A piyyut for the Passover seder

  • Karev Yom (sm)Karev Yom: Draw Near A Day
  • (2016, Rachel Braun)
  • from the piyyut
  • Vayehi beHatzi haLayla by Yannai
  •                embroidery finished size  14” x 6″

The words framed by the ombré shading pattern are Karev yom asher hu lo yom ve’lo layla (“Draw near a day that is neither day nor night”).  They come from a piyyut by Yannai, a payyetan, liturgical poet, writing in 7th century Israel. His poem, Vayehi beHatzi haLayla (“It happened at midnight”, from Exodus 12:29), is included in the Passover haggadah for the first seder. An alphabetical acrostic, the piyyut lists miracles said to have  occurred at midnight on Passover, giving them timing similar to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Drawing on rabbinic imagination, these events include Abraham’s mustering of troops to save his nephew Lot, Jacob’s wrestling with the angel, Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and so forth.

The phrase featured in this embroidery begins with the Hebrew letter kuf, falling late in the poem when the payyatan’s attention turns to anticipation of future redemption. It refers to the Messianic vision of Zekhariah 14:7: “There shall be a continuous day—only the Lord knows when—of neither day nor night, and there shall be light at eventide”.

Oddly, I was attracted to this excerpt from the piyyut simply musically, remembering a cheerful tune celebrating the coming of the Messiah. Later, I learned a more contemplative melody. Which melody reveals the correct interpretation? Cheerful and toe-tapping, or contemplative and swaying? Day or night? It is hard to characterize the Messianic experience, a vast unknown.

In crafting the design, I sought elements that conveyed my interpretation of the words. I drew letters that had a demanding, imposing stance, to reflect the boldness of Yannai’s vision of the special midnight intimacy of God with the people Israel. The color palette ranged from light blue to dark navy and back again, representing the fluidity of day and night in Zekharia’s imagination of the Messianic age. I suppose that the embroidery resolves my musical dilemma in favor of the second, more serious melody, as the severity of the long rectangle evokes unsettled feelings about the challenges waiting for the Messianic age.

(Text excerpted from Embroidery and Sacred Text, 2017, http://www.rachelbraun.net)

 

 

 

 

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to read my contribution to the American Guild of Judaic Artists March 2018 Essay Collection on Jerusalem.Braun.GatesofJerusalem2.JudaicEmbroidery

The Menorah: Embracing an Impossible Symbol

The latter sections of the book of Shemot (Exodus) provide a long narrative detailing the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.  It began last week with Terumah and continues into this week, Tetzaveh.  It will be interrupted next week with parashat Ki Tisa, a cautionary tale detailing the severe damage wrought by the construction spirit gone awry, as the Israelites, who had just received instructions for a beautiful golden menorah, instead put their goldsmithing to work in fashioning an idol, the Golden Calf.  Soon enough, though, we return to the Tabernacle details in the final two parashiyot of Shemot, Vayakhel/Pekudei, where the work of construction is accomplished.

Tetzaveh opens with a command to the Israelites to bring “clear oil of beaten olives”. They were directed to bring the oil, not to prepare it, so presumably olive oil was brought from Egypt.  The 15th century Portuguese Jewish commentator Isaac Abarbanel wondered about the insertion of this command into a section that focuses largely on building the Tabernacle and preparing the priestly vestments. Why were the Israelites instructed to bring oil when the Tabernacle had not yet been constructed – the actual work being described in the last two parashiyot of Shemot?  This command seems premature.

Nechama Leibovitz answers Abarbanel’s question by positing that the lighting of the menorah is the central activity of the Temple service and essential to the Jewish people.  The imagery of light is strong in Jewish sacred text, represented in liturgy, for example, by the enlightenment of Torah (ve’ha’er einenu beToratekha) and our striving for Divine Light (ohr olam be’otzar hayyim).  The sixth century prophet Zekharia evoked a vision of the menorah surrounded by two olive trees, when he imagined the realm of God re-established “not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, says Adonai Tzevaot.” (Zekharia 4).

