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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘CE’

The Real Occupiers: Judea, Circa 50 CE

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations show no sign of abating and the voice of collective dissent now echoes well beyond lower Manhattan. During the past few weeks, the movement has spread nationally, as protesters across the country came together in a leaderless association that rails against corporate greed and social inequality.

These American protestors were joined recently by tens of thousands of others worldwide, in hundreds of cities throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Organizers of the global demonstration said on their website they were demanding a “true democracy” for the international community. The global demonstrations came on the same day that finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 met in Paris to discuss solutions to the debt crises engulfing Europe.

Demonstrators in Rome turned violent, but crowds elsewhere were largely peaceful. In London, the atmosphere was energetic, with activists chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “We are the 99 percent” in different languages. In New York, protesters marched through the financial district to a rally in Times Square, banging drums and chanting, “We got sold out, banks got bailed out,” and “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street.”

Sadly, the word “occupy” conveys a very different connotation for the Jewish people today. Since the inception of the state of Israel, the term has largely been used to portray our nation’s return to its ancient homeland as a merciless imposition on the lives of millions of Arabs.

In the more distant past, however, the term referred to a foreign, non-Jewish presence in our Holy Land, usually accompanied by some degree of religious and/or economic persecution. In some instances, the occupation was so intense and oppressive that it forced our forebears to take a strong public stance in hopes of improving the political landscape.

Such was the case nearly two thousand years ago, in the century preceding the destruction of the Second Temple. At that time, Judean residents expressed displeasure with sustained economic and governmental heavy-handedness, perpetrated first by the Herodian rulers and then by Roman procurators. They gathered en masse to “occupy” their capital and their country, and attempt to force the hands of their tormentors.

Shortly before his death in 4 BCE, King Herod had bequeathed his kingdom to his three surviving sons: Archelaus, Antipas, and Philipus. Archelaus received the largest territory, which included Judah, Idumea and Samaria.

Herod’s death allowed the people to breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief. Surely nothing could match his extended reign of terror (Herod had ruled for nearly forty years). Upon ascending to the throne, Archelaus reinforced that impression. He received the people warmly, assuring them of future cooperation. Confident of his friendship, the Jews asked for the release of their political prisoners, and sought relief from the heavy taxation imposed by Herod. Archelaus indicated that he would satisfy their requests.

After a period of intense communal mourning for a number of sages who had been executed by Herod, the people asked for more. They wanted retribution against Herod’s advisers who had been responsible for the death of those scholars, the removal of his recent High Priest appointee, and the expulsion of Greek officials from the royal court.

This time, Archelaus made no commitments. He was tiring of their continuous requests, and was readying to set sail for Rome to secure Augustus’s consent to his appointment. Archelaus sent word in response with his officers for the people to wait until after his return. This, in turn, angered the people.

Soon after, on the eve of Pesach, the growing resentment burst forth. At the Temple, the Jewish masses again expressed their deep sense of loss for the murdered sages. Fearing an uprising, Archelaus positioned one thousand mercenary soldiers there, with orders to remove any unruly worshipers.

An Ancient ‘Obsession’ with Sukkot Iconography

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In some ways, Sukkot is the most contemporary of holidays. Many pay good money and invest a lot of time and effort to obtain a beautiful etrog-indeed its biblical name is “fruit of the beautiful tree”-and the most visually appealing lulav, hadasim and aravot. There are various schools of thought on whether to refrigerate or not to refrigerate, to wrap in aluminum foil or wet paper towel, all with the goal of preventing the four species from spoiling and jeopardizing their smell and visual appearance. There is no specific requirement that the schach covering the sukkah be alive-indeed it cannot be made of something still attached to the ground-but the entire atmosphere of Sukkot is one of growth, natural living, and disengaging from our comfort zone. Indeed, it is on the extended Sukkot holiday that a prayer is offered for rain, the source of life.

