Excerpt from
Stained Glass Quarterly
article dated Fall 1989

The Mishna in Temple Tifereth Israel - Columbus, Ohio

In style, the six architectural stained glass windows in Temple Tifereth Israel synagogue exist as independent works of art, while interrelating with one another to create one complete, and unified environmental composition, existing in harmony with the architecture.

Although collectively these architectural glass windows embody one comprehensive idea, they each individually symbolize one of the six orders of the Mishna, (a principal rabbinic code edited about 200 C.E.) The purely abstract compositional theme of the lead and glass is interwoven with symbolic content in the form of paint, which has been applied directly on the glass and fired into its surface. The special character of the line work is thus achieved by interlacing lead and paint. The lead line is a pure structural, and design element. The paint delineates symbolism. The total effect is that of a labyrinth. The symbolism was intentionally rendered subtly. In this way, the symbolic imagery was merged with the abstract. Therefore, understanding the hidden meaning contained within each of these architectural glass windows demands a length of time devoted to study, both of the windows and their source of inspiration. These works are evocative of Jewish life and culture; historical, social, intellectual, intuitional, aesthetic and spiritual.

All designs created by artist - Curtis R Doll Jr | CurtisGraphics Design Services

Fine Authentic Contemporary Jewish Architectural Stained Glass Art & Design | CurtisGraphics Design Services | Kodashim - Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio

graphic historical alcove

This window represents the historical development of Tifereth Israel.
The Historical Alcove.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

Excerpt from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

The window in the Historical Alcove depicts the facade of the original Temple. Superimposed onto the window composition of the facade is the original Bima. During the 1962 revisions, the Bima design was changed and moved from the south end of the building to the north.

The Synagogue for Tifereth Israel was designed by the architectural firm of Richards, McCarty and Bulford in 1926. The building was constructed in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. In 1962, the Synagogue was expanded and revised by the architectural firm of Tibbale, Crumley and Musson. Finally in 1987 Tifereth Israel was expanded and renovated by Mr. Jean Gordon of the architectural firm of Richard Trott & Partners. Six windows for the new chapel along with the window in the Historical Alcove were designed by Curt Doll of the design firm of CurtisGraphics.

graphic zera-im

Zera'im is the first order of the Mishna which opens with the Shema.
The Shema is the most holy of prayers affirming only one true God.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

The first Seder (order) of the Mishna, Zera'im (seeds) deals with the agricultural laws in both their religious and social aspects. The most important theme of Zera'im is set down in Tractate Berakoth, dealing with the prayer and worship of Israel. In the window representing Zera'im, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) is written in Hebrew across the upper panel: "Hear, O Yisrael: The Lord our God, the Lord is One." It is in this prayer, that the opening theme of the tractate is formed. The Shema, ("Hear") is an affirmation of Israel's faith in God's ownership of the world (through ethical monotheisms) as well as an expression of devotion and love. The following words in the Shema explain the relationship we are to cultivate with our Lord and God: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your being." This is the sum of the Law.

Zera'im is designated in the Talmud by the term Emunah, which signifies both faith in God and faithfulness toward one's fellow human being. Symbolized in the lower panel of this window is the Tractate Pe'ah -- the laws of the corners of the fields -- which must be left to the poor. In following the laws of the tractate, one objectively acknowledges faith in divine ownership of the earth. In doing so, we faithfully carry out our social obligations according to Talmudic Law. "The man of faith will carry out these observances with faithfulness, whilst the faithfulness with which he performs his duties is a test of his faith." Divine ownership of the earth is also expressed as, "...all God's children are entitled to a share in the land, as their common heritage."

Extended Commentary on the Shema and Laws Governed by Seder Zera'im:

Shema Yisrael YHWH Elohaynu YHWH Echod

Hear, O Yisrael, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One.

Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.

