© Estate of Ben Shahn/Licensed by Vaga, New York

“In the beginning, our fathers worshiped images,” reads the Hebrew on this page from Ben Shahn’s illustrated Haggadah, the Jewish prayer recited during the ritual meal on the first night of Passover. The accompanying illustration depicts the Israelites worshiping a bull on an altar (at bottom) and the golden calf (at right). At left stands the biblical patriarch Abraham, staff in hand—a silent reminder of how far the Israelites have relapsed.

Aaron was so deeply committed to his community that he allowed the Israelites to convince him to mold the golden calf. In the accompanying article, Erica Brown writes that as a true man of the people, Aaron can only be faulted for loving them too much.

Born in Lithuania and raised in America, artist Ben Shahn (1898–1969) traced his interest in biblical imagery to his earliest schooldays in czarist Russia: “At that time, I went to school for nine hours a day, and all nine hours were devoted to learning the true history of things, which was the Bible; to lettering its words its prayers and its psalms, which were my first music, my first memorized verse.”