 

But although Sukkot emphasizes the present-and a recently created annual design competition called Sukkah City has lent the ritual a postmodern thrust-there is something primordial about its symbols. The lulav and etrog, whether alongside each other or appearing separately, are some of the most prominent symbols in early Jewish art.

 

 


Byzantine mosaic at Huldah. Sixth century

 

 

A second century silver coin (image one), in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, shows a lulav and etrog (though it might look more like a flower vase or a lamp to modern eyes), while another silver coin of the Bar Kokhba revolt at the Israel Museum, also minted in 134-135 CE, depicts a bunch of grapes (with the paleo-Hebrew inscription “Simeon”) on one side, and a lulav (with the paleo-Hebrew phrase “For the freedom of Jerusalem”) on the other side.

 

Other Sukkot-related ancient pieces in the Israel Museum’s collection include fourth century glass and gold leaf beads discovered in Roman catacombs, and a fifth century Jewish tombstone, which was laid for a Hannah, who died on the eve of Pesach in 438 CE. The stone comes from the cemetery at Zoar, on the Dead Sea shores. On the stone, painted in red, are a menorah, a shofar, the Temple façade and a lulav.

 

 


Tetradrachma (Greek silver coin) with lulav and etrog. Minted 134 CE. Israel Museum

 

 

The beads, according to the Israel Museum website, were the bases of bowls or cups, which were made by affixing the gold to a glass disk and then creating another layer of glass on top of the gold leaf. “Of the hundreds of known bases, many bear Christian motifs, while some are decorated with biblical or general scenes,” according to an entry on the museum site by Yael Israeli. “Only about a dozen have Jewish features, incorporating most of the characteristic motifs of Jewish art in the late Roman and Byzantine periods, commemorating the Temple, its ritual appurtenances, and its ceremonies.” The beads depict an ark, Torah scrolls, menorahs, a shofar, and a lulav and etrog, among other symbols.

 

A fourth century Roman or Byzantine bowl fragment (image two) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which resembles the Israel Museum beads, shows two menorahs, a shofar, and an ark. According to the Met website, the circular object alongside the menorah could be matzah (one wonders whether that’s really a justified call to make), while an etrog flanks the other side of the shofar. The unlikely Met explanation, which more closely resembles an interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that “this fragment of gold glass may have been the base of a drinking vessel used during the Passover festival and buried with its owner to bless him in the afterlife.”

 


Detail of floor mosaic at synagogue at Hamat, near Tiberias. Fourth century

 

 

The lulav and etrog, along with a shofar, a menorah, and an incense shovel, also appear in a Byzantine mosaic at Huldah (image three). The mosaic, which bears the Greek inscription “Praise to the people,” depicts the etrog with a pair of leaves attached to the stem (pittom). The etrog in the fourth century mosaic on the floor of the synagogue at Hamat, near Teverya, does not include leaves growing on the etrog stem, which seems to emanate from a lulav. A shofar, incense shovel, and menorah also appear in the mosaic.

 

The lulav motif also appears in a fourth century Egyptian bronze lamp (with a menorah-handle, a shofar and an etrog), in second-fourth century Jewish medallions (in the collection of the Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum of Archaeology, University of Haifa), and in a 500-629 hexagonal Byzantine glass bottle at the Metropolitan Museum.

 

 


Roman or Byzantine bowl fragments with Menorah, Shofar, and Torah Ark. Fourth century. Glass, gold leaf. Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

So why were Jewish artists and patrons so obsessed with the lulav and etrog? While the prospect that they might have simply fallen in love with the ritual of Sukkot is a tempting one to pursue, art history-and particularly religious art history-rarely works that way.

 

As Steven Fine explains in his book, Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology, the lulav form might have evolved from the symbol of the victory palm, which first appeared on coins between 480 and 445 B.C.E. “The date palm would have been an expedient choice for the Roman minters in designing coins to be used by Palestinian Jews,” Fine writes. “Jews might raise no objection to the date palm as a ‘graven image’ in violation of their tradition of ‘anti-idolism.’ Jews used date palms in their own artistic and literary creations, where it often held an important position.”