The notion that the menorah was the central symbol of the Tabernacle and Temple is pervasive and continues until our time.  Over the centuries, the seven-branched menorah of the Temple has achieved the status of symbol for the Jewish people.  Israel in antiquity already had embraced the symbolism of the menorah.  Coins issued for use in Israel by Roman governors pictured the menorah, and mosaic floors and carved stone sarcophagi provided images as well. Yannai, the 6th century poet who likely lived in the Galil, also associated Israel with the menorah. In one of his poems, he refers to the Jewish people as the Lamps of Zion.[1]  The menorah appears in the Arch of Titus in Rome, carried off as a spoil of war during the second exile. Through the ages, the menorah has appeared in illustrated manuscripts, ketubot, gravestones, paper cuts, Torah ornaments, military insignia, home decorations, jewelry, Israeli stamps and currency, wine labels, candy wrappers, El Al advertising[2], and in the layout of a neighborhood of Tel Aviv streets[3]. At the Latke-Hamantashen debate last week, I noticed that it was part of the metal grill of fencing around Adas Israel Synagogue.

1931 Tel Aviva planning mapProposed El Al poster

One of the most telling indications of the continuity of the menorah in Jewish imagination is the design contest in 1948 for the official emblem of the State of Israel.  Early guidelines called for a design with a menorah and with seven Jewish stars – 7 representing Herzl’s socialist dream that in the New Land, Jews would only work 7 hours a day.  The colors were to be blue and white, the colors of the tallit.  The entries incorporated designs or other motifs that spoke to self-perception in the new Jewish state. Artists worked roaring lions, vines, olive branches, doves, and flames into their designs.  One of my favorites designs created a menorah out of a cactus, playfully suggesting that the new nation would be represented not by the Priestly Class, but by the rugged pioneers of the desert landscape.  The most poignant entry represented the new state as a new limb, sprouting out of a cut-off trunk – symbol of the revived nation.[4]Menorah design entry, 1948 symbol of state

Menorah as cactus, seal of state of israel entry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the inclusion of the menorah in the design of the emblem, the symbol of the Roman exile was reversed to become the image of the fledging new state. In the end, the Shamir brothers,  famed Israeli stamp designers, prevailed with their now well-known design.  Their entry was instantly criticized for any number of reasons – the primitive alphabet, what some thought were overbearing olive branches, but most Emblem of Israelof all for the choice of base. Their base used the double-layered, carved base in the Arch of Titus – almost certainly not a true depiction of the menorah described in Shemot.  Its appearance in the state symbol is part triumphalism, the return of Jewry from the Roman exile.

The argument over the appropriateness of the Shamirs’ design is apt. The menorah, this profound symbol of the Jewish people is, it seems, impossible—impossible to agree on, and, from what we know from the sources, impossible to even fashion.

One difficulty is with the description itself. The menorah of Terumah was a singular design challenge, to be hammered out of a single block of gold. Indeed, its construction was perhaps so difficult that it’s unclear whether Bezalel even effected its manufacture.  Rashi, commenting on the passive voice in the phrase ‘it shall be made’ in Exodus 25:35, suggests that the menorah was made of its own accord, to be plucked fulMenorah-like sage from Forward articlely fashioned from a fiery furnace.  The Midrash Tanhuma describes Moses trying to imagine its construction, failing to grasp the details even after three episodes of Divine instruction.  Indeed, Steven Fine (cited in the first footnote, above) had his students attempt to draw the menorah based on the Biblical text. Naturally, each effort had a different result, but “most students agree that the menorah is a kind of overgrown plant, complete with branches, bulbs, and flowers[5].” Indeed, the similarity of the menorah, particularly Rashi’s sketch of it, to a common sage plant known as moriah or salvia is the subject of an chapter in the Israel Museum volume as well as an essay in the Forward[6].

Even lighting the menorah is an impossibility.  Abarbanel aptly noted that the command to light it, relayed at the beginning of our parasha, comes at an unlikely time. The command is given, but there is no menorah to light.

SO: how does a set of impossible instructions followed by a inexecutable command end up being our national symbol?

Maybe that is how a symbol becomes precious.  It provides not the accessible, but the ideal. It is inclusive by its lack of specificity, allowing Dr. Fine’s students to obey the instructions and still infuse their own individuality into the construction.  It represents trust in the future – why else would the Israelites carry oil, rather than water, on their backs into the wilderness?  We have a symbol that stumped even Moses, that was carried off as a spoil of war, yet illuminates even in its absence.  The choice of this symbol for the Jewish people identifies us as those who are sure that the impossible with still work out.

