Throughout the generations, creators of Jewish art have reflected the values of Jewish religion and culture in their works, while utilizing the techniques of their times. Just as artists in the Mishna and Talmud period learned about mosaics from the Roman world and used them to decorate their synagogues, today’s artists embrace a wide range of ideas from other peoples and cultures, using them to create modern Jewish art.
A mandala is a round figure comprised of circles of increasing size filled with drawings and graphic symbols centered around a common point. The word “mandala” comes from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, meaning “circle”. Works designed in the mandala format are mostly identified with cultures from the Indian sub-continent, where they are attributed with religious meaning. However, similar shapes were also used in Central American cultures, in Muslim Persia and in Christian Europe. Modern-day artists have adopted the aesthetic properties of the mandala without any of its religious connotations.
An original work of modern Jewish art based on the mandala shape was created for the Festivals 2021 stamp series, focusing on the sequence of blessings known as “Kingship, Remembrances and Shofars”. The command to recite these blessings appears in the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh Hashanah Tractate, 34b) which says: "The Holy One, blessed be He, says: 'Recite before Me on Rosh Hashanah [the verses of] Kingship, Remembrance, and Shofars. Kingship, so that you will make Me king over you. Remembrance, so that the remembrance of you will arise before Me for good.' And how will this all be accomplished? With the Shofar."
These three blessings are incorporated into the Musaf prayer on Rosh Hashanah and recited one after the other as part of the Amidah. Each blessing is comprised of prayer sections and ten biblical verses related to one of the three topics. The shofar is blown after each blessing.
The stamp dedicated to the “Kingship” blessing features a crown in the center, with additional crowns surrounding it. Some are Torah crowns and others are shaped like the “crown” of a pomegranate. Also included on the stamp is the biblical verse: Then He became King in Jeshurun (Deuteronomy 33:5).
At the center of the stamp dedicated to the “Remembrance” blessing there is a star, a reminder of the blessing given to Abraham as part of the Covenant of the Pieces. Birds and fire torches, which are mentioned in the description of the covenant, appear in the outer circles and the stamp also features the verse: I will remember…my covenant with Abraham (Leviticus 26:42).
A shofar is featured at the center of the stamp dedicated to the “Shofar” blessing, surrounded by motifs of Jerusalem to represent the idea of the shofar as heralding the Redemption. The stamp features the verse: And a very loud blast of the horn (Exodus 19:16).