Birkat Kohanim Coin Pendant

September 2022
Sterling silver, 14 karat gold

To commemorate the bat mitzvah of a friend's daughter, I was asked to come up with a special piece. The commission had competition from the simchah itself, in that the ceremony was held in a synagogue in Rome that dates to the first century c.e.—it was going to be difficult to get as special as that. To keep to the theme, we created a pendant modeled after a first-century rebellion coin. We kept the image of pomegranates from the original coin, although as gold applique instead of a die-struck design. As with the original, the text on the coin is in Old Temple Script, also known as Paleo-Hebrew. But we wanted the text itself to be more personal and relevant to the bat mitzvah.

I read through the Torah portion of the service (Parashat Naso), which is mostly a set of instructions and laws for the children of Gershon in the tribe of Levi. While not one word in the Torah is wasted, from a design perspective that's pretty dry stuff. However, towards the end of the Torah portion there is a jewel of great import to Jewish people, non-Jews and even Star Trek fans: the Birkat Kohanim, or the Priestly Blessing, spoken by the High Priest over the people of Israel.

We took the first line of the Birkat Kohanim, יברבוך יה וישמרך (y'varech'cha Adonai v'yishm'recha, "may the Lord bless you and keep you") and put it on the obverse, while the reverse has the Hebrew date of the ceremony as well as a gold applique menorah modeled after a depiction from a mosaic in the same ancient Roman synagogue where the ceremony was held.

The coin-edge of the piece is also 14k gold, hand-shaped into a string of rounded beads that gives the pendant an amazing texture in the hand. Finally, the piece was tumbled to a satin finish to give it the appearance of a coin that has been handed down through the centuries.

May she wear it in health!