[1] The poem is cited in Steven Fine, The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2016, p. 42.

[2] Proposal for poster for El Al Airlines, 1959 Design: Rafi Mintz, b. 1938.  From The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, In the Light of the Menorah: Story of a Symbol, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society (English edition), 1999.

[3] The 1931 planning map of Tel Aviv depicts a neighborhood in the southeastern corner, Neve Sha’anan, with streets laid out as a menorah. From Naomi Zeveloff, “In Tel Aviv, a Neighborhood Shaped Like a Menorah”, The Forward, December 15, 2016.

[4] The two design entries shown above are unidentified but included in The Israel Museum volume.

[5] Fine, op cit, p. 28.

[6] Jo Ann Gardner, “The Secret Sage-Scented History of the Menorah,” The Forward, Dec. 12, 2016.

This week’s Torah portion: parashat Terumah

cropped-cropped-mishkan-2.jpg

The book of Exodus starts with grandiose stories: the birth of Moses, the confrontations with Pharoah, the escape of the Israelite slaves from Egypt, and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. And it ends with highly detailed Divine directives on how the Israelites are to construct their desert tabernacle, under the direction of Betzalel, whose name delightfully means “in the shadow of God.” These latter chapters, dense with architectural detail and copious in specifications, are an inspiring adjunct to the earlier epic narrative. I marvel that the Biblical Narrator can find meaning and purpose in all aspects of the Israelites’ journey—from their dramatic encounter with Pharaoh’s forces at the Red Sea to the seemingly mundane particulars of the sewing of curtains for the Ark of the Covenant.

The embroidery design of Mishkan (2008) focuses on these elaborate instructions, with Biblical passages selected from Exodus 25–40. They are stitched into columns of a stylized Torah scroll and celebrate the artistic inspiration, community spirit, and individual acts of generosity and purpose in building God’s sanctuary.  The verses selected for embroidery, worked in both English and Hebrew, are:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelites to bring Me gifts; from each person whose heart is willing, you shall take My gifts. And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. I have granted skill to all who are skillful that they may make everything that I have commanded you. The skilled women spun with their own hands in blue, purple, and crimson. And the glory of the Lord filled the sanctuary.

The thread colors in Mishkan were chosen to represent the embroidery of the Israelite women.

Embroidery scanned by Philip Brookman.

Text excerpted from Embroidery and Sacred Text (2017). https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Embroidery-and-Sacred-Text

Cards and posters of the embroidery image are available at Zazzle:  https://www.zazzle.com/argamonembroidery

 

 

An embroidery for Bereishit (“The Seven Days of Creation”)

Seven Days of Creation, 2017 Rachel Braun Breishit-small

Embroidery scanned by Philip Brookman

Indeed — we are in the week of reading Parashat Noah, but here’s a throwback to last week celebrating Creation before it all went down the drain, so to speak.  This embroidery celebrates the seven days of creation, with the Hebrew word “Bereishit” — “in the Beginning” or “Genesis” — at center.

Each day is represented by a different embroidery pattern, which works into the motif for the day.  The seven days, starting counterclockwise from the lower right corner are:

  1.  Light and darkness
  2.  Waters and Heaven
  3.  Vegetation, represented by a pomegranate (the fill pattern is based on an Indian border pattern I found)
  4.  Sun, Moon, Stars
  5.  Birds and fish (represented by a bird, whose crest continues into the pattern)
  6.  Animals and humans (the medallion pattern fits into the squirrel’s tail…though the votes coming in have identified the creature as a cat, a kangaroo and … a penguin?  I’ll concede the kangaroo, but a penguin? Really?!)
  7. The flowing green pattern for Shabbat, inspired by a lovely poem, Song of the Sabbath, by Kadya Molodowsky (translated by Jean Valentine).   Here is its text:
I quarreled with kings till the Sabbath,
I found with the six kings
of the six days of the week.
Sunday they took away my sleep.
Monday they scattered my salt.
And on the third day, my God,
they threw out my bread: whips flashed
across my face.  The fourth day
they caught my dove, my flying dove,
and slaughtered it.
It was like that till Friday morning.
This is my whole week,
the dove’s flight dying.
At nightfall Friday
I lit four candles,
and the queen of the Sabbath came to me.
Her face lit up the whole world,
and made it all a Sabbath.
My scattered salt
shone in its little bowl,
and my dove, my flying dove,
clapped its wings together,
and licked its throat.