 

Fine cites Psalm 92:13 and its reference, “the righteous will flourish like a date palm ” as sources for Jewish fascination with the palm, which later “metamorphosed” from the victory palm into the lulav in Jewish coins during the first revolt against Rome. “The lulav represents the festival of Sukkot,” Fine writes, “and often was thought to represent victory in early literature.”

 

Although many readers might prefer a more “Jewish” explanation of the phenomenon, the lulav form does seem to have proliferated-at least in ancient times-with no small help from pagan symbolism. But what might have started as a pagan motif quickly became assimilated into a Jewish context and started to evolve its own identity. Ancient food for thought, perhaps, as we navigate the most contemporary of holidays.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

An Ancient ‘Obsession’ with Sukkot Iconography

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In some ways, Sukkot is the most contemporary of holidays. Many pay good money and invest a lot of time and effort to obtain a beautiful etrog-indeed its biblical name is “fruit of the beautiful tree”-and the most visually appealing lulav, hadasim and aravot. There are various schools of thought on whether to refrigerate or not to refrigerate, to wrap in aluminum foil or wet paper towel, all with the goal of preventing the four species from spoiling and jeopardizing their smell and visual appearance. There is no specific requirement that the schach covering the sukkah be alive-indeed it cannot be made of something still attached to the ground-but the entire atmosphere of Sukkot is one of growth, natural living, and disengaging from our comfort zone. Indeed, it is on the extended Sukkot holiday that a prayer is offered for rain, the source of life.

 

But although Sukkot emphasizes the present-and a recently created annual design competition called Sukkah City has lent the ritual a postmodern thrust-there is something primordial about its symbols. The lulav and etrog, whether alongside each other or appearing separately, are some of the most prominent symbols in early Jewish art.

 

 


Byzantine mosaic at Huldah. Sixth century

 

 

A second century silver coin (image one), in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, shows a lulav and etrog (though it might look more like a flower vase or a lamp to modern eyes), while another silver coin of the Bar Kokhba revolt at the Israel Museum, also minted in 134-135 CE, depicts a bunch of grapes (with the paleo-Hebrew inscription “Simeon”) on one side, and a lulav (with the paleo-Hebrew phrase “For the freedom of Jerusalem”) on the other side.

 

Other Sukkot-related ancient pieces in the Israel Museum’s collection include fourth century glass and gold leaf beads discovered in Roman catacombs, and a fifth century Jewish tombstone, which was laid for a Hannah, who died on the eve of Pesach in 438 CE. The stone comes from the cemetery at Zoar, on the Dead Sea shores. On the stone, painted in red, are a menorah, a shofar, the Temple façade and a lulav.

 

 


Tetradrachma (Greek silver coin) with lulav and etrog. Minted 134 CE. Israel Museum

 

 

The beads, according to the Israel Museum website, were the bases of bowls or cups, which were made by affixing the gold to a glass disk and then creating another layer of glass on top of the gold leaf. “Of the hundreds of known bases, many bear Christian motifs, while some are decorated with biblical or general scenes,” according to an entry on the museum site by Yael Israeli. “Only about a dozen have Jewish features, incorporating most of the characteristic motifs of Jewish art in the late Roman and Byzantine periods, commemorating the Temple, its ritual appurtenances, and its ceremonies.” The beads depict an ark, Torah scrolls, menorahs, a shofar, and a lulav and etrog, among other symbols.

 

A fourth century Roman or Byzantine bowl fragment (image two) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which resembles the Israel Museum beads, shows two menorahs, a shofar, and an ark. According to the Met website, the circular object alongside the menorah could be matzah (one wonders whether that’s really a justified call to make), while an etrog flanks the other side of the shofar. The unlikely Met explanation, which more closely resembles an interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that “this fragment of gold glass may have been the base of a drinking vessel used during the Passover festival and buried with its owner to bless him in the afterlife.”