You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your being. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the L-rd your G-d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give rain for your land at the proper time, the early rain and the late rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be sated. Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them. For then the L-rd's wrath will flare up against you, and He will close the heavens so that there will be no rain and the earth will not yield its produce, and you will swiftly perish from the good land which the L-rd gives you. Therefore, place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates - so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged on the land which the L-rd swore to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.

The L-rd spoke to Mosha, saying: Speak to the children of Yisrael and tell them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to attach a thread of blue on the fringe of each corner. They shall be to you as tzizit, and you shall look upon them and remember all the commandments of the L-rd and fulfill them, and you will not follow after your heart and after your eyes by which you go astray - so that you may remember and fulfill all My commandments and be holy to your G-d. I am the L-rd your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d; I, the L-rd, am your G-d. True.

graphic mo-ed

Mo'ed deals with holy days.
The holiest of holy days is Shabbat.
The Havdalah set with the words "And heaven and earth were
finished" written in Hebrew are included here.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

Mo'ed (appointed seasons) deals with festivals, feasts and holy days. The most important holy day is Shabbat. According to the Talmudic sages, Shabbat is equal in importance to all the precepts in the Torah. "Shabbat stands at the boundary between the moral and the religious signification of the Torah. In the law of Shabbat is thus to be found the quintessence of Judaism." Religiously, Shabbat is a symbol of creation and the end of creation.

The window of Mo'ed, on an abstract level, is expressive of the separation of light from darkness. This relates to creation as well as to the blessing over the flames of the Havdalah candle. God is praised for the distinctive qualities throughout creation, including praise for the distinction between light and darkness. Symbolic reinforcement of this theme is seen in the braided candle and candle holder, cup for wine and box for spices of the Havdalah set (used during the concluding ritual of Shabbat). As literal reinforcement of the creation theme, the Hebrew words from Genesis, "...and the heavens and the earth were finished." are written in the upper central area. The content of this window is symbolic of beginning and ending.

graphic nash-im

Nashim is the Hebrew word meaning women.
This order of law deals with family relations.
The huppah, wine glass and ring are included in this window.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

Nash-im is the Hebrew word meaning women. Nashim deals with the laws governing the relations between husband wife and children. Marriage is regarded by Judaism as natural in purpose but divine in origin. The natural purpose of marriage is the propagation of the human race. But, at the same time, marriage is an ideal state for the promotion of sanctity and purity of life.

The Hebrew words recited by the groom at the wedding ceremony, "By this ring, you are consecrated to me as my wife in accordance with the Law of Moses and the people of Israel." are written in the upper portion of the Nashim window. The ring (symbol of the eternal consecration of marriage) is pictured in the lower area of the window composition. Also pictured are two wine glasses symbolizing the blessings of the marriage. The huppah (wedding canopy) symbolized in this window signifies the voluntary entrance of the couple into the marriage in the presence of their community.

The glowing gold's and reds are warm and soothing colors of expression; of a loving, nurturing mother. They are colors of passion and sensuality. These qualities are the embodiment of the divine feminine. The divine feminine exists, to some degree within all men & women. The divine, when allowed to come forth, holding the fabric of all humanity as one; as one, collective, whole, creation—all for the one purpose to be loved.

Aspects of The Divine

The Holy One

Judaism holds a tension between the transcendent—the unknowable, the infinite, the separate, the “container” of the world—and the imminent—the tangible, the indwelling, the world itself. In Jewish thought, though physical images are discouraged, images of God may be drawn from human forms. The transcendent God is generally depicted as male (though God may have feminine qualities such as rachmanut, compassion, literally wombfulness). In later mystical tradition, the immanent qualities of God become feminized, but in the Bible these qualities too belong to God. The transcendent God is creator, father, judge, and warrior, but also healer and gardener. In later rabbinic thought, God is rabbi, scribe, and scholar. Other biblical images of the transcendent God are non-gendered and drawn from nature—the rock, the spring of water, the soaring eagle. In the Talmud God is sometimes simply called “makom” (the Place).

