Events & SymbolsThe Tenth of Tevet, a fast day which commemorates Nebuchadnezzar’s siege on Yerushalayim. This culminated in the destruction of the First Temple and kicked off the beginning of galut (exile) This event essentially inspires and makes up the entire work, from the bound men being led into Babylon, enforced by Nebuchadnezzar and his terrifying, looming steed, and the confrontation that ensues between them and the forces of Queen Esther and the Gedi (Capricorn).
The boys/men being led into exile represent what I consider the stages we go through as we grow up and try to navigate a world filled with anti-Semitism. Correspondingly, their advancing age indicates this progression. Starting from the left: a child, who at first reacts with fear, as kids are wont to do; a teenager, who responds with anger; a young adult, who feels sadness; a middle-aged adult, who dives into distrust; an greying individual, who eventually finds it easier to pretend the problem doesn’t exist; and a wise elder, who eventually acknowledges the right thing to do is to be defiant, and to fight.
Patriarch: Yitzchak. Here, the forefather is depicted by the rope that ties the captive men together. Just as Yitzchak was bound and made to be sacrificed by his father, so too have the Jewish people by their “father” with pain and suffering. Nevertheless, our shared history, no matter how dark it may have been, unites us all.
Tribe: Dan. ‘Dan’ itself comes from the word din, meaning justice. Note how the scales in the center frame the distrustful man, as given the hate we constantly experience, we do have the right to be wary. However, having the right to do something does not mean that it’s the right thing to do. Justice is the suspension of mercy, and as a people we should veer away from reclusivity and continue to pursue tikkun olam.
Lady Justice is Queen Esther. Nebuchaznezzar’s granddaughter was Vashti, who was succeeded by Esther. The extraordinary empire who set out to destroy a small Jewish kingdom ended up being ruled by a Jewish monarch. Esther herself ascended to the throne on the 1st of Tevet. However, when you consider the story of Purim, there are disturbing truths about anti-Semitism. Despite the fact that the empress was Jewish, Achashverosh still greenlit Haman’s attempt to exterminate the Jews. The plan ultimately unraveled once the king was made aware of his wife’s origins. This illustrates that even when we assimilate or climb social ranks, ugly hatred still exists. More importantly, it demonstrates that such hatred exists from ignorance, not from knowledge. Again, we must be like the elder and fight harmful stereotypes and misinformation.
Zodiac: Capricorn. Though the Hebrew is simply gedi (kid), the symbol is often depicted as a goat-fish. The goat aspect relates to how we should always strive to be better, to climb mountain peaks, to be level. The fish half shows how we should still remember our roots, our primordial origins, our emergence. Its aquatic nature is shown here to extinguish the rapid and unreasonable fire spread by Nebuchadnezzar’s cavalry.
Other: Tevet has 2 or 3 days of Chanukah, and the scales as well as Esther’s scale/scepter morph into three candelabra branches.