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Passover Marking Seals

58. Seal of Guarded [Pure] Matzoh: N’Astruc Isaac Rossell

Ḥotam Matzah Shemurah: Nastruc Yitzḥak Rossiyl Yod-Aleph Seal of Guarded Matzoh: N’Astruc Isaac Rossell, God Preserve Him

Dimensions: 35 mm. Impression.

Location: unknown.

Bibliography: Cantera y Burgos and Millás Vallicrosa, 1956, No. 257.

A plaster mold of this seal was found in a vegetable patch near Tarragona, a coastal city south of Barcelona. The cast is round and the mold itself is in good condition. In the center is a bird, resembling an ostrich or a stork, walking to the left between what look like two six-pointed stars. Outside of a sharp defining line running round is the Hebrew inscription, starting about five o’clock. Though the circumstances of its discovery and the fact that it is a cast rather than a matrix or impression are strange, this writer assumes it is authentic.

The seal was used to stamp the matzoh prepared in a ritual way for Passover, that is, “guarded” or kept pure to stop fermentation. The name of the maker, who must have been known in the Jewish community at the time, guaranteed the purity of the result. From the character of the letters, one can assume that the seal is from the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

The name Rossell was known among Catalan Jews, Catalonia being the province where the seal was found: Yitzhak Baer mentions an Astruc Rosselli as well as a Salomon Rosselli and a Benveniste Yitzhak Rosselli. The name Nastruc is unknown, and this writer cannot explain the nun preceding Astruc. Obviously in this context it cannot stand for “fifty” or “prophet,” as the nun as a contraction sometimes does.

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