Jewish Museum/Art Resource, New York, NY

Scroll of Esther. This book of the Hebrew Bible tells the story of Jewish woman who became queen of Persia and risked her life to save her people from annihilation during the reign of her husband Xerxes (Ahasuerus) in the first half of the fifth century B.C. Each year, in honor of Esther’s triumph on the 13th of the Hebrew month of Adar, the scroll of Esther is unrolled and read aloud in synagogues throughout the world. When the name of Haman, the evil prime minister who had ordered the Jews’ destruction, is read, congregants shake noisemakers to drown it out.

In this scroll from Frankfort-on-Main, Germany, two flags frame blessings recited before the story of Esther is read. A third blessing read before the recitation appears in the heart on the right. In the heart on the left is the blessing said on completion of the reading. The date of the writing, 1806, is repeated three times flanking the helmet. The artist, Yaakov, son of Bezalel, signed his name in the bottom left corner of the bannered page.