Franco. “Pilgrimage.” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, accessed online at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12149-pilgrimage. 

“Florence, Italy.” Jewish Virtual Library: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/florence-italy-jewish-history-tour.         

“Genealogy of the Patriarchs (Yichus ha-Avot).” Metropolitan Museum of Art Online Collection, accessed at https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/688582. 

Jacobs, Joseph, and Mary W. Montgomery. “Turkey.” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, accessed online at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14546-turkey. 

Berger, Pamela C. “The Dome of the Rock as the Temple in Pilgrimage Scrolls.” In The Crescent on the Temple: the Dome of the Rock as Image of the Ancient Jewish Sanctuary. Boston: Brill, 2012. 


“Cecil Roth Collection.” University of Leeds Library: https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/114260.

Bell, Dean Phillip. Jews in the Early Modern World. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.     

Deutsch, Gotthard, Judah David Eisenstein, and M. Franco. “Pilgrimage.” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, accessed online at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12149-pilgrimage. 

“Florence, Italy.” Jewish Virtual Library: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/florence-italy-jewish-history-tour.         

“Genealogy of the Patriarchs (Yichus ha-Avot).” Metropolitan Museum of Art Online Collection, accessed at https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/688582. 

Jacobs, Joseph, and Mary W. Montgomery. “Turkey.” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, accessed online at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14546-turkey. 

Berger, Pamela C. “The Dome of the Rock as the Temple in Pilgrimage Scrolls.” In The Crescent on the Temple: the Dome of the Rock as Image of the Ancient Jewish Sanctuary. Boston: Brill, 2012.