Monthly Archives: April 2015

Once Upon a Time…

Are you learning hebrew? Do you enjoy a good story? The Library has a collection of Children’s Literature in Hebrew, the basis of which came from the Kressel Collection. These books can be a fun way to practise reading Hebrew, and often they include the vowel pointing too.

Children giraffe

The collection includes books that were published a generation ago as well as recent publications.

children animals   children past

There are translations of classic Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales into Hebrew, as well as original Hebrew fiction.

children red riding     children hansel and G


children nursery rhymes

There is fiction and non-fiction, young-adult novels and versions of biblical texts.

children YA fictionchildren genesis









The Akedah

The Akedah


children colourful

children gan gani

We even have a few board books!

We even have a few board books!

Why do we have to invite cats for Seder?

Forli Siddur, Italy, 1383 (London, British Library, MS Add. 26968, fol. 119v)


In some medieval miniatures of Seder feast, feline creatures appear under the table at the feet of the celebrating family.

What do these animals do at such an occasion?

The Pesahim tractate of the Babylonian Talmud discusses at length what to do if a mouse runs into the searched house with a bread crumb in its mouth (bPes 10b). The question is if the house has to be searched again or not.

In the Second Nuremberg Haggadah, the cat itself comments on its task: “Behold, I bite the mouse, lest he eat the grain” (הנני נושך בעכבר פן יאכל את הבר). Another image on the same folio depicts a man pouring the content of a bowl into a big vessel. The caption says: “One hides the leaven and the grain, lest the mouse drag it away.” Thus it seems that cats are “invited” to catch mice which might bring in some leavened bread crumbs to the searched and already ritually clean house.


Second Nuremberg Haggadah, Ashkenaz, 1460s (Jerusalem, Schocken Library, MS 24087, fol. 3v)

A fifteenth-century Italian prayer book shows how warmly cats were welcomed under the Seder table:

Prayer book, Italian rite, 15th century (London, British Library, MS Or. 11924, fol. 153v)


Sounds a bit contradictory with this, what Bernard Picart in his famous Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (published with Jean Frederic Bernard between 1723 and 1743) says about cats and mice being “welcomed” during the preparation of the matzah.

“Nor are the Jews less scrupulous as to the composition of their unleavened bread, than in their search for the leavened bread and in the preparation of the grain… and the master of the house, or father of the family would do well, some way, to have a hand in making the unleavened bread; if he cannot, or must not set his hands to the paste, at least to stand by during so pious an operation; to give free course to such small bits of paste as fall off from the great lump, and full liberty to the cats and mice to eat them, still as they roll down upon the ground.”  (Bernard Picart and Jean Frédéric Bernard, The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Several Nations of the  KnownWorld, vol. 1 [London: Nicholas Prevost, 1731], 208)

The Religious Ceremonies and Customs

Cats under the Seder table appear not only in Ashkenazi and Italian, but also Sephardi context.

Sister Haggadah, Catalonia (Barcelona) 2nd or 3rd quarter of the 14th century (London, British Library, MS Or. 2884, fol. 18r)


Hag Sameakh to all those celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover; bon appétit to your cats!