The Holidays of Tishri, Antiquities and the Connection between Them

Alegre Savariago

More than anything, the holidays of Tishri symbolize our strong connection with the country, our faith and history. We are all familiar with the holiday symbols, symbols that make us who we are – the Jewish people.
The holiday symbols have been sketched for generations; they are associated with the land (pomegranate, palm tree) and the faith (menorah, the Holy Ark, the Temple).

Ancient depictions of a grape vine, fig, wheat, barley, olive, date and pomegranate, which adorn pottery vessels and stone and bone artifacts, are known to us from before the First Temple period (Iron Age, twelfth-sixth centuries BCE). Then, they symbolized Ancient Israel’s abundance.
From the time of the Second Temple until the period of the Mishnah and Talmud (the Hellenistic-Roman-Byzantine period), we know of symbols that are more identified with the Jewish faith such as: the menorah, Holy Ark, shofar, coalpan and lulav. These adorn stone artifacts, mosaics, pottery vessels, glass vessels, bone objects etc.

The portrayals of the seven species amongst the archaeological finds reveal the importance of agriculture and the close ties the ancient inhabitants had with the land. They symbolize plentifulness, peace, hope and a collective memory of the time of the “Land of Milk and Honey”.

Depictions of the four-species (lulav, ethrog, myrtle and willow) are known to us starting from the end of the Second Temple period on coins of the Great Revolt, as well as on coins of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, where they appear as a symbol of plenty and as a blessing. The commandments of the four-species and the hakafot were also among the outstanding rituals that were practiced in the Temple; moreover they could be fulfilled following the destruction, and therefore they were increasingly portrayed on coins, as well as in the synagogue.

Depictions of a menorah, the Holy Ark and shofar are later representations and they are directly connected to the Jewish faith that began at that time. The Holy Ark, which is portrayed in mosaics or on lamps, actually symbolizes the Temple and the aspiration to rebuild it. The menorah design appears in the Second Temple period as a symbol that represents the Temple, and only after the destruction of the Temple does the seven-branched candelabrum motif become the symbol of Judaism, a symbol that has nationalist significance. Only then is the depiction widespread, appearing on a variety of objects such as mosaics and architectural elements.