What makes a gift meaningful? Is a hand-crafted present that you make yourself more personal than something produced on a wide-scale? Does the utility of the object make a difference?
Yes, and yes!
Okay, I’ve got a pretty obvious bias being a craftsperson, but I adamantly believe that objects transcend their mere materiality and become personally meaningful when you understand the creation of the piece and experience the object in spiritually significant ways.
That’s why I enthusiastically accepted Abby and Jason Porth’s offer to let me craft a Yad together with their nephew Tuvya – a soon-to-be Bar Mitzvah. Abby and I brainstormed how to make this gift even more personal to Tuvya. I came up with the idea of adding a sapphire– his birthstone to the piece. Abby loved the idea, ” I loved that you (Aimee) had recommended we use his birthstone for the jewel on top, and I was then really tickled to learn that the sapphire is thought of as the symbol of wisdom and knowledge. It seemed fitting for Tuvya, who is a really special kid with an extraordinary mind, and it seemed particularly on point for the occasion of his becoming bar mitzvah.”
Hebrew for “hand”, the Yad is a pointer that one uses when reading from the Torah scrolls. To signify the bar mitzvah boy’s (or bat mitzvah for a girl) coming-of-age into a full member of the Jewish community, he joins the men and women who chant aloud from the Torah on Shabbat services and recites the week’s Torah portion. Its a culminating moment that connects the bar mitzvah boy to the rest of the congregation as well as embeds him into a Jewish tradition that spans generations.
What better way to cement the meaning of this moment than by being directly involved in the craft of the ritual object that connects you to the sacred text of the Torah? And thus Tuvya impacted his own spiritual connection by working in the studio with me on his personal Yad.
We started with just a plain copper rod [see above] and – through a collaborative, loving effort full of learning – we created a spiritually significant piece that Tuvya will use on the momentous day of his bar mitzvah and for years to come.
Lots of hands were involved in the process of making the “hand” or Yad. Abby, Jason, their two children, Tuvya and his younger brother all came to the studio on a cold, San Francisco summer day. Aside from watching and supporting Tuvya, the other family members members even helped in the creation of the Yad itself by swinging the hammer and helping to taper the copper into a point.
Little cousin helped hammer the copper while Tuvya held the copper steady.
Once things got hot and heavy, Jason, Tuvya and I really focused to create this piece.
Tuvya annealing the copper (heating it between 700 -1,300F degrees to soften it).
We used the rolling mill to quicken the tapering process.
Taper is almost ready
We stamped our halmarks
Setting and chain are attached in silver
Tuvya helped me set the sapphire.
After some polishing, the sacred object was done!
Tuvya and I triumphantly holding the completed Yad
The Yad – Copper, silver and sapphire
This, to me, is the greatest present one can give: the opportunity to be involved in your own spiritual formation. And heck, its always fun to let teenagers (and the young at heart) play around with fire and hammers.