In kabbalah, the highest form of transcendence is literally formless—the ein sof or “without end.” We can know virtually nothing about this aspect of God. We can only imagine God through more finite metaphors–the wise creator, the good father, the tree of life, the Lady Wisdom, and so forth. The scholar Tikvah Frymer-Kensky and others have reminded us that we need multiple metaphors to fully describe our experience with God.

The “Holy One blessed be He” (Kadosh baruch hu) is a common rabbinic name for the transcendent God that humans can pray to and attempt to imitate. The Holy One is a wise teacher, an artist, a fighter, and sometimes a mysterious absence. The kabbalists identified the Holy One with the sefirah (Divine aspect) of tiferet, a masculine aspect of God that symbolizes the heart or sacred center, and also represents compassion and balance. Tiferet is the prince, the lover of Shekhinah, the tree of life, the sun, and the place where all opposites come together.

The Shekhinah

Where can we find a powerful image of the Divine feminine within Jewish sources? One name for Her which has been with us for centuries is the Shekhinah, the “dweller within.” In ancient times, the Shekhinah was a Talmudic word for the glory of God that rested on the mishkan (the mishkan was the Tabernacle, God’s sacred dwelling space in the wilderness (see Exodus 26-28). The Israelites saw the “glory of God” (kavod adonai) as tangible, powerful, and sacred, a pillar of fire or cloud guiding the Israelites through the wilderness.

According to the Talmud, the Shekhinah, the Indwelling, is the Divine that resides within the life of the world, dwelling on earth with the Jewish people and going into exile with them when they are exiled. While the traditional Jewish image of the transcendent God is male, in the kabbalah, that image has been accompanied by the feminine image of the Shekhinah—the inner glory of existence.

In the Zohar (a medieval mystical work), there are ten facets or sefirot of the Divine, and the Shekhinah (also known as malchut) is the tenth and final one, closest to the created world. She is a mystical embodiment of the feminine, earth-centered presence of God, and was also called the bride of God, the Sabbath, the Torah, the moon, the earth, and the apple orchard. Mysticism depicts the Shekhinah as female, but she can be both female and male. Two biblical figures who symbolize her are Rachel (wife of Jacob and mother of the Israelite nation) and David (shepherd, psalmist, and king of Israel). The Shekhinah rests on those who study, pray, visit the sick, welcome the new moon, welcome guests, give charity to the poor, dwell in the harvest booth called the sukkah, or perform other sacred activities.

The Shekhinah embodies joy, yet she is also a symbol of shared suffering and empathy, not only with a nation’s exile, but with all the hurts of the world. Mystics believe that in messianic times She will be reunited with her heavenly partner and that they will become one. Many Jewish poets of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries have reclaimed her as a powerful feminine image of God.

Yet the Shekhinah as She is portrayed by Jewish sources is not a panacea for all that ails the way we look at God. Until recently kabbalists have considered Her the lowest and most inactive part of the Godhead, the last and least in a series of ten steps of creation.

The Shekhinah embodies traditional feminine traits like passivity and nurturing, and at the same time she is associated with death and darkness. These images, taken uncritically, can be damaging to women and to the male conception of the feminine. To discover the Shekhinah as the full embodiment of the feminine Divine, we must transform her from a stereotype into a living divinity who speaks to us in many different kinds of voices: mother and daughter, old and young, light and dark, compassion and anger, revelation and mystery.

We can rediscover the Shekhinah throughout Jewish text, throughout history, and throughout the natural world. God in the Bible is sometimes mother eagle and sometimes Holy Wisdom crying out in the streets. In the Talmud and midrash, the Divine is sometimes portrayed as a nursing mother or as the (female) twin of Israel. In the Zohar, there are multiple feminine God-images, such as Binah (understanding), also known as Immah Ilaah (the higher mother), who is called the womb and palace of creation, the fountain of understanding, the well of souls. Then there is Lilith, a mythic figure whom the tradition demonized but who for some is the embodiment of sexuality and freedom.

