Anselm Kiefer’s artwork Breaking of the Vessels interprets the kabbalistic teaching of Isaak Luria (1534–1572) about the catastrophe that took place during creation:
In order to make space for creation, the omnipresent God (Hebrew Ain Sof, literally: “without end” or “infinite”) contracted. In the empty space that resulted, God sent a ray of light that was to initiate the actual act of creation. Ten vessels (Hebrew sefirot) symbolizing the harmony of the universe were to catch the ray. However, they were unable to contain the powerful current of light and the seven lower vessels shattered. Their shards united with sparks of divine light and fell into the abyss. The breaking of the vessels is interpreted as a symbol for a world in a state of disharmony, one in which evil has entered.
“In this piece, Kiefer has latched onto something crucial in Judaism, namely the relationship between scripture and tradition.” (Peter Schäfer, scholar of Judaism)
Read along: the Kabbalah
The Kabbalah is a complex system of Jewish mysticism, esoteric method and discipline that examines the mysteries of creation, the nature of God and the mission of humans in the world.
The Kabbalah originated in the south of France, Spain and Palestine in the middle ages. One of its most important proponents is Isaac Luria, who lived in Egypt and Palestine in the 16th century.
His basic idea is this: God, Ain Sof or the Infinite in Hebrew, fills the entire universe, without limit. In order to give space to creation, he had to withdraw into himself. Into the primordial space he created, he sent light that was to be collected in ten vessels. But the light was so strong that seven of the vessels broke and fell into the abyss. A counter world of evil arose from these vessels. The “breaking of the vessels” is thus a primordial catastrophe in the process of creation: the world has taken a wrong course.
The task of people is the restoration of the world or Tikkun Olam in Hebrew. Through good deeds, intense piety and fulfillment of the commandments, the original state of balance is returned to the world.
The idea of the shared responsibility greatly contributed to the popularity of the Lurian Kabbalah.
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Core Exhibition: 13 Objects – 13 Stories (13)
13 Objects – 13 Stories
A Torah shield, a sculpture, a cushion: 13 unusual objects tell 13 stories of Jewish life. One of the tours of the JMB app leads right through the exhibition to eye-catchers of all kinds, some small, some big. What would a museum be without its many objects, each rich in meaning? You can get a sneak peek of the objects here on our website.
L’amitié au coeur (Friendship of the Heart)
by Étienne-Maurice Falconet (1716–1791), Paris, 1765, marble
Finds from the Memmelsdorf Genizah
Memmelsdorf (find site), ca. 1725–1830, paper, ink, fabric, leather, porcelain
donated by Isaak Jakob Gans (1723–1798), Hamburg, 1760–1765, silver
Shevirat ha-Kelim (Breaking of the Vessels)
Anselm Kiefer, 1990–2019, lead, iron, glass, copper wire, charcoal, Aquatec
Manheimer Family Portrait
by Julius Moser (1805–1879), Berlin, 1850, oil on canvas
King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Käte Baer-Freyer (1885–1988), Berlin, ca. 1924, plywood, metals
“ISRAELI, JEW, and now SEVERELY DISABLED ...,” Daniel Josefsohn (1961–2016), Berlin, 2014/15, textile
Silver Formerly Owned by Jews
Provenance: up to 1939 unknown Jewish owners, 1939 Hamburg Tax Authority
Bruno Heidenheim, Album to bid farewell to Margot (1913–2010) and Ernst (1898–1971) Rosenthal, Chemnitz, 1936
Manufacturer: S. & D. Loewenthal, Frankfurt am Main, 1895/96, silver
No Longer in the Country
Unclaimed membership cards for the Jewish community Frankfurt am Main, 1949
by Otto Freundlich (1878–1943), 1938, tempera on cardboard
of the Lehmann family, Berlin, 1941–1945
Selected Works of Art: Art at the Jewish Museum Berlin (4)
Art at the Jewish Museum Berlin
The Jewish Museum Berlin houses a collection of works of art which we would like to introduce to you.
Shalekhet by Menashe Kadishman
This installation can be found in the Memory Void which is located on the ground floor of the Libeskind Building.
Mesubin (The Gathered)
The video installation by Yael Reuveny brings the polyphony of contemporary Jewish together. On our website you can see four short films from the footage.
Gallery of the Missing by Via Lewandowsky
On display in the Eric F. Ross Gallery on the ground floor of the Libeskind Building
Shevirat ha-Kelim (Breaking of the Vessels) by Anselm Kiefer
This installation can be found in our core exhibition in the Libeskind Building, on level 2.
The Prize for Understanding and Tolerance 2019 goes to Anselm Kiefer
Read more on the artist and the jury's statement on their decision
Digital presentation of our archive collections on different topics, video projects, and more
At a Glance…
Jewish Life in Germany: Past and Present
More about our core exhibition
since Aug 2020
The Jewish Museum Berlin Audio Guide
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