Photo Credit: | An illustrated page from the Sarajevo Haggadah, written in fourteenth-century Spain.

As Pesach draws near, Jews all over the world are making their preparations. Our Jewish cruises always seek to provide for our guests’ religious needs, such as with minyans. However, amidst the current pandemic, Passover seder preparations are being affected.

Haggadahs remain an important part of Passover, however, and the variety of haggadahs being produced today shows how born hundreds of years in the past continues to live on in the modern Jewish consciousness. One particular haggadah, for example, is known for its beautiful illuminated texts and its history, one that took it from Spain and survived various attacks throughout the years. This is the Sarajevo Haggadah.

An Illuminated Work

An illuminated manuscript is not literally lit by an inner light, although its contents might say otherwise. Rather, it is called such because of the intricate designs, illustrations and borders around it, inlaid with azurite, lapis lazuli, gold and silver pigments, and decorations. The Sarajevo haggadah is one such illuminated manuscript but was not originally made in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Rather, it was originally written and designed in Barcelona, Spain, in the year 1350. One of the most noticeable features of the Sarajevo haggadah, one that is noted in almost every article written about it (including this one), is the wine stains on the beautifully-drawn pages of vellum. Far from being a mere adornment that’s set aside to be admired, the Sarajevo haggadah shows signs of use in the Passover seders of long ago.

The Flight to Sarajevo

The Sarajevo haggadah was smuggled out of Spain during the tragic expulsion of all Jews in 1492. ITt was after this terrible event that it reached Saravejo (after a brief visit to Italy, as evident by a written note on the last page, narrowly escaping from book-burning), where it was handed to the National Museum.

During World War 2, this Jewish relic was smuggled to safety by Dervis Korkut, that museum’s chief librarian, who had it hidden in a mosque. When that war ended at the haggadah was restored to the museum, it survived an attempted theft, a break-in and the onset of civil war.

The Haggadah Today

Despite the years of conflict and sorrow, the Sarajevo haggadah survived, bearing with it the heritage of Jews celebrating Pesach over the centuries. Its presence in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina makes that locale a worthy place for a future Glatt Kosher Tour. As Passover approaches and Jews all over the world celebrate amidst the epidemic, it is good to know how a Jewish text about ancestral victory against the odds, was itself victorious against the many turmoils that tried to snuff out its legacy. Stay safe.

Featured Image:
Photo Credit: | Copies of the Sarajevo Haggadah in the parliament building of Bosnia and Herzegovina.