The most important High Holyday in the Jewish religion is Yom Kippur – a day to reflect, repent and ask forgiveness for one’s sins. This poem has been chosen to be a theme for Festivals stamp set that illustrates the metaphoric Yom Kippur Poem. This literary work describes different artisans creating something new from raw materials – just like God created mankind. The artisans represented on this stamp series are the potter, the glazier and the silversmith.
StampNews.com invites our readers to appreciate the original and imaginative design of these three bright stamps by Israeli Post.
The poem “As the Clay in the Hand of the Potter” appears in the Ashkenazi version of the prayer book for the eve of Yom Kippur. The author is unknown. It portrays human beings as being subject to the will of God, who decides who shall live and who shall die. This poem is recited on Yom Kippur because “Yom Kippur is the time for all to repent, individuals and the community at large. It is the climax of forgiveness and of pardon for Israel, thus every person is obligated to repent and confess on Yom Kippur” (Maimonides, Laws of Repentance 2:7).
The poet uses imagery featuring artisans using different kinds of materials; just as human beings are raw materials molded by the hand of God. They recognize their sins and their consequent punishment, yet still ask for mercy: “Look to the covenant and do not incline to your desire”. In other words, God will remember the covenants made by the fathers of the Jewish nation with Him throughout the generations, and thus He shall forgive them.
The list of artisans mentioned in the poem varies in different versions of the ancient prayer books. Some note nine artisans while others list only seven. In one version the artisans are listed in alphabetical order. According to the interpretation by Rabbi Shlomo Pappenhim (1740-1814), which is based on the seven artisans mentioned in the poem, each artisan represents a period in the life of a person, who is accountable to God.