*HGTV: The Maccabean Stele
Ceramist: Arnold Schwarzbart
Arnold in his studio
Arnold Schwarzbart of Knoxville, Tennessee, creates Judaica (of or characteristic of Jews or Judaism) items and makes a menorah for Hanukkah. He shapes the clay, textures it and uses the potter’s wheel to make the small oil lamps.
He talks about how the story of each piece is as important as the design. The pieces he is creating in this segment are called Maccabean Stella menorahs.
The Maccabean Stele
This Hanukkah menorah was inspired by the question (my own): What might the Maccabees have made to commemorate Hanukkah? We have a historic record of the day they rededicated the Temple and that they decreed the event to be a holiday, to be celebrated in perpetuity for eight days. It would have been common to erect a marker (Stele) with this important event inscribed. The story would have been written in the vernacular (probably Aramaic) and probably in plaster over stone. I used porcelain over stoneware clay to echo the plaster and English for “the vernacular.” On the center panel are inscribed three key verses which describe the rededication of the Temple. The rabbis would have been quick to point out that the Maccabees and the army they led should not receive too much credit for this victory; the credit goes to God. In support, the rabbis used the verse from Zecharia: “Not by armies, not by might, but by My Spirit.” That verse, “Lo v’chayil v’lo v’koach ki im b’ruchi” appears on the arch at the top of the menorah. Below the arch are two shofars. The Maccabees used a pair of cornucopias as one of their emblems. Below them, on the lintel, is the line from Exodus 15:1, which also appears in daily prayers, “Mi chamocha ba’elim Adonai…Who is like You, Lord?” There is a midrash (traditional story that is not part of the text) that the Hasmoneans, Mattathias and his five sons, took their nom de guerre (Maccabee) from the acrostic formed by the first letter of each word.