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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Ten Thousand Stitches

I love Parshat Terumah. The description of each piece that goes into the building plans for the Mishkan takes my breath away in its detail. This is an architect's dream, an artist's delight.

Here is a piece in three parts on appreciation of art and what goes into make it and a then moment in time long after the description of the Mishkan was written. The last part is a piece on home.

1. Ten Thousand Stitches

At the core of a gift of art is a person.

A soul who lives to create,

who breathes her craft.

At the center of the universe of art is an idea,

perhaps a dream or a vision,

an inspiration of from a glance upwards,

or downwards,

and frequently inwards.

Art is ten thousand stitches,

needles and looms.

It is the heat of a fire that prepares the bronze,

the delicate filagree the silversmith fashions,

the mining, polishing and setting the jewels.

It is the strength of a hammer,

the rhythmic pounding and smoothing.

There is a name behind each clasp

Each loop carries a story

Each curtain a piece of an artist’s heart.

Wood hewn, shaped and polished.

Art is the delicate fragment of the dreams,

a story without words.

Colors and shapes speak and honor.

At the core of the gift of art is time

Hours of thought

sketches and edits.

Hours, days, weeks, months

in the pursuit of forming

the intricate pieces that become the whole.

Art is

hours upon hours of work.

Heads bent.

fingers flying;

laboring until the flesh is raw.

Clasps and loops,

rims and rings;

each piece crafted and gifted.

What was once an idea

slowly becomes a reality;

an object of beauty,

a swan slowly lifting her glorious neck,

a timeless gift of the soul.

2. A Moment

A man walks up the carpeted steps to the bimah.

His feet make no sound as he ascends.

He stands before the carved wooden Aron.

The sounds of people behind him fade.

The worn carpet under his feet reminds him...

this floor has welcomed the shoes of thousands

before him.

Standing before the ark.

This quiet space,

hushed and ancient at heart.

His hands touch the velvet of the parochet.

He is surrounded with rich blues and purples,

velvets and fine woods,

polished silver and bronze.

He feels the presence of others who have come before him.

His back is to the Kahal

He no longer hears the muffled sounds of the people.

He opens the Aron.

With the brief brush of cool air on his cheeks,

he pauses

and breathes in the scent of the Torah.

His arms encircle the Torah carefully,


He feels the weight of the scroll,

the shifting of its weight in his arms.

He holds the Torah in an embrace

and turns.

He does not see the words beneath the velvet

but he feels them in his heart.

Va’yihei b’nsoa ha’aron

3. Home

Give me a home,

a humble spot,


There I shall breathe.

There I shall rest.

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

This is stained glass created by my father, Saul Gershkowitz. His Hebrew name was Betzalel, who was an artist who helped to make the Temple in Jerusalem. So my father was an artist as well. His artwork is indeed a blessing of a thousand colors.

And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.

Exactly as I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings—so shall you make it.

They shall make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.

Overlay it with pure gold—overlay it inside and out—and make upon it a gold molding round about.

Exodus 25:8-11

Va’yihei b’nsoa ha’aron, Vayomer Moshe.

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