A house in Palestine during the time of Jesus is one thing above all else: a Jewish family home.
Have you noticed the case hanging at an angle from the door frame? It’s called a mezuzah and contains a piece of parchment inscribed with the creed of Judaism, the Shema Israel. And it signifies that God watches over and protects the people in that house.
As with every religion, the rituals and customs of Judaism are deeply rooted in everyday life. They lend structure to the daily routine, the weekly rhythm and the year.
Behind the panels in the left-hand corner of the room, you’ll find some objects of great importance in Jewish ritual: a prayer shawl, a phylactery (that’s the strap with the two small leather cases), and the skullcap known as a kippah. Jesus probably wore those, as did all Jewish males – because he developed his teachings based on the Jewish faith.
To this day, Shabbat is the most important holiday in Judaism – a holiday that recurs every week, and one on which any form of work is strictly forbidden. Shabbat is the day of reflection, when the family comes together without haste or urgency and is able to focus on the essential things in life.
And it is a time of plenty – no skimping allowed. Shabbat begins with a shared evening meal during which a blessing is recited. The Kiddush cup is generously filled to the brim and people share the wine. There follows a day of communal services, prayers and meals – a distinctive “time out” from the never-ending flow of everyday life.
When Shabbat draws to a close on the following evening, the besamim container makes its appearance. Its sides are pierced, and it’s filled with fragrant herbs, blossoms and spices. To bid farewell to Shabbat, you inhale deeply, absorb the perfumes and try to carry a little of the holiday’s beneficial festiveness over with you into your daily life, which is about to begin again.
All depictions: © Bibelgalerie Meersburg