Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Sabbath tablecloth
Late 19th century
Silk-thread embroidery on cotton
Inscribed in Hebrew on the edge and in the center with a blessing for the well-being and livelihood of the members of the household; the names of spices burned in the Temple are written on the incense altar at the top.
Gift of Sgulah Gal-Ed, Bat-Yam, in memory of her parents, Joseph Sharbani and Mazal Kadourie-Sharbani, the niece of Rabbi Yosef Hayim of Baghdad
Accession number: B94.0522 ; 161/074
It is no accident that this tablecloth is adorned with kabbalistic motifs, as many Sabbath customs are drawn from the Kabbalah. According to kabbalistic teachings, we enhance the sanctity of the Sabbath by imitating actions performed in the Temple. Thus, the placement of loaves of bread on the Sabbath table as shown on the tablecloth corresponds to the arrangement of the shewbread on the Temple table – twelve loaves placed in two rows of six loaves. In addition to the names of God, hands spread in the priestly blessing, and several vessels used in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the kabbalistic Tree of Life – representing dimensions of God – is also embroidered into the tablecloth. In a departure from tradition, the tree includes the names of the spices burned as incense on the golden altar in the Temple instead of the names of the sefirot.

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir