Hear, O Israel: The Magic of the Shema
August 20 2021 - April 23 2022
- Curators: Nancy Benovitz and Dudi Mevorah
- Designer: Alexandra Topaz
- Davidson Temporary Exhibition Gallery, Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing
The Hebrew words Shema Yisrael, “Hear, O Israel,” mark the opening of the Jewish declaration of faith and the first of three biblical passages comprising the liturgical composition known as “the Shema,” a text cherished and preserved by the Jewish people for over two thousand years. Traditionally, the Shema is the first religious text taught to children, and the last uttered before death. Some associate it primarily with the morning and evening prayers, others with Jewish martyrdom. But few realize that the Shema is also connected to magic, specifically magic used for attaining protection, health, and success.
Since ancient times, the Shema has been incorporated into Jewish amulets. It is also found in books of Jewish magic providing instructions for the making of amulets and the performance of a variety of beneficial rituals. Similarly, it is recited on many liminal occasions – transitional moments often characterized by anxiety and fear.
The use of the Shema in protective magic is attested throughout the Jewish world and continues to the present day. This is the first exhibition to explore the uses of the Shema in magic. It also addresses the role of tefillin (phylacteries) and mezuzot, ritual objects prescribed by Jewish law (halakhah) that contain the text of the Shema and are regarded as having protective qualities. The exhibition thus raises thought-provoking questions about the complex relationship between religion and magic.
Amulet-pendant, Yemen, 19th century, silver, height 4.9, width 4 cm. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem | B49.03.0164. ©️ The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Elie Posner
Exhibition made possible by
The William Davidson Foundation, Detroit
- Sep 29Oct 03Oct 06Oct 10Oct 13Oct 17Oct 20Oct 24Oct 27Oct 31
- Oct 24Oct 25Oct 31
- Sep 26Oct 02Oct 05Oct 08Oct 12Oct 30
- Sep 23Sep 30Oct 01Oct 09Oct 15Oct 16Oct 19Oct 23Oct 26Oct 29
- Oct 28
- Oct 28
- Oct 05Oct 27
- Oct 27
- Oct 06Oct 26