 

The Sabbath queen blessed my candles,
and they burned with a pure, clean flame.
The light put out the days of the week
and my quarreling with the six kings.
The greenness of the mountains
is the greenness of the Sabbath.
The silver of the lake
is the silver of the Sabbath.
The singing of the wind
is the singing of the Sabbath.
And my heart’s song
is an eternal Sabbath.

 

Molodovsky’s poem has indeed inspired much creativity — you can hear the last verses set to music as song #13 on “Psalm Full of Soul” by Norma Brooks, at this link.

The embroidery (design © 2017, Rachel Braun) is in honor of the bat mitzvah last week of my niece, Shira.  Mazal tov!

 

 

An embroidery for Rosh Hashanah

Ten Garments (sm)

           the embroidery:  Ten Garments: Melekh ba’Asarah Levushim                                                                                                              (2016, Rachel Braun; scanned by Philip Brookman)

The text stitched into this embroidery piece is the refrain of a piyyut, Melekh Azur Gevurah, by 7th century payyetan Elazar HaKalir. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks translates these verses (Koren Rosh Hashanah Mahzor, 2016) as “O King clothed in ten mythical garments (melekh ba’asarah levushim, the title of the embroidery piece), girded with Your holy nation, O God, feared in the council of the holy angels. O Holy One.” That last Hebrew word Kadosh (O Holy One) is sung in the traditional miSinai tune with particular solemnity, and the placement of the words in the embroidery stitching reflects the pause before and melodic distinction of that word.

While never identifying the verses directly, Kallir’s poem refers to ten instances in the Hebrew Bible—in Psalms, Isaiah and Daniel—where God is described as wearing a garment. For example, God is clothed in majesty and light, is girded with might, dons righteousness, and so on. Rabbi Sacks identifies the ten garments as might, vengeance, majesty, radiance, strength, triumph, grandeur, crimson, white, and zeal. The description of God wearing a garment is wondrous for someone, like me, who has a life in fabric. Beyond that, it suggests the desire for familiarity that anthropomorphism provides, or perhaps a hint that God is so unknowable that God might as well be wearing a cloak.

I stitched the ten Hebrew words representing the garments around the border of the embroidery piece, in the order they appear in the piyyut. Ten different blackwork patterns to correspond to the ten garments. The choice and placement of patterns was strictly structural, and individual patterns are not meant to match any particular attribute of God. They were sketched into the design to roughly align with the angle demanded to work any particular pattern into its wedge, to provide a visually pleasing, consistent movement to the array.

Kallir’s writing was rich in Biblical, rabbinic and midrashic allusions, so that reading his poetry became an esoteric delight and indeed, a challenge and a riddle for the erudite reader, while still steeped in deep spirituality.  I have honored this classic piyyut style in my own artistic medium, and in this way I feel connected to generations of Jewish artists. Along the upper border on the left, a tiny snail is stitched into the list of words. What does a snail have to do with garments? I refer you to  Midrash Breishit  Rabba, the book of rabbinic legends associated with Genesis, 21:5, which cites the Shema when discussing God’s singularity:

Judah b R. Simon interpreted: like the Unique One of the universe, as it is written, ‘Hear O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one’ (Deut. VI:4). Our Rabbis said: like Gabriel (the angel): ‘And one man in the midst of them clothed in linen’ (Ezek. IX, 2): like a snail whose garment is part of its body.

The rabbinic imagination is struggling with a description of the angel Gabriel needing linen clothes; it rationalizes Ezekiel’s reference by comparing the clothing of a incorporeal Being (such as God) to a snail’s shell which we perceive as one with its body. So too, in using language around God’s garments, can we imagine the engagement of a transcendental Being in our physical world.

Mas’ei 5777: Journeying through the Wilderness, journeying through text

(This text, somewhat modified, was a devar Torah delivered in 2013 at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, MD.)

This week (2017), we conclude the Torah reading from the book of Numbers with the double portion, Mattot-Mas’ei. I will discuss Chapter 33: 1–49, the listing of the journeying of the Israelites, at the beginning of Parashat Mas’ei. My focus will be on the literary devices in the text.

