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Sukkot Second Day
Kings I, 8: 2-21
King Solomon, around 952 BCE
Sukkot is one of the many joyous holidays we celebrate. After the seriousness of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur the prospect of eating lovely meals in a decorated Sukkah outdoors is certainly appealing. This year, in any case, we have the possibility of wonderful weather in North America since the holiday is coming in mid- September. Other years when those of us in the north have to wipe snow off our Sukkah chairs we remember why we should be living in Israel.
This haftarah describes the dedication of the Ark, transferring it from the mishkan to the Temple. The cheruvim are described with their wings outstretched sheltering the ark. Nothing was in the ark but the two Stone Tablets from Mount Sinai- think of that!! And a holy cloud filled the Temple- so thick the Kohanim couldn’t see.
There is an exquisite book of illuminated manuscripts from Amiens, France, created around 1280. (The manuscript is currently in the British Library in London.) All the illustrations are beautiful and richly coloured. The picture featured this week is based on one of the manuscript pages.
We see the cheruvim hovering over the ark, the staves of the mishkan, the “mizbeach” (slaughtering table) for the sacrifices, complete with the ritual knives for the “shechting”.
Beside the representation of the ark with the cheruvim are two sides of a Bar Kochba coin, 134-135 C.E.
On the left are both sides of the Bar Kochba coin- one side showing the Temple in Jerusalem and the other showing the arba minim and the etrog. It was incredible to come across that Bar Kochba coin. It shows the religious faith that motivated Bar Kochba and his men in their years of struggle and rebellion. The love of Judaism- and the sanctity of the temple in Jerusalem- is what inspired and fueled their passion.
The medieval painting illustrates the words in the second day of the haftarah. The coins are a moving testament to the centrality of this holiday to the Bar Kochba fighters.
There was also a golden medallion (above) showing a menorah, shofar and Torah scroll. The treasure, found by Dr. Eilat Mazar, is about 1,400 years old. The coins and medallions that are found are tangible proof of the continuous history we Jews have had in the land of Israel. And we are blessed to be able to say, “Next year in Jerusalem” and know that we can be in Jerusalem even earlier- this year!
Do you have a theory as to why Bar Kochba chose to use the symbols of the Temple and the four species of Sukkot on his coins? What do you think of the depiction of the “cheruvim” with their faces and colourful wings? I’m interested to read your comments and ideas.