Obverse: Chalice with pearl rim, legend reading
"For The Redemption of Zion"
Reverse: Lulav flanked by Etrog on either side,
legend reading Year Four.
In 66 A.D., while Nero was Emperor of Rome, the last Roman Procurator
Florian was accused of stealing from the Temple. To mock him, protestors
took up a collection of coins for the relief of the "poverty-stricken"
Procurator. Showing a rather poor sense of humor, Florian sent troops to
put down the disorder. This led to a full-scale rebellion. The Roman troops
eventually surrendered, but were killed anyway. By now, the rebellion had
grown to a full-scale war. The Jews in Jerusalem started minting their own
coins, with victory slogans, such as this Shekel. But there was also fighting
among the Jews, as the more extreme elements took control from (and
eliminated) the moderate leaders, under whom the rebellion had started.
Nero sent his distinguished general, Vespasian, to stamp out the Jewish
rebellion. But political troubles at home led Nero to commit suicide, and
Vespasian headed back to Rome to claim the Emperorship for himself,
leaving his son Titus in charge of the Judaean campaign. Vespasian was
ultimately successful in his quest for the throne, and as Titus was also
ultimately successful in crushing the Judaean rebellion. As a finishing
touch, the Temple where the last of the Jewish rebels in Jerusalem had
holed up was burned to the ground in 70 B.C.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or your purse? What
eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession?
As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to
think of who touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to
after us. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck
them, of a specific time and place, whether contemporary currencies or
artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals
an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural details that are often
lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. Depicted on the
reverse, the pomegranate was one of the seven celebrated products of
Palestine and among the fruits that brought to the temple as offerings of
the first-fruits. Two hundred pomegranates decorated each of the two
columns in the temple and were an integral part of the sacred vestment of
the High Priest, as bells and pomegranates were suspended from his
mantle. The struggle of the Jewish people to rule their homeland, as
represented by this coin, has finally come to an end in modern times. This
coin reconnects us with the past, with those who fought and struggled for
their freedom against an oppressive empire almost two thousand year ago.