The text enumerates 42 stops, more place names than are enumerated elsewhere in the Torah, and many scholars consider this the definitive list. Some verses merely list the stops on the journey, by breaking of camp and destination. Here is an example, using Robert Alter’s translation, starting from verse 15:

“And they set out from Rephidim and encamped in the Wilderness of Sinai.  And they  set out from the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped at Kibroth-Hattaavah.  And they set out from Kibroth-Hattaavah and encamped at Hazeroth…”

The majesty of these verses is conveyed in the special trop (Torah chanting melody) used here and in Shirat Hayam, the Song at the Sea in the Exodus story.

Let us consider two literary structures present in this text: chiasmus and repetition.

In rhetoric, chiasmus is the structure of speech where two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of wording. At its simplest, it’s an ABBA structure.  Perhaps the most familiar chiasm is JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Chiasmus is thought to add extra emphasis and a bit of suspense to the meaning of the words.

In Genesis (9:6), there is a straightforward example: “Whoever sheds the blood of a man, by a man shall his blood be shed.”  This ABCCBA structure is more apparent in the Hebrew:   “Shofeikh dam ha’adam, ba’adam damo yeshafeikh.” Perhaps the most important example of chiasmus in the Torah is found in the development of the Akadeh story in Genesis 22. There, the narrative builds up with specific vocabulary and motifs, then unfolds with the words and verses in reverse order.

We have a chiasmus in Numbers 33:2 of our parasha (Alter translation):  “And Moses wrote down their departure points for their journeyings  by the word of the Lord, and these are their journeyings by their departure points.” In the Hebrew, the words reverse: Motza’eihem  to mas’eihem, then mas’eihem to motza’eihem.

A spirited interpretation of this chiasmic reversal is offered by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. He argues that from God’s point of view, the journeys were motza’eihem lemas’aichem, departures in order to make their journeys.  When God made the Israelites break camp, motzei, the purpose was specifically to reach the most suitable new stop or goal, mas’a. But to the people, Rabbi Hirsch says, it was the reverse.  Wherever they stayed, they were dissatisfied, even rebellious. Breaking up the camp was its own purpose. At the moment of departure, it did not matter where they were headed, as long as they left their current encampment.  So for the Israelites, the journeys were mas’eihem lemotza’eihem.

Sforno also noted the chiasm and suggested this: Moses wrote the two words in both orders because sometimes the destination was terrible and the place of encampment was good, and sometimes the reverse. But under all circumstances, the Israelites were obedient to God’s instruction.

I would rather be sympathetic like Sforno than scolding like Hirsch. But minimally, it’s notable that both strokes of emphasis – the comings and the goings, can be supported in the text by the chiasmic structure.

A second literary device here is the repeating of the name of the departure point when listing each journey. Here again is Alter’s translation of verses beginning with 33:15: “And they set out from Rephidim and encamped in the Wilderness of Sinai.  And they set out from the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped at Kibroth-Hattaavah.  And they set out from Kibroth-Hattaavah and encamped at Hazeroth…”  The Midrash Tanchuma reads God’s love into this repetition. Each aspect of the journeying – the departure as well as the arrival – likens our story to that of a king (ie, God) and the king’s son intimately reliving a shared path, retracing their steps and actions.

Some modern commentators focus on the idea of honoring the journey, in that leaving a place is a momentous part of a life course, and must be acknowledged with repetition.

From a literary/historical perspective, the repetition places this text firmly in the style of itinerary genres of the ancient Near East. Notably, Assyrian military narratives repeat the names of campsites as departure points when journeys are described.  I confess that when I read about our text’s amazing similarity to 9th C BCE Assyrian itinerary genre, my reaction was essentially “oh, that’s interesting, but so what?” Maybe you are having that reaction right now, yourself.

But!  It turns out that recently, I read a 2005 book titled Avodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur by Professors Michael D. Swartz and Joseph Yahalom. I started reading this book in anticipation of the High Holidays, because it is a scholarly study of a genre of piyyut – Hebrew poetry – that describes the Avodah service in the Temple. The most notable Avodah piyyutim are in the Yom Kippur mahzor, but Swatz and Yahalom’s book provides many more, with translation and commentary.