 


Detail of floor mosaic at synagogue at Hamat, near Tiberias. Fourth century

 

 

The lulav and etrog, along with a shofar, a menorah, and an incense shovel, also appear in a Byzantine mosaic at Huldah (image three). The mosaic, which bears the Greek inscription “Praise to the people,” depicts the etrog with a pair of leaves attached to the stem (pittom). The etrog in the fourth century mosaic on the floor of the synagogue at Hamat, near Teverya, does not include leaves growing on the etrog stem, which seems to emanate from a lulav. A shofar, incense shovel, and menorah also appear in the mosaic.

 

The lulav motif also appears in a fourth century Egyptian bronze lamp (with a menorah-handle, a shofar and an etrog), in second-fourth century Jewish medallions (in the collection of the Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum of Archaeology, University of Haifa), and in a 500-629 hexagonal Byzantine glass bottle at the Metropolitan Museum.

 

 


Roman or Byzantine bowl fragments with Menorah, Shofar, and Torah Ark. Fourth century. Glass, gold leaf. Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

So why were Jewish artists and patrons so obsessed with the lulav and etrog? While the prospect that they might have simply fallen in love with the ritual of Sukkot is a tempting one to pursue, art history-and particularly religious art history-rarely works that way.

 

As Steven Fine explains in his book, Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology, the lulav form might have evolved from the symbol of the victory palm, which first appeared on coins between 480 and 445 B.C.E. “The date palm would have been an expedient choice for the Roman minters in designing coins to be used by Palestinian Jews,” Fine writes. “Jews might raise no objection to the date palm as a ‘graven image’ in violation of their tradition of ‘anti-idolism.’ Jews used date palms in their own artistic and literary creations, where it often held an important position.”

 

Fine cites Psalm 92:13 and its reference, “the righteous will flourish like a date palm ” as sources for Jewish fascination with the palm, which later “metamorphosed” from the victory palm into the lulav in Jewish coins during the first revolt against Rome. “The lulav represents the festival of Sukkot,” Fine writes, “and often was thought to represent victory in early literature.”

 

Although many readers might prefer a more “Jewish” explanation of the phenomenon, the lulav form does seem to have proliferated-at least in ancient times-with no small help from pagan symbolism. But what might have started as a pagan motif quickly became assimilated into a Jewish context and started to evolve its own identity. Ancient food for thought, perhaps, as we navigate the most contemporary of holidays.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

An Ancient ‘Obsession’ with Sukkot Iconography

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In some ways, Sukkot is the most contemporary of holidays. Many pay good money and invest a lot of time and effort to obtain a beautiful etrog-indeed its biblical name is “fruit of the beautiful tree”-and the most visually appealing lulav, hadasim and aravot. There are various schools of thought on whether to refrigerate or not to refrigerate, to wrap in aluminum foil or wet paper towel, all with the goal of preventing the four species from spoiling and jeopardizing their smell and visual appearance. There is no specific requirement that the schach covering the sukkah be alive-indeed it cannot be made of something still attached to the ground-but the entire atmosphere of Sukkot is one of growth, natural living, and disengaging from our comfort zone. Indeed, it is on the extended Sukkot holiday that a prayer is offered for rain, the source of life.

 

But although Sukkot emphasizes the present-and a recently created annual design competition called Sukkah City has lent the ritual a postmodern thrust-there is something primordial about its symbols. The lulav and etrog, whether alongside each other or appearing separately, are some of the most prominent symbols in early Jewish art.

 

 


Byzantine mosaic at Huldah. Sixth century

 

 

A second century silver coin (image one), in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, shows a lulav and etrog (though it might look more like a flower vase or a lamp to modern eyes), while another silver coin of the Bar Kokhba revolt at the Israel Museum, also minted in 134-135 CE, depicts a bunch of grapes (with the paleo-Hebrew inscription “Simeon”) on one side, and a lulav (with the paleo-Hebrew phrase “For the freedom of Jerusalem”) on the other side.

