I believe that the art a civilization leaves behind can provide great insight about ideas that were important to the members of the community. One example that immediately comes to mind is the tallit, which is a sacred garment with its roots in in the Jewish community. It is popularly referred to as a prayer shawl. Over the years, I have acquired several tallis (plural form of tallit). Certainly, the functionality of the garment’s use during prayer and worship is paramount. However, I believe it can also be considered as a work of art because it requires particular skill to make, and the finished product is nothing short of amazing. Furthermore, the details found in the varieties of tallis reflect elements significant to different sects in Judaism.
For example, Orthodox Jewish congregations that follow the hasidic tradition typically use prayer shawls with dark-colored stripes, as opposed to brighter-colored stripes as seen on tallis used in some Messianic Jewish congregations (Mosley, 1998). All tallis contain tzit-tzit, which are intricately knotted fringes found on the corners of the tallit. One of the most beautiful features of the tallit is the attarah (Francis, 2007). This a panel found along one horizontal border of the tallit which typically contains the scripture from the book of Numbers, chapter fifteen, in which God instructed the Jewish people to wear the tallit (Moseley, 1998). The atarah is striking because the Hebrew lettering of the scripture is in gold or silver threading. Each end of the atarah also contains some other symbolism, such as a myrtle tree to represent Hadassah, who is more commonly referred to as Queen Esther. These symbols also contain gold or silver threading. How magnificent! In short, the spiritual significance is not the only element that can be regarded. To me, the craftsmanship of a prayer shawl makes it a work of art.
Francis, J. (2007). Talit ha Cumi: The Secrets of the Prayer Shawl. Lake Mary, FL: Creation House.
Mosley, Dr. R. (1998). Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Clarksville, Maryland: Messianic Jewish Publishers.