(Blackwork embroidery on cotton canvas, with cotton threads. )
A plaque bearing the Hebrew word mizrah (מזרח , meaning “east”) often adorns the eastern wall of Jewish homes to direct our gaze and hearts toward Zion. This mizrah was designed and embroidered to mark the occasion of my daughter Molly’s bat mitzvah in 2003. The designs include characters from Molly’s favorite Jewish folktales, Talmudic stories, and books. A particular joy of raising Molly was reading her stories from our tradition, in warm embrace, in a snuggly lap, or as a moment of quiet as she drifted off to sleep. From the left are representations from these tales: Briar Rose (Jane Yellen), Joseph who loved the Sabbath (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 119A), the diamond tree (Morocco, in The Diamond Tree, by Howard Schwartz and Barbara Rush), the spider who saved King David (Aggadah, Alpha Beita d’Ben Sira), the fox and Rabbi Akiva (Talmud, Berakhot 61b), the horse in The Wise Men of Helm (Solomon Simon), the shamir who cut the Temple stones (Pirkei Avot 5:9), the mouse of Maus (Art Spiegelman), the hoopoe bird who guarded the shamir until King Solomon cleverly secured it (Talmud, Gittin 68b), the treasure chest in The Wandering Beggar (Solomon Simon), the necklace of Number the Stars (Lois Lowry), Honi and the carob tree (Talmud, Ta’anit 23a), the magic pitcher (Iraq, in The Diamond Tree, by Howard Schwartz and Barbara Rush). Together, they tell stories of heroes and conflicts, tragedy and recovery, magic and possibility, morality and Godliness, mirth and pleasure: fiction, tales, and folklore that convey the story of a people. “God created man because He loves stories’ (Elie Wiesel). I made this piece to encapsulate stories from her childhood as she begins her journey toward adulthood.