My Peace Offerings
An Offering of Peace. A sculpture consisting of a two paged glass book whose ‘pages’ magically embody the beautiful prayer for peace in which Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlov praises God as He Who makes peace by resolving conflicting opposites.
The Priestly Blessing of Piece. A hand-made collage which symbolically conveys each word of the priestly blessing.
Lord of Peace! King to Whom all Peace belongs!
Maker of Peace and Creator of All!
Help and save us all that we may ever be worthy to hold firmly to the attribute of peace. Let there be a great and truthful peace between each and every person, between every husband and every wife. May there be no strife, not even inner strife, among all humanity.
For You are the Maker of peace even in the heavens where You bring together two opposites,fire and water, and unite them. Through Your great miracles You make peace between them.
Draw forth a vast peace upon us and upon the entire world, for You alone can unite opposites and bring them together, as one, in peace, and in great love. May You encompass us together with one mind and with one heart to draw near to You and to Your teachings in truth.
And may all humanity be joined into one fellowship to do Your will with a complete and perfect heart.
Lord of Peace! Bless us with peace, and through peace, may all blessing, all salvation, and all holiness flow down to us.
Rav Nachman of Bratzlav (1772-1811)
Liqutei Tefillot Part I: beginning of Prayer 95
Collected by Rav Natan Sternhartz
Translation: D. Moss
AN OFFERING OF PEACE
A Sculptural Work in Glass by David Moss
Edition limited to 360 exemplars numbered 1/360 to 360/360.
Facsimile signature engraved in the glass.
Production supervision: Paul Feinstein
The text of this work is the beautiful prayer for peace attributed to Rav Nachman of Bratzlav. The prayer was written down by Rav Nachman’s disciple Rav Natan. Rav Natan distilled Rav Nachman’s teachings in the form of stories and collected essays; he also brought them into the form of prayers which he published as the Collected Prayers of Rav Nachman. It is from this book that I excerpted the text. The prayer is especially poignant when we realize that Rav Nachman’s life itself was filled with bitter controversy. Indeed, it seems that he considered conflict essential to his mission
The artistic challenge I set myself was how to translate the essence of Rav Nachman’s view of peace into physical form. In the prayer, Rav Nachman defines peace as the bringing together of opposites, the unification of those things that naturally tend to oppose one another. He considers this a miraculous act of God for it contradicts the order of nature.
As a calligrapher I began by considering the Hebrew letters themselves. One of the first things I demonstrate when I teach calligraphy is the fundamental difference between the horizontal strokes which define the flow, the essence, and the beauty of Hebrew writing and the vertical strokes which play a contrasting, contrapuntal role. I realized it is the very bringing together of these two disparate elements which forms the unity and harmony of the letters. All I needed was a way of forcefully embodying this insight. To do that I invented a new technique I call GrammatomesTM. This is the splitting apart of the elements within letters in such a way that individually they have interesting form but no meaning, but when properly aligned they fall into place and read properly. The original of this piece was the first GrammatomeTM I created. I went on use them in other of my works in both Hebrew and in English.
Since doing the original of this piece I have wanted to produce it as an edition so it could be shared more widely. I hope this work may be used to demonstrate the magic and the power of peace. I have called it An Offering of Peace.
My prayer is that Rav Nachman’s prayer for peace, blessings, salvation and holiness spread to us all.
A suggested note to accompany the piece if is being used as an offering for reaching out in reconciliation:
You may be surprised to receive this gift from me. It is a work of art entitled “An Offering of Peace”. It contains Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav’s beautiful Prayer for Peace. I have sent it to you as a gesture of reconciliation. I hope this offering will provide an opening for understanding between us.
The strokes on each separate page of this work may be consistent and well ordered, but they lack meaning without the other. Conflict has risen between us and like the two pages of this open book I feel we each remain somehow incomplete without the other. Though it is tempting to nurse my wounds and rehearse my justifications, I do miss the relationship we once had.
In his prayer Rabbi Nachman realizes both the immense difficulty and the abundant blessings of reconciliation.
By sending you these seemingly strong, but fragile pieces of glass, I want you to know that I am reaching out to you to see if we can to repair our shattered relationship.
Let us speak frankly.
Let us be open to compromise.
Let us be open to negotiation.
Let us abandon our rightness and seek wholeness.
Let our wounds be healed; our hurts be comforted.
