Waves Spinning-topBar-Kokhba coin Sharon

  • Issue: December 1997
  • Designer: I. Gabay
  • Stamp size: 40 x 25.7 mm
  • Plate no.: 327 - 328
  • Sheet of 15 stamp Tabs:5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Offset

Spinning-top 'Bezalel' (The Eretz Israel Museum, Tel-Aviv)

The Festival of Hanukka is described very early in Jewish historical sources as a festival of joy and happiness (1st Book of the Maccabees, Chapter 4). With the passage of time, however, the traditional sources became blurred as other historical events became associated with it.

These were principally the miracle of the oil-lamp (when one day's supply of purified oil for the holy lamp in the temple lasted 8 days until new supplies were available) and the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek invaders of the Land of Israel in 164 BCE

These events are commemorated by the lighting of candles every night for 8 nights. It is customary not to carry out normal household activities whilst the candles are Still burning and therefore the children are given special toys to amuse them. The most popular of these is the "Savivon", a spinning top which generally appears as a cube either with two opposite sides extended and sharpened into a point or with one side only sharpened and the opposite side bearing a peg for easier handling and rotating.

The origin of the savivon in fact goes back to very ancient days in India when the four sides were marked with the points of the compass. In the Middle Ages the game spread to Europe, especially Germany, the four sides of those used for Hanukka being impressed with Hebrew initials - which indicated "win" "draw", "lose" and "win half". These same initials also stand for a phrase in Hebrew indicating "a great miracle occurred there" which refers to the miracle of the oil, and eventually in Jewish circles the letters came to be given this meaning exclusively. In modern times in Israel the last letter has been changed and indicates "here". The savivon is found in a multitude of colourful forms made from many different materials including wood, silver and lead, moulded and covered with copper. Savivon is a more modern name: in Yiddish amongst other names it is called "Dreidel" or "Trandel" and Jewish children used to cast their own by pouring molten lead into specially made wooden moulds.

The stamp shows a cubic copper savivon. Its convex base has a projection in its centre on which the savivon revolves. This savivon was fashioned at the beginning of this century at the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem. The engraved Hebrew letter shown on it indicates that it was intended for export to be sold for commercial purposes in the Diaspora.

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Coin of the Bar-Kokhba war (132-135 CE) (The Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

During the three years of war conducted by Bar-Kokhba against the Romans, he issued silver and bronze coins. All Bar-Kokhba coins were overstruck on current currency, thus erasing the emblems of the enemy and demonstrating sovereignty. In this way the standard of the local coinage was preserved without shattering the economy on top of the turbulence of the war.

The coins overstruck were Roman provincial silver tetradrachmas (Selaim in the language of the Mishna) as well as silver denarii and drachmas (Zuzim in the Mishna language) and also bronze city-coins from the Holy Land. On the coin reproduced here, the traces of the face of the emperor (on the right) of the underlying Roman denarius can still be seen. All these coins are dated by the era of the war.

It should be emphasized here that most of the emblems of these coins express the aspirations of the Jewish people and the target of the war, namely the re-erection of the Temple and the renewal of the service there. The various emblems depicted on the Zuzim are: a bunch of grapes, a wreath surrounding a legend, a lyre, a kithara, two trumpets and a one-handled jug with fluted body and a palm-branch on the right. The latter depiction is the subject of our coin which appears rather often on the Zuzim of all three years of the war, in most cases with a palm-branch on its right side. The jug depicted on the coin here seems to have been either of silver or of gold and was used in the Temple service. Some scholars believe that a golden flask (Zelochit) which was used for libation of the water of the Shiloah was meant to be depicted, while others believe that the oil vessel (Cous) was meant (Mishna, Tamid 7,2). It seems plausible that here the depiction of the oil vessel was intended. Our coin was struck in the name of Shimon (Bar-Kokhba and in the name of EIazar the Priest. The depiction of the fluting adds to the beauty of the vessel.

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Hanukka 1997