We also cannot forget that the images and stories of the Shekhinah are connected to traditions of the Divine feminine around the world, from the ancient goddess Inanna, who is described as a warrior for her people just as the Shekhinah is in the Zohar; to the Virgin Mary, who is an intercessor in matters of Divine judgment like the Shekhinah; to Kuan Yin of Asia, who embodies compassion for those who suffer, just as the Shekhinah does. Jews have been afraid to acknowledge the Shekhinah’s relationship to goddesses and goddess-like images because of the traditional Jewish prohibition against idolatry. Yet to deny our connection to the Divine feminine as it is expressed and loved by others is to deny our connection to the human, and feminine, religious experience, and to render invisible some of the sources of our own spirituality.

Today feminist theologians and earth-centered Jews have reclaimed the Shekhinah as a unified deity in her own right, dwelling within living things and the earth, seeking peace and promoting human connection, speaking through women as well as men, working through the neglected and invisible, promoting change and healing brokenness. She is the Goddess—an image of the forces of life and the mysteries of creation.

As a rabbi, a feminist scholar, and a seeker, I have been looking for the Divine feminine for many years. In my own dreams, I have seen the Shekhinah as a pregnant woman glowing with light, as a great bird, as an old, secretive woman in a black robe, and as a stone with feathers. While I constantly look for her in texts, I believe that our own experience of Her will guide us toward Her, if we can open our eyes and ears.

The Shekhinah, for some, is a reminder that there is no division between creation and divinity. The Shekhinah allows us to break through the exclusively male and hierarchical visions of God and imagine a God that changes as we change, that evokes nature as well as the supernatural. Melissa Weintraub writes: “Shekhinah, Mother of all being, you are the stream that runs through our veins, and dances through the soil....” When we speak to the immanent Shekhinah, She speaks not to us, but through us, and through all the varied facets of the world.

—Jill Hammer

The Shekinah

The section which follows is a chapter from Fred P Miller's book, Zechariah and Jewish Renewal

Prophecies of the return of the "Shekinah," which had left the Temple and city of Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel, are repeated in Zechariah. These same prophecies are also fulfilled in the historical period and record of Zechariah. To better understand these prophecies it is necessary to have an acquaintance with the history of the "Shekinah."
Objection is made that the word "Shekinah," is not found in the scripture in its noun form and that it describes a concept that is not scriptural. It is said that the word is coined by Post-biblical Rabbinic scholars. While it is admitted that the Rabbinic concept of God being a hovering non-personal force is an unacceptable extension of meaning, the concept of a physical manifestation of God's localized dwelling is none-the-less scriptural. We have chosen to use the word "Shekinah," (shknh) , to name this "presence" since this meaning is in general distribution among many Christians, albeit ignorant of the origin of the word.

The word was coined from verbal cognates in the Bible which describe the "presence" of God in a locality. The verbal cognates are copiously used to describe the "Shekinah" appearances. The word "Shekinah," itself is not in the biblical text but the concept, as I have defined it, clearly is. The word most certainly is derived from "shakan," and whoever first used the word "Shekinah" coined it as a substantive (noun form) from the verbal forms used to describe the "abiding, dwelling, or habitation" of the physical manifestations of God described in Ex 24:16; Ex 40:35, Nu 9:16-18; and numerous other places where "shakan" is used. The word is also used to describe the mystical "Shekinah" presence in the tabernacle. The word "mishkan," a derivative of "shakan," is often translated "tabernacle." The Hebrew for tabernacle is more often simply "ohel," or tent. "Mishkan" means "dwelling place." That is, the "dwelling place" of "Him who dwells" or "Shekinah."

