- As reader bklyngalinla has pointed out in the comments below, this piece is a contemporary work of art, rather than being from the inquisition or holocaust periods. However, it is based on older pieces, and is in itself still a phenomenal piece of artwork. Here is a link to another blog that gives more information. I, also, am guilty of not doing any research on my own to verify the facts as stated by the original poster. This, however, has not seemed to dampen reader response to this post, which has been overwhelming – I thank everyone who has come by, simply because I chose to share something I found beautiful and faith-affirming.
- The title “hidden synagogue” is not mine, but those of the original poster at Reddit. A number of readers have rightly pointed out that this device would have been used in a home and not a shul; that said, I think the idea is that during such times, attendance at temple would be difficult if not impossible, and the teapot would serve as a way of keeping Torah and Commandments alive in the hearts of the faithful until times were better.
Why We Tell Stories
When the founder of Hasidic Judaism, the great Rabbi Israel Shem Tov, saw misfortune threatening the Jews, it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.
Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Maggid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer,” and again the miracle would be accomplished.
Still later, Rabbi Moshe‑leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say, “I do not know how to light the fire. I do not know the prayer, but I know the place, and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient, and the miracle was accomplished.
Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhin to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer, and I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.”
And it was sufficient.
-from Wiesel, Elie, Souls on Fire
This teapot strikes me in much the same way. It is almost saying, “We cannot worship in the synagogue, but we can worship at home, and it must be sufficient. And for many, it was sufficient. Hence to my way of thinking, calling it a “hidden synagogue” is not totally amiss.
- Regarding the use of menorah vs. chanukia, see the footnote at the end, and then jump in and join the noisy debate in the commentary if you feel so inclined. Just play nice. -O.W.
Found at Reddit, these are photos of a mind-bending piece of artwork.
The original photos are at Imgur. I cannot adequately express in words how beautiful this is.
The complete teapot
Remove the top…
Its’ a hidden dreidel
Remove the next layer‘
A perfume/spice holder.
The Hebrew word on the bottom says בשמים (basmim), “spices or perfumes”
The next layer is…
The eternal flame.
The Front View – The inscription reads, “The light of god is man’s soul.”
But there’s another secret:
A complete megilla (the scroll containing the biblical narrative of the Book of Esther, traditionally read in synagogues to celebrate the festival of Purim.)
The main body is designed to hold an etrog, the yellow citron or Citrus medica used by Jews on the week-long holiday of Sukkot.
The words say “pri etz hadar” (the fruit of the majestic tree), a biblical reference to the etrog.
Candlesticks for Shabbos
Closeup of candlesticks
Remove the flowered tray, and under the candlesticks is…
A Seder plate.
But there’s one more thing.
With the shammash (“servant”), the 9th light of the menorah used to light the other 8 candles.
The Old Wolf is in awe.
 With regards to the lamp, Wikipedia has this to say:
The Hanukkah menorah (Hebrew: מנורת חנוכה m’noraht khanukkah, pl. menorot) (also Hebrew: חַנֻכִּיָּה hanukiah, or chanukkiyah, pl. hanukiyot/chanukkiyot, or Yiddish: חנוכּה לאמפּ khanike lomp, lit.: Hanukkah lamp) is, strictly speaking, a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah, as opposed to the seven-branched menorah used in the ancient Temple or as a symbol. The ninth holder, called the shamash (“helper” or “servant”), is for a candle used to light all other candles and/or to be used as an extra light. The menorah is among the most widely produced articles of Jewish ceremonial art. The seven-branched menorah is a traditional symbol of Judaism, along with the Star of David.
In the English-speaking diaspora, the lamp is most commonly called a “Hanukkah menorah,” or simply “menorah” for short, whereas in Modern Hebrew it is exclusively called a chanukkiyah, and the Hebrew word menorah simply means “lamp”. The term chanukkiyah was coined at the end of the nineteenth century in Jerusalem by the wife of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the reviver of the Hebrew language.
Since I am an English speaker, and since the vast majority of Americans are familiar only with the 9-branched “מנורת חנוכה” seen at Chanukkah, I’m sticking with “menorah.” Those who wish to call it a “חַנֻכִּיָּה” are correct in doing so.