Verdite from South Africa. These depict in Hebrew letters a spinning game little children play at Chanukah (the Jewish festival of lights) called the Dreidel Game. The Hebrew means that ‘There was a great miracle there’. “It commemorates a historical event in the second century BCE in Jerusalem over the Seleucid Greek Empire which was the ruling power. The Temple was ransacked and defiled by King Antiochus 1V as he outlawed Jewish practice leaving only enough oil to keep the oil lamp alight for one week. Judah sent a messenger to get more oil for the Everlasting Light inside the Temple. Even though it took the Messenger about a week to get fresh olive oil back to the Temple, the oil miraculously didn’t run out. Since then, the Festival of Lights i.e. Chanukah – is celebrated joyfully every year to remember what happened. The Temple was cleansed, fresh oil was poured into the Everlasting Light and every year children spinning tops called ‘Dreidels’ to remember the miracle of the oil not burning out. During Chanukah oil and lights are themes.
The original was carved out of Alabaster which came from the same quarry as the one near St Ives which Barbara Hepworth used for her stone. It was carved to show a rite of passage i.e. a Jewish marriage ceremony. There is music and children running around, the parents are grieving as well as feeling happy because their
daughter is leaving her childhood behind; it’s a happy scene but also sad as revealed by the dense foliage on the tree which lets in no light and the window is firmly shut. The original in Alabaster does show the light if a lamp is put behind it but the light only reveals itself behind the people – not behind the tree and the shut window in the wall. There is no going back. Life is both happy and sad.