"Shekinah" in Hebrew is a feminine noun, It is interesting that Isaiah refers to the Shekinah using feminine pronouns. Especially in Isaiah 51. Particularly in Isaiah 51:9 and 10 and its context the pronouns are feminine. In verse 10 the KJV uses thou and it to refer to the Shekinah. Both pronouns are feminine in Hebrew. The Qumran text makes the feminine form certain by adding a yod to 2fs. Literally feminine "you she" translated in KJV "thou it." Without doubt this is why the inter-testament Rabbis coined the word Shekinah to describe the events where the physical presence performed miracles to guide and protect Israel. In the same passage (Isa 51:9) there is a phrase "arm of YHWH" that is used exclusively for the Messiah.

Shekhinah Glory
Shekhinah As Feminine

“Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

The "feminine Jewish divine presence, the Shekhinah, distinguishes Kabbalistic literature from earlier Jewish literature."

A personal experience

My personal experience with my Beloved: The Shekhinah; The Holy One; is that most beautiful, tender, gentle, all loving, infinitely kind and nurturing mother and guiding father; my Beloved is love itself.

Both genders have been derived from the nature of my Beloved; my Beloved is all in all; within all things; through all things and there is no place where my Belove is not, and so much more that I cannot possibly understand the infinite depth of my Beloved, but my faith in my Beloved is as complete as a flawed human could have.

The Seven Blessings (Sheva Berakhot) and Other Wedding Rituals

Kiddushin: The opening section, called kiddushin (betrothal), is where all of the legal business takes place, including the formal betrothal blessing and the ring ceremony.

Ketubah: Often couples include a reading of their ketubah (marriage contract) as a bridge between this first part of the ceremony and the next part, called nissuin (nuptials).

Nissuin (Nuptials): Nissuin includes the chanting of the sheva berakhot (seven blessings), the breaking of a glass, and yihud, in which the bride and groom depart from under the chuppah (marriage canopy) to take some time alone before joining guests for wedding festivities.

The Blessings

The sheva berakhot are the real heart of the Jewish wedding ceremony; it is in this liturgical moment of the ceremony that themes of joy and celebration and the ongoing power of love are expressed. Taken from the pages of the Talmud (Ketubot 8a), the blessings, from one to seven, begin with the kiddush over wine and increase in intensity in their imagery and metaphors. It is no accident that there are seven of these blessings, since the number seven brings to mind the seven days of creation. Poetic echoes of creation and paradise abound in the blessings, as does the age-old yearning for return to Jerusalem. Significantly, the final blessing culminates with imagery of the entire community singing and celebrating with the couple, reminding all present that the pair standing under the chuppah are a link in the chain of Jewish continuity.

The blessings are:

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has created everything for your glory.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Creator of Human Beings.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has fashioned human beings in your image, according to your likeness and has fashioned from it a lasting mold. Blessed are You Adonai, Creator of Human Beings.

Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one (Jerusalem) through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens Zion through her children.

Gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creatures in the garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens groom and bride.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. Adonai, our God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the grooms’ jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.

Under the Chuppah

During the ceremony, the blessings are traditionally chanted in Hebrew and may also be read in English. In the Sephardic tradition, a parent will often wrap the bride and groom in a tallit (prayer shawl) before the recitation of the blessings begins, to recognize the intimacy and significance of the moment. Many contemporary couples use the theme of “blessing” to creatively interpret the reading of the sheva berakhot: they may invite seven friends or family members to each recite one of the blessings or have the traditional blessings sung in Hebrew while friends or family members offer seven non-traditional blessings in English. There are many English interpretations of the sheva berakhot available

The Creative Jewish Wedding Book, some of which use neutral or feminine God language instead of the traditional male imagery. Often couples will include the sheva berakhot in Hebrew and/or English in their wedding programs so that guests can fully participate in this important moment in the ceremony. Traditionally, everyone present joins with the leader in singing parts of the final blessing.

