An interesting work assignment

A Women's Minyan/Prayer Group asked me to come up with honors cards. At a service, there are various honors to be distribulted. On a regular Shabbat there are eight readings from the Torah. A member of the community honored by being called forward to recite the blessings before and after that reading. The Torah scroll is raised after the reading, and then, rolled wrapped and dressed before being returned to the ark.

In some synagogues, the honors are simply given out verbally.( Someone will come up to you and ask if you want an aliya/to be called up to the Torah) Other synagogues give out cards. I guess the advantage of the cards is that the honoree knows for sure exactly which aliya they are being called up for.  It also helps the person giving out the honors keep track of what has already been given out and what is yet to be given out.

Hebrew is a gender language. Unlike English , the words for numbers differ if they object being counted is masculine or feminine. Since in this case, all of the honorees are women, the Hebrew on the honor cards needed to reflect that.

I don't like using English on Jewish ritual objects. I also understand that not everyone reads Hebrew.  I decided, then, for the numbered aliyot, to use the Arabic numeral along with the ordinal number in Hebrew.  I wanted the lettering to look really crisp. I calligraphed the lettering onto card stock and then cut it out using an X-acto knife. I used the card as a stencil. The color was applied by brushing a stiff paintbrush with Shiva oil paint sticks. The Arabic numerals are in white, the ordinal number in Hebrew are in red. The base fabric is a Chinese silk brocade in black.  The room that this Women's Minyan meets in has an ark curtain made by Bracha Lavee in brights anchored in black. I had made a table covering for the room in similar colors. the texture of the brocade gives the cards a richer look.

Some of the synagogue honors don't have a number. I needed to make a card for the honor of raising thr Torah scroll and one for rolling and dressing the scroll. I used the same technique of turning my drawings into papercuts and thenusing the paper cut as a stencil.

Although I think of myself as an artist, I know that I don't draw particularly well. I always surprise myself when i can draw at all reasonably well.  al of these cards will be have colorful borders and will be stuffed with low loft batting and quilted before being backed and bound in a contrasting color.

I still need to come up with an image for the Maphtirah, the woman who will do the reading from the prophets. any ideas????


  1. Well done for coming up with simple symbols which are easy to work out what they stand for.

    A couple ideas come to mind...
    Reference to the prophets:
    since the prophets had direct communion with the Divine, perhaps something like "a Voice from above" which is often depicted as sunrays bursting through the cloud

    Reference to the fact that it is a reading:
    A simple human outline(Antony Gormley-like) holding the Torah
    or if they stand at some sort of podium, a simple human outline standing there

    or at least those ideas might set your mind in the direction which will apply best to the situation!
    Look forward to seeing what you come up with.
    Sandy in the UK

  2. Good ideas Sandy. What I did end up doing was a book. The Torah is read from the scroll, the reading from the prophets is done from a book.

  3. Oh perfect! I was forgetting the Torah is the 1st 5 books. but I didn't know the other readings were book form. Are the books of Poetry in book or scroll form? Are they read out at any regular intervals?
    Sandy in the UK

  4. The reading is called a "haphtarah" which means departing - you are departing from the reading of the holy books..a highlight of the service.

    The haftarah came about when the Romans outlawed public Torah reading. There is an annual cycle of reading from the Torah. There is a corresponding cycle of haphtarah reading. The haphtarot were chosen because they have some sort of a link to the weekly Torah reading. The haphtarot or readings from the prophets ( basically the books of the bible from Joshua on) were chosen to remind the Jewish community of the Torah reading they were prevented from reading that week. That link isn't always obvious at first glance.


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