Monday, July 31, 2017

Love Tokens


The more I considered the Yizkor candle settings I was creating the more I began to focus on life.  To be honest, I wasn't getting much pleasure out of focusing on death, grief and the initial moments of being torn apart.
There needs to be incorporated, not initially perhaps but down the line, a sweetness of remembrance that evokes the stories of connection - the living part of a relationship that doesn't cease when one side of the bond steps over the boundary of physical existence.

When my father died, even decades later, people would find out that I was his daughter spontaneously tell me their most beloved stories about the life he shared with them.  I searched out his desk after he died and found a whole page of sayings that he had assembled like "An atheist is a man with no invisible means of support." Of course I've updated that one to be somewhat more inclusive but continue to delight in having one in my back pocket.

I have my mother's recipe for Passover popovers, the seeds from a Cinderella pumpkin that my beloved buddy Yoanna brought back to me from a roadside farm stand in New Mexico, the silk robe of my dear friend and mentor Jacob Goldberg, z"l , falling apart after all these years.  Legacies. Stories. Love tokens.

A woman named Wendy Rosen, whose husband died four years ago, told me recently that she's come to the conclusion that what really matters after someone has passed can easily fit into a small box.  I was bewildered at first, but the more I thought of it the more joy it gave me. I started to make a list of the sorts of things of real significance I could fit into a small box.  Here are some of the things I came up with, though each person I have loved would have chachkis included that would be particular to themselves:
  • tickets from a ball game or Broadway musical which we attended together
  • a snippet of fabric from a favorite dress or old tee shirt
  • a favorite recipe
  • some idea or thought written on a paper napkin 
  • a word or phrase from a magical moment that would bring it all back
  • a dried flower from a garden; a seed
  • stories written on a sheet of paper and folded small from those who were compatriots
"one rubber band, a hand full of sand and even a rusty nail" are song lyrics from Bruce Kates about the stuff of stories that he packed up in his valise.

I'd love to hear what you'd add to this list and the story that goes with it.

As you can tell from the top image, I have redesigned the Yizkor candle settings to include a box - a Living Memory Yizkor box.  I changed out the base as well and am making it from aromatic cedar, which in many cultures is identified with the Tree of Life.  With the help of a 1/2" square of plywood wrapped in copper foil it now serves as the lid for the memory box.  I also updated two of the copper backplates to include the word "L'Chayim" - "to Life."





I realized that the added advantage of the plain box with a 4"x5" space is that there is now room for some personalization which couldn't happen on the copper backplate due to the height of the candle.  I'm not thinking of a whole megillah - call it 3 words: "My Beloved David", "Grandma's Memory Box"...    Something simple, like the things inside.  Whatever the phrase, I can write it on the front with a copper ink pen in Celtic style lettering.

I've finally gotten these as well as the Tikkun Olam settings up on my Etsy store: Moresca   Since they work so beautifully on their own, I'm also offering just the lids of the boxes as candle settings. 

I've changed the base of Tikkun settings over to aromatic cedar as well: 



Ritual Well will be having all of the above available in their shop as well. I'll be sending them the updates today.

Love,
Shahna

Monday, July 10, 2017

Children of the Palace

B'nei heichala dichsifin l'mechezei ziv d'z'eir anpin.
Yahon hacha b'hai taka d'vei malka b'gilufin.

"The children of the palace yearn to see the splendor of the microcosmic mirror.
They are gathered here, at this table, in which the King is engraved."

These are the first two lines of a medieval Aramaic mystical poem attributed to Isaac Luria, the Holy Ari.  Bnei Heichala - The Children of the Palace, is chanted at Seudah Shlishit or Shalosh Seudos - the third Sabbath meal that begins in the late afternoon as the sun is setting or just before the sun sets and continues until the stars are visible in the sky and the beginning of Havdalah, the closing ritual of the Sabbath.  It is a way to push the boundaries of the sacred to their outermost edge.  This holy moment within the timeless is the hour of Ra'avah (Resh Alef Vav Hei) - seeing deeply into the dimensions of time and space. The Zohar hails it as not just Ra'avah but Ra'avah D'Ra'avah - a time of seeing to the depths. 

I have translated Z'eir Anpin (the Little Face) of the original Aramaic text as "the microcosmic mirror."  That is how my dear friend and Torah Chaver, Jacob Goldberg z"l, translated it.  Just as an entire room is reflected within the back of a polished silver spoon, so is the feminine nature of divinity a Microcosmic Mirror of the Real.

The image of noble children seated around a table in which the King is engraved waiting anxiously for a vision of splendor, as you might have guessed, has my name on it.

In March of this year I happened upon three solid copper West Bend serving trays from a 1795 farm house estate in New Hampshire being offered for sale. I made an offer.  My offer was accepted.  

The copper on all three had darkened significantly over time, but all are perfectly etch-able once I go in with an enthusiastic effort of elbow grease, which I have applied to platter number one.

See, then, the table in which the King is engraved:


B'nei Heichala Tray- acid-etched copper with ink oxides

14 1/2 " in diameter.  The handles extend to 16 1/8".  Wonderful original wood handles.  Oak, I believe.


The wonderful base I found at a Habitat for Humanity Restore in Alamosa.  Had been the base of a bird bath. Very heavy.  30" high.



The tray itself photographed quite well without its glass covering which protects it during use.



With the glass it is quite beautiful in person but has too much reflectivity for a  good photo.




May that day arrive when we may come together and see each other deeply.