Hebrew Shin Torah Finials: From Dream to Reality

Hebrew Shin Torah Finials, silver, 23K gold, 13.5” x 9.5” 3.5”   Photo By: emiko oye

The Hebrew Shin Torah Finials symbolize the power and beauty of creation—Oneness in the Universe—hearing light, creating connectivity and partnership, drawing forth restoration, sharing wisdom and consolation.

I like to think of Shin in terms of Shaddai— which is one of the ways we refer to God— and it is the name that symbolizes the most all-encompassing understanding of God that we know of.  Many languages and religions have names for this, such as Brahman in Hinduism and Allah in Islam.  I am drawn to shin because there is nothing and no one who falls outside of Shaddai— in hearing this, I hope it helps bring us toward Oneness and peace.  The shapes of the finials are reminiscent of both flame and leaf simultaneously— I can only try to pay homage to the immense beauty and power of creation.  They are opening, unfurling and accepting light from above.

There’s so much collective history that underlies the Hebrew Shin Torah Finials we created.  A story over 5,000 years old.  A Jewish community gathered around the world bound by the seen and unseen forces of tradition.  We are a people with seemingly infinite differences, disagreements, and trauma who are also creative, caring, hopeful and helpful.

There’s personal history here too.  Who am I to offer up a piece for the ancient ways of the Jewish people?  I am not a Rabbi, nor do I have any degrees in Jewish Education—I don’t even have a degree in art, but I am an artist.  Why make these?  From the world we know, damaged, bleeding and full of suffering—why are these pieces helpful?  Whom do they serve?

The making of Judaica is my spiritual expression and my greatest privilege.  I found a way of using my beloved craft of metal work toward healing a wound and sharing our light– which is often hidden—with a wider audience.  Over and over again, I found people to be touched by the rhythm of the Hebrew calendar, our practical, everyday wisdom, our spiritual sense, and simultaneously, surprisingly uneducated about it.  My inspiration and enthusiasm have hardly been contained by the pieces of ritual art I have made—I had to get out and talk about it.  I had to make pieces that weren’t for sale, art that was made for conversation and connection.  Consequently, my work goes deeper than it goes wide.

The Making of the Torah Finials:

Designing and creating Judaica at this unique time in history serves a function beyond my own spiritual longings.  The resources we raised supported more than one artist during a global pandemic—I see this as a win.

The Torah Finials were created by an intimate team.  I supplied the initial design and oversaw all aspects of its creation, along with participating in the metal work.  Then there is David Casella—an expert at moving metals by hammer, who is also my devoted husband. David shared his artistic brilliance by creating the initial paper templates and mock-ups for the first piece in copper.  We collaborated on forming —hammers tapping in unison.  These Torah finials bear his maker’s hallmark, alongside mine.

Once the templates were finalized and the first round of copper tested, it was time to cut the metal that would be used for the actual finials.  That’s when the third artist on this project, Anousha Mohsenidarabi came in.  She helped with cutting the metals that created the initial forms and soldering the some of the seams in front and bottom. All three of us hammered out the shape to form.  In the initial design drawings, the shape was more of a flame.  But with my interest in plants, the life-form became more than a flame, but also reminiscent of leaves or cala lilies.  Joy and reverence are encompassed in these shapes.

I designed the Hebrew letter shins right on the metal with pencil and permanent marker.  The two shin letters are not symmetrical.  One looks more like a flame, the other like a budding plant.  Anousha created the outline of the shin in wire and soldered them in place.  David and I worked on finalizing the leaf-flame shapes at the very end.

What’s interesting about my partnership with Anousha other than just her skills in the workshop is that she is a Muslim from Iran—in the U.S. less than three years.  Where she comes from, the government denies the Holocaust and gives weapons to Hamas—the terrorist regime currently representing the Palestinian people, within the state of Israel. As a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I know the Jewish people need the safety of a homeland, and by the same token—I know the Palestinian people are suffering from the situation they are in right now.  It’s a complex problem that I care deeply about.

While making these pieces, Anousha and I have spent time talking about these complexities, visualizing and praying for positive outcomes, looking directly at the Torah, and talking about Jewish tradition and wisdom.  We were able to work together not just in the sense of a job or vocation, but together in the story and context of this art.  We created our own microcosm of connectivity only adding to the deep intentionality of peace in this act of creation.  We are able to console one another in a divisive world—that not all personal connection is lost—through engaging in art, a lot can be restored.

These functional sculptures are meant to be shown alongside a Torah that will be open—I have one here in my home/studio. It was written in the 1870’s— a large scroll.  It is one that can be used for outreach, education and understanding as part of the exhibition Art for Prayer and Peace: A Bridge to Oneness.  I hope that their display will inspire others to look more deeply into their own spiritual practice and expression.  I hope that they will help restore religious healing and harmony in the world, so that we may be better stewards of the planet and each other.

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