At the Wedding Celebration

It is customary for the sheva berakhot to be recited again during the wedding celebration over a glass of wine, following the birkat hamazon (grace after meals). This second sharing of the blessings gives couples an additional opportunity to honor their loved ones by inviting them to offer one of the blessings. Another beautiful custom for this sharing of the sheva berakhot is for the wine to be divided into two different cups–representing bride and groom–that are then poured together into a third cup. The wine that has been mixed together is poured back into cups for the bride and groom and also poured into the third cup, shared by the community. This ritual shows how the couple is now connected, and how their life together is intertwined with community.

The Week After the Wedding

While today most newly married couples are eager to sneak away for honeymoon time alone (and often to de-stress from their wedding planning marathons), Jewish tradition held that the bride and groom needed time with the community to help start their marriage out on the right foot. For the seven days following the wedding, the bride and groom were treated like a queen and king and were invited to dine at the home of a different friend or relative on each night. These festive meals were called “sheva berakhot.” Following dinner, the seven blessings would be recited again–as long as a minyan of 10 men were present and there was at least one new person (who hadn’t been at the wedding) present. The idea of the dinners was to have real community celebrations for the couple, and parties often went into the night. During generations when marriages were arranged and couples may have met just before marriage the sheva berakhot meals served as a way for the couple to get to know each other, while being supported by the community.

Today the sheva berakhot festive meals are still an important custom, though observed more regularly in traditional circles. Some couples postpone their honeymoon trips so that they can celebrate with their community first and then celebrate their marriage together later. Other Jewish couples are choosing to engage in the custom for some of their first week of marriage or will even celebrate a week of sheva berakhot when they return from their honeymoons.

Some Debate

Traditionally, only Jewish men are counted in a minyan and only Jewish men can recite the sheva berakhot, both under the huppah and during the festive meals following the wedding. In liberal Jewish communities, both men and women are welcomed and encouraged to recite the sheva berakhot. Some Orthodox feminists have challenged the halakha (Jewish law) surrounding this debate, but have largely not made ground in changing this tradition. Other Orthodox and some Conservative women, though, in a desire not to challenge the halakha but to still include women friends and family members in their wedding honors have created a new tradition: the sheva shevahot, or seven praises. These seven praises are recited before, rather than after, the wedding meal, and emphasize the psalms and poems which celebrate the accomplishments of Biblical women.

The seventh praise is often the shehecheyanu blessing.

Rabbi Dov Linzer, a modern Orthodox rabbi, has written largely about another halakhic compromise: calling both men and women up to the chuppah in pairs for a sheva brakhot honor, with the man reciting the blessing in Hebrew and the woman reading an English translation. Rabbi Linzer also notes that in terms of halakha, the reciting of the sheva brakhot after the meal at the wedding celebration is the obligation of the community, rather than the groom himself, and so since women are part of the community, they may participate in sharing those honors in Hebrew.

The Tradition Continues…

As with so many Jewish rituals, the expression of the sheva berakhot has evolved over time, but their place and importance as the central celebratory liturgy in a Jewish wedding ceremony holds fast.

Seder Nezikin | Fine Stained Glass Art & Design Symbolizing Seder Nezikin

The relationship between wisdom and deeds are symbolically portrayed
using a tree with many roots. The tree is derived from the 22nd saying
in Pirke Aboth. Nezikin protects the weak.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

Nezikin addresses Jewish civil and criminal law and procedure. It is designed to protect the weak from the strong. But, the religious and ethical importance of Nezikin was expressed by Rabbi Judah as follows, "He who wishes to be a Hasid (a pious man) let him observe the teachings of Nezikin." This is because civil and criminal law was regarded by Judaism as part of the Divine Revelation -- the Torah. "Thus the object of the legal system was not to preserve a particular dynasty or a certain form of government, but to establish social righteousness, and to thereby maintain a constant, close, inseparable connection between ethics and law, both flowing from the same Divine source."