 

Other Sukkot-related ancient pieces in the Israel Museum’s collection include fourth century glass and gold leaf beads discovered in Roman catacombs, and a fifth century Jewish tombstone, which was laid for a Hannah, who died on the eve of Pesach in 438 CE. The stone comes from the cemetery at Zoar, on the Dead Sea shores. On the stone, painted in red, are a menorah, a shofar, the Temple façade and a lulav.

 

 


Tetradrachma (Greek silver coin) with lulav and etrog. Minted 134 CE. Israel Museum

 

 

The beads, according to the Israel Museum website, were the bases of bowls or cups, which were made by affixing the gold to a glass disk and then creating another layer of glass on top of the gold leaf. “Of the hundreds of known bases, many bear Christian motifs, while some are decorated with biblical or general scenes,” according to an entry on the museum site by Yael Israeli. “Only about a dozen have Jewish features, incorporating most of the characteristic motifs of Jewish art in the late Roman and Byzantine periods, commemorating the Temple, its ritual appurtenances, and its ceremonies.” The beads depict an ark, Torah scrolls, menorahs, a shofar, and a lulav and etrog, among other symbols.

 

A fourth century Roman or Byzantine bowl fragment (image two) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which resembles the Israel Museum beads, shows two menorahs, a shofar, and an ark. According to the Met website, the circular object alongside the menorah could be matzah (one wonders whether that’s really a justified call to make), while an etrog flanks the other side of the shofar. The unlikely Met explanation, which more closely resembles an interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that “this fragment of gold glass may have been the base of a drinking vessel used during the Passover festival and buried with its owner to bless him in the afterlife.”

 


Detail of floor mosaic at synagogue at Hamat, near Tiberias. Fourth century

 

 

The lulav and etrog, along with a shofar, a menorah, and an incense shovel, also appear in a Byzantine mosaic at Huldah (image three). The mosaic, which bears the Greek inscription “Praise to the people,” depicts the etrog with a pair of leaves attached to the stem (pittom). The etrog in the fourth century mosaic on the floor of the synagogue at Hamat, near Teverya, does not include leaves growing on the etrog stem, which seems to emanate from a lulav. A shofar, incense shovel, and menorah also appear in the mosaic.

 

The lulav motif also appears in a fourth century Egyptian bronze lamp (with a menorah-handle, a shofar and an etrog), in second-fourth century Jewish medallions (in the collection of the Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum of Archaeology, University of Haifa), and in a 500-629 hexagonal Byzantine glass bottle at the Metropolitan Museum.

 

 


Roman or Byzantine bowl fragments with Menorah, Shofar, and Torah Ark. Fourth century. Glass, gold leaf. Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

So why were Jewish artists and patrons so obsessed with the lulav and etrog? While the prospect that they might have simply fallen in love with the ritual of Sukkot is a tempting one to pursue, art history-and particularly religious art history-rarely works that way.

 

As Steven Fine explains in his book, Art & Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology, the lulav form might have evolved from the symbol of the victory palm, which first appeared on coins between 480 and 445 B.C.E. “The date palm would have been an expedient choice for the Roman minters in designing coins to be used by Palestinian Jews,” Fine writes. “Jews might raise no objection to the date palm as a ‘graven image’ in violation of their tradition of ‘anti-idolism.’ Jews used date palms in their own artistic and literary creations, where it often held an important position.”

 

Fine cites Psalm 92:13 and its reference, “the righteous will flourish like a date palm ” as sources for Jewish fascination with the palm, which later “metamorphosed” from the victory palm into the lulav in Jewish coins during the first revolt against Rome. “The lulav represents the festival of Sukkot,” Fine writes, “and often was thought to represent victory in early literature.”

 

Although many readers might prefer a more “Jewish” explanation of the phenomenon, the lulav form does seem to have proliferated-at least in ancient times-with no small help from pagan symbolism. But what might have started as a pagan motif quickly became assimilated into a Jewish context and started to evolve its own identity. Ancient food for thought, perhaps, as we navigate the most contemporary of holidays.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/an-ancient-obsession-with-sukkot-iconography-4/2011/10/18/

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