There I discovered a piyyut (p. 261) that pertains to the repetitive style of Mas’ei.  It originates in the 5th century tome, Pesikta of Rav Kahana.  Rav Kahana’s composition describes how the Divine Presence, the Shekhina, departed in ten stages when the Temple was destroyed.

“In ten stages the Shekhina journeyed up and away [from the Temple in Jerusalem].    (1)  From the one cherub over the Ark to the other cherub over the Ark; (2) from the  cherub to the Temple’s threshold; (3) from the Temple’s threshold back to the two        cherubim; (4) from the two cherubim to the east gate; (5) from the east gate to the    Temple’s court; (6) from the Temple’s court to the altar; (7) from the altar to the roof;  (8) from the roof to the wall [surrounding the Temple]; (9) from the wall to the city  [of Jerusalem]; (10) from the city to the Mount of Olives.”

The repetition of the Shekhina’s wandering around the Temple can only describe reluctance – to hold on to one last scrap of her Presence, to even convey a sense of clinging.  The verses Rav Kahana later gives as prooftexts for this journey portray a Shekhina that lingers, crying, taking time to bid farewell to the physical structure and to await till the very last minute Israel’s repentance, before leaving the Temple in despair.

I wonder whether the text of Mas’ei, and the original chiasmus that focuses the Israelites’ interest on motza’eihem, their setting-forths, tries to convey this mood for the Israelites’ wandering.  Each journey brought the nation closer to the final destination of Eretz Yisrael, but at the same time brought the older, slave generation closer to their deaths.  Each journey hastened the military actions required to secure God’s promise, and indeed, military instructions immediately follow our list.  Each journey reminded them that soon, the Israelites’ intimacy with the Divine in the Wilderness, would be lost to land-sharing regulations and tribal inheritances, which again show up right through the end of the parasha.  With each journey, there is promise and progress, but like many journeys, there is also loss and fear.  The repetition serves to remind us of the Israelites’ grit in embarking on their journeys, of the hardship of their wanderings, and perhaps of their rueful awareness of rebellious choices at their places of encampment.

This simple, seemingly boring text of journeying suggests the range of emotions of a people both embattled and uplifted.

 

 

 

Embroidering a Jewish Life

“Embroidery has been part of my life for over two decades; it is a core Jewish practice for me and an enLampstand-smalltry point into sacred texts…

                 …the process of designing and creating the embroidery is not about seeking permanence. For me, it has become a potent practice of living Torah and enacting Jewish life, rather than documenting myself for future generations.”

 

I am honored that Lilith Magazine has selected my essay for The Lilith Blog. Please continue reading here.

 

Lampstand, 2016, Rachel Braun, scanned by Philip Brookman.

Winter descends…

An embroidery for this winter day: God covers the Sky with Clouds                                                                                                           © 2015 Rachel Braun; scanned by Philip Brookmanweather-sm

The text I chose from Psalm 147 includes portions of verses 8, 16 and 17:  “God covers the sky with clouds, and prepares rain for the Earth, bestows snow as a blanket of wool, and throws hail like breadcrumbs.”  It was stitched for my daughter Aviva, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and her husband, Justin.

I love snow: the damp smell in the air just before it flurries down, the crunch of boots across a snowy yard, the peaceful quiet when a city settles down to watch the snow accumulate.  But snow (and hail and rain) can be destructive, and indeed, the full sense of the Psalm’s verses reflects that.  “Who can withstand God’s cold?” asks the Psalmist at the end of verse 17.

I did not stitch the text of this question; rather, I selected phrases from within the verses that conveyed a gentler sense of nature, the magic and beauty of precipitation.  When is the cold precipitation a peaceful, sensory treat, and when is it a threat?  We can control some of our response: when we pause to enjoy God’s nature, when we provide warm clothes to those in need, when we ensure that clean rain falls on healthy farms, when we treat the earth and its climate with care.

“Who can withstand God’s cold?”  The Psalmist leaves that question unanswered, but reassures us in the next verses that God will dispatch a word to melt any threatening ice, and indeed, will share more words – God’s stories, statutes and laws.  “Hallelujah!” concludes the Psalm.

(Text from my book, Embroidery and Sacred Text, © 2017, available at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Embroidery-and-Sacred-Text .)