publisher colophon

BRESLAU, SILESIA [WROCLAW, POLAND]

148. Seal of Abba Son of Abba

Ḥotam Shell Abba Bar Abba

My Seal, Abba Son of Abba

Dimensions: 22 mm. Matrix.

Location: Silesian Museum of Art and Antiquities.

Bibliography: Brann, 1907.

Dr. Marcus Brann published an interesting article on a gold seal ring found in 1906 in the central part of the city of Breslau during a dwelling excavation. The ring is an excellently crafted work. The body is engraved in Hebrew on both sides. The rim shows a dragon in extruded form (No. 143, third detail from left); the sharply beveled finger band ends with animal heads where it meets the body (second detail from left). These intricate details establish that the seal ring comes from the Gothic period.

Rim

Matrix Underside

The illustrations accompanying the article indicate that the center shows a bird to the right (Brann’s illustration of the matrix is the one reproduced here), apparently standing among small branches of a tree. The legend, running round between solid lines, is unusual in that it starts at the feet of the bird so that when one begins to read the Hebrew letters the bird is upside down; this must have been done deliberately so that the name of the owner of the seal ring would appear at the head of the bird and thus strike the eye immediately.

Another inscription on the underside of the body (left of illustration) is engraved in script written the regular way on the matrix itself, rather than in reverse, indicating that it was not meant for sealing but rather was a personal reference to the owner of the ring. On the outer rim of the underside the Hebrew letters start to the right center instead of at the top as usual, the last four letters obviously being abbreviations: , the last two letters being poorly drawn in the line drawing.

Brann explains that this is a continuous quotation which in its full transliterated form reads: “Strengthen thyself, my fortune, do not weaken. Amen. Amen. Amen. Selah. And there is nothing in it [that is, in the inscription] of the practices of the Amorites.”* Brann states that the expression “practices of the Amorites” means that there is no magic involved, that is to say, the invocation is licit, the source of this quotation being the tractate Sabbath 67b of the Babylonian Talmud. The three-times-repeated “Amen,” followed by “Selah,” is there for emphasis. According to Brann, the same abbreviations appear on a gravestone from 1372 in Silesia and this writer has seen other examples on stones of this period as well, such as one from the medieval Jewish cemetery of Buda, dated 1279/80 (Scheiber, 1983, p. 115), and another from Basel (Jewish Museum of Switzerland, No. 494).

The name Abba is rarely used in the late medieval period, though it is quite common among Jews in Talmudic times. It reappears in the seventeenth century. An Ashkenazi Jew bearing the same name as his father rather than his grandfather is also unusual. However, we have seen examples of this practice in England and northern France during the Middle Ages, proving that the so-called prohibition was merely a matter of general custom rather than a fixed rule. We know of no document with this seal.


*Professor Norman Golb, who reviewed this material, feels that the interpretation of Marcus Brann is incorrect. He acknowledges, however, that it is difficult to judge the Hebrew on the basis of the line drawing.

These concluding four words are by origin incantatory and intended to drive away Satan, Lilith, and other evil spirits. They appear as the concluding text on Babylonian terracotta de vil-trap bowls—which are said to have been buried under the four corners of the foundations of houses of Hebrews living in Babylon—dating from the first century B.C.

*Professor Norman Golb, who reviewed this material, feels that the interpretation of Marcus Brann is incorrect. He acknowledges, however, that it is difficult to judge the Hebrew on the basis of the line drawing.

These concluding four words are by origin incantatory and intended to drive away Satan, Lilith, and other evil spirits. They appear as the concluding text on Babylonian terracotta de vil-trap bowls—which are said to have been buried under the four corners of the foundations of houses of Hebrews living in Babylon—dating from the first century B.C.

Brann explains that this is a continuous quotation which in its full transliterated form reads: “Strengthen thyself, my fortune, do not weaken. Amen. Amen. Amen. Selah. And there is nothing in it [that is, in the inscription] of the practices of the Amorites.”* Brann states that the expression “practices of the Amorites” means that there is no magic involved, that is to say, the invocation is licit, the source of this quotation being the tractate Sabbath 67b of the Babylonian Talmud. The three-times-repeated “Amen,” followed by “Selah,” is there for emphasis. According to Brann, the same abbreviations appear on a gravestone from 1372 in Silesia and this writer has seen other examples on stones of this period as well, such as one from the medieval Jewish cemetery of Buda, dated 1279/80 (Scheiber, 1983, p. 115), and another from Basel (Jewish Museum of Switzerland, No. 494).

Brann explains that this is a continuous quotation which in its full transliterated form reads: “Strengthen thyself, my fortune, do not weaken. Amen. Amen. Amen. Selah. And there is nothing in it [that is, in the inscription] of the practices of the Amorites.”* Brann states that the expression “practices of the Amorites” means that there is no magic involved, that is to say, the invocation is licit, the source of this quotation being the tractate Sabbath 67b of the Babylonian Talmud. The three-times-repeated “Amen,” followed by “Selah,” is there for emphasis. According to Brann, the same abbreviations appear on a gravestone from 1372 in Silesia and this writer has seen other examples on stones of this period as well, such as one from the medieval Jewish cemetery of Buda, dated 1279/80 (Scheiber, 1983, p. 115), and another from Basel (Jewish Museum of Switzerland, No. 494).

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
276-277
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.