Shana Tova Card, Moses Hits the Rock
This is a postcard from the beginning of the twentieth century, depicting Moshe hitting the rock with his stick. As a result of his actions, water is flowing from the rock and the Children of Israel are filling up their vessels. The artist has drawn Moshe with rays of light emanating from his face, a depiction presumably inspired by Christian illustrations of holy figures. This may be due to a misunderstanding of the verse in the Torah: “For the skin of the face of Moses was radiant” (Exodus 34:35). In Hebrew the words skin (עור) and light (אור) are spelt differently but usually pronounced the same.
This picture was printed on a Shana Tova postcard that was printed in Germany. The corners of the postcard are decorated with flowers, as was customary on Shana Tova cards of the time. On the upper part of the postcard there is an inscription in German: “Moses schlägt den Felsen,” (Moses hitting the rock). On the lower part of the postcard there is a greeting for a good year in both German and Hebrew. Shana Tova cards are designed in many different styles, and Bible stories have been a common theme historically.
Connection to Parashat Chukat
In this parasha we read one of the most famous accounts in the Torah. Moses was commanded to speak to the rock in order to provide water for the Jewish People, but, instead, he struck the rock with his staff. Although water still emerged from the rock, God was displeased with his actions, saying: “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.”
This postcard can be used in Jewish Studies lessons to discuss the story of Moses striking the rock and his subsequent ban from entering the Land of Israel. It can also be used when discussing the festival of Rosh Hashana and the tradition of sending Shana Tova cards.
Art teachers can show this card together with others to discuss the various designs that were used for Shana Tova cards and how they reflect Jewish lives, values, and beliefs.
Describe the scene in this picture.
Who is the central figure?
What is he doing?
What is coming out of the rock?
What are the other figures doing?
What was this card used for and when?
Reading Between the Lines
Why was this image used for a Rosh Hashana greeting card?
This scene took place in the desert. How has the artist illustrated this?
Who was this postcard’s designated audience?
How has the artist portrayed Moses?
In the postcard there are rays coming out of Moses’ face.
Why do you think the artist chose to depict him like this? Use the text in Exodus 34:35 to explain you answer.
Do you send or receive Shana Tova cards?
How are they designed?
Choose another famous scene from the Torah and use it to illustrate your own Shana Tova card.