In order to be regarded as pious, one must be devoted to doing deeds as well as attaining wisdom. A tree with many roots was incorporated into the design of the Nezikin window. This many rooted tree refers to the 22nd saying in the third chapter of Pirke Aboth (Sayings of the Fathers). It reads as follows: "He whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are many, but whose roots are few; and the wind comes and plucks it up and overturns it upon its face; as it is said, and he shall be like a lonely juniper tree in the desert, and shall not see when good comes; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. But he whose deeds exceed his wisdom, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are few, but whose roots are many, so that even if all the winds in the world come and blow upon it, it cannot be stirred from its place; as it is said, and he shall be as a tree planted by the waters; and that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not perceive when heat comes, but his leaf shall be green; and shall not be troubled in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Thus, the tree in the Nezikin window is an analogy between wisdom and the branches of the tree, and between deeds and the roots of the tree.

Extended Commentary on the Laws Governed by Seder Nezikin:


Richard H. Schwartz (from “Judaism and Global Survival' (Lantern Books, 2002))

One person (Adam) was created as the common ancestor of all people, for the sake of the peace of the human race, so that one should not be able to say to a neighbor, "My ancestor was better than yours.”

One person was created to teach us the sanctity and importance of every life, for one who destroys a single life is considered by scripture to have destroyed an entire world, and one who saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved an entire World.

One person was created to teach us the importance of the actions of every individual, for we should treat the world as half good and half bad so that if we do one good deed, it will tip the whole world to the side of goodness. Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5

A fundamental Jewish principle is the equality and unity of humanity. We all have one Creator; one God is the Divine Parent of every person. Judaism is a universal religion that condemns discrimination based on race, color, or nationality. God endows each person with basic human dignity.

The following teaching of the sages reinforces the lesson of universality inherent in the creation of one common ancestor: "God formed Adam out of dust from all over the world: yellow clay, white sand, black loam, and red soil. Therefore, no one can declare to any people that they do not belong here since this soil is not their home."  Hence Adam, our common ancestor, represents every person.

Ben Azzai, a disciple of Rabbi Akiva, also reinforces this concept in the Talmud. He states that a fundamental teaching of the Torah is the verse "This is the book of the generations of humanity (Adam)" (Genesis 5:1). The statement does not talk about black or white, or Jew or Gentile, but humanity. Since all human beings share a common ancestor, they must necessarily be brothers and sisters. Hence these words proclaim the essential message that there is a unity to the human race.


One of the most important ideas about the creation of humanity is that "God created people in God's own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27). According to Rabbi Akiva, a Talmudic sage, "Beloved are human beings who were created in the image of God, and it is an even greater act of love [by God] that it was made known to people that they were created in the Divine image."

Because human beings are created in God's image, we are to imitate God's attributes of holiness, kindness, and compassion: “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: You shall be holy, as I, the Lord Your God, am holy' ” (Leviticus 19:1, 2). The fact that the above mandate was delivered to the entire congregation means that it applies to every Jew, not just to a small elite group of spiritual or moral specialists.

In the following verses, the Torah mandates that we walk in God's ways:

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you, but to revere the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 10:12).

For if you shall diligently keep this entire commandment which I command you to do it, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him, ... (Deuteronomy 11:22)

The Midrash interprets the expression "walking in God's ways" to mean  "Just as God is called 'merciful,' you should be merciful, just as God is called 'compassionate,' you should be compassionate."  The third-century sage Hama ben Hanina expands on the duty of imitating God:

What is the meaning of the verse "You shall walk after the Lord your  God" (Deuteronomy 13:5)? Is it possible for a human being to walk after the Shechinah (God's presence), for has it not been said, "For the Lord, your God is a devouring fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24)? But the verse means to walk after the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed is He. As God clothes the naked, for it is written, "And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife coats of skin and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21), so should you clothe the naked. The Holy One, Blessed is He, visits the sick, for it is written, "And the Lord appeared to him (Abraham, while he was recovering from circumcision), by the oaks of Mamre" (Genesis 18:1), so should you also visit the sick. The Holy One, Blessed is He, comforts mourners, for it is written, "And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed Isaac, his son" (Genesis 25:11), so should you comfort mourners. The Holy One, Blessed is He, buries the dead, for it is written, "And He buried Moses in the valley" (Deuteronomy 34:6), so should you also bury the dead. 

