Latest update: December 28th, 2011
A rare seal certifying the ritual purity of an item to be used in the Second Temple in Jerusalem was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of excavations under the Robinson’s Arch right next to the Temple Mount.
The find of the Aramaic inscription, “Pure for God”, occurred during an extensive sifting of soil removed from layers which were once part of a paved Herodian street serving as a main Jerusalem thoroughfare. The soil dates to the first century CE (late Second Temple period), just prior to – or maybe even during – the Maccabean rebellion celebrated during the holiday of Hanukkah.
The item is stamped with an Aramaic inscription consisting of two lines – in the upper line “דכא” (pure) and below it “ליה” (to God) – and is probably the kind of seal referred to in the Mishnah as a “seal (Tractate Shekalim 5:1-5), according to excavation directors and archaeologists Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that such an object or anything similar to it was discovered in an archaeological excavation and it constitutes direct archaeological evidence of the activity on the Temple Mount and the workings of the Temple during the Second Temple period”, Shukron and Reich said.
Jerusalem District Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch drew a connection between the find and Hanukkah. “It is written in the Gemara (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 2:21) that the only cruse of oil that was discovered in the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, “lay with the seal of the High Priest” – that is, the seal indicated that the oil is pure and can be used in the Temple. Remember, this cruse of oil was the basis for the miracle of Hanukkah that managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days”, Baruch noted.
Other items discovered in the excavation included oil lamps, ceramic cooking pots and Hasmonean coins dating to kings Alexander Jannaeus and John Hyrcanus.
The findings were presented Sunday at a press conference attended by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at Ir David (the City of David).
About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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