Because we were close, I know we can be close again.
I long for the moment when we can again embrace. It will be a magical moment like
the instant when these two sheets of glass kiss each other, reunite, and both regain their significance.
An Original Hand-Made Collage
By David Moss
This piece is a natural continuation of my work Genesis 22: A Story Without Words, which tells the tale of the binding of Isaac. I created that originally as a forty-five foot mural for the Akivah-Yavneh Academy in Dallas and then produced it as an artist’s book. In that work I began to explore the possibilities of a highly abstracted, bold, visual translation of complex, extended text. Its format was a lengthy scroll or accordion book that allowed the long story to build and literally unfold.
In this present work I wanted the entire text to be viewed at once, as a single image. The text I chose was one of the best known and best loved verses in the entire Bible: the magnificent “Priestly Blessing” (Numbers 6:24-26). It begins with the charge to the priests, “An thus shall you—the kohanim, i.e. priests—bless the Children of Israel:
May G-d bless you and protect you.
May G-d cause his face to shine upon you be gracious unto you.
May G-d lift up his face unto you and give you peace.
This was indeed the blessing with which the priests blessed the masses when the Temple stood. It still serves this function within the synagogue service to this day. It is this verse that is taken as the archetypical study text learned with the Torah blessings at the beginning of the morning service every day. And of course, it is this blessing we use to bless our children each Friday night as we begin Shabbat.
In addition to being one of the most famous Biblical quotes, it is also by far the most ancient Biblical text to ever be discovered. The tiny silver amulet (unearthed right along my daily bicycle route between my home and my studio) turned out to contain exactly this text. It is the most ancient biblical text ever found, dating from the First Temple period—from around the 7th century BCE. The next oldest original text would be the Dead Sea scrolls some four centuries later.
I have designed this work within a grid of seven columns and five rows. The bottom row represents the fingers of the priests arranged in the distinct manner in which they hold them beneath their prayer shawls during the recitation of the blessing. The top row of ten small circles represents the minyan of ten required for the priests to recite the blessing publicly. Thus each circle represents an individual Jew. I therefore use the same circles within the blessing to stand for the word “you” each time it occurs.
The three phrases of the blessing itself are centered to form the three middle rows of the collage. One effect of my ‘writing’ the text in this manner is that its precise, numeric, perfect, literary structure becomes manifest. Since each Hebrew word is one image and fills one square, the carefully expanding structure of the whole is apparent. The number of words in each line is always an odd number and increases each time by exactly two. From three words, to a five word phrase, and culminating with a seven word verse. The blessing concludes with Shalom—peace. The connection between the number seven and the idea of peace and completion is well known. Creation was completed on the seventh day; the Shabbat is the day of peace. This prayer is perhaps the earliest example of a tradition that has carried on throughout Jewish history—to always finish prayers with the mention of Shalom. The Amidah, the blessing after the meal and the kaddish all conclude with peace. In both the Hebrew language and in the Jewish historical vision, peace, completion and conclusion are nearly synonymous.
A further feature of the structure is also stressed. In the Hebrew each phrase begins with a verb and is immediately followed by G-d’s name as the second word. The diagonal ‘steps’ of the three white squares show this clearly. Here is how the blessing is structured in the Hebrew. (My depiction, of course, reads from right to left like the original).
I considered creating this work as a limited edition print. I felt, however, that the texture, depth and diversity of the papers was important artistically, so I decided to make each one of them as a hand-done original collage.
After I had determined the concept and knew what I wanted the work to look like I went to my favorite fine art paper store where I looked through hundreds of papers to select the ones that seemed just right.
The background, blue paper is made by David Carruthers of the Papeterie Saint-Armand in Quebec. It is made on one of the only old Foudrinier paper machines still running in North America. The 250 gram paper is made entirely from blue denim.
The rough, tan paper that I use for the human elements—the fingers of the Kohen, the minyan at the top and the ‘you’ within the blessing—is a handmade paper from southern India fabricated entirely from gunny sacks.
The light blue paper in the first phrase is a heavy, handmade paper by the Langdell papermakers from Vermont. It is called Luster, is made from 100% cotton fiber, is internally sized and buffered.
For the gold I use a Japanese paper called Midare Antique. It is made from sulphite pulp coated with a fine metallic foil membrane. The delicate, random pattern seemed perfect.
I paint the deep blue paper myself to get the shade I wanted.