Maimonides finds a powerful statement about the importance of imitating God in these words from the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord:
Let not the wise person take pride in his wisdom;
Neither let the mighty person take pride in his might;
Let not the rich person take pride in his riches;
But let him that takes pride, take pride in this:
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness,
on the earth;
For in these things I delight, says the Lord.  
Jeremiah 9:22-23

Maimonides interprets this statement to mean that a person should find fulfillment in the imitation of God, in being "like God in one's actions."  According to Heschel, Maimonides originally considered the highest human goal to be contemplation of God's essence, but later came to believe that one's ultimate purpose is to emulate God's traits of kindness, justice, and righteousness. He renounced his former practice of seclusion and ministered to the sick throughout each day (as a physician).

While Judaism has many beautiful symbols, such as the mezuzah, menorah, and sukkah, there is only one symbol that represents God, and that is each person. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, more important than to have a symbol is to be a symbol. And every person can consider himself or herself a symbol of God. This is our challenge: to live in a way compatible with being a symbol of God, to walk in God's ways, to remember who we are and Whom we represent, and to remember our role as partners of God in working to redeem the world.


A central commandment in Judaism is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Leviticus 19:18). According to Rabbi Akiva, this is a [or perhaps the] great principle of the Torah.  Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev taught: “Whether a person really loves God can be determined by the love he or she bears toward other human beings."

Many Torah authorities write that this should be applied not only to Jews but to all humanity. Rabbi J. H. Hertz, former Chief Rabbi of England, states that the translation of the Hebrew word rea (neighbor) does not mean "fellow Israelite."  He cites several examples in the Torah where that word means "neighbor of whatever race or creed.” His view reflects that of Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu of Vilna, author of the classic Sefer HaBrit, who states, “Love of one's neighbor means that we should love all people, no matter to which nation they belong or what language they speak…. For all [people] are created in the Divine image, and all engage in improving civilization….”  Rabbi Pinchas states that “all of the commandments between man and man are included in this precept of loving one's neighbor,”  and he also provides a scriptural proof text in which a non-Jew is also called “neighbor.”

The commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself" logically follows  from the Jewish principle that each person has been created in God's image.

Hence, since my neighbor is like myself, I should love him as myself. In  fact, the proper translation of the commandment may be "Love your neighbor; he is like yourself."

    In the same chapter of Leviticus in which “Love your neighbor as yourself” appears, the Torah outlines some specific ways that this mandate can be put into practice:

You shall not steal; nor shall you deal falsely nor lie to one another…. You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him…. You shall not curse the deaf, and you shall not put a stumbling block before the blind…. You shall do no injustice in judgment; be not partial to the poor, and favor not the mighty; in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go up and down as a talebearer among your people; neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19: 11, 14 - 16)

The Talmudic sages spell out how one should practice love for human beings:

One should practice loving-kindness (gemilut chasadim), not only by giving of one's possessions but by personal effort on behalf of one's fellow man, such as extending a free loan, visiting the sick, offering comfort to mourners and attending weddings. For alms giving (tzedakah) there is the minimum of the tithe (one-tenth) and the maximum of one-fifth of one's income. But there is no fixed measure of personal service.    

Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov tells how to love our neighbor as ourselves by relating an experience in his life:

How to love people is something I learned from a peasant. He was sitting * in an inn along with the other peasants, drinking... he asked one of the men seated beside him: "Tell me, do you love me or don't you love me?" The other replied, "I love you very much." The first peasant nodded his head, was silent for a while, then remarked: "You say that you love me, but you do not know what I need. If you really loved me, you should know." The other had not a word to say to this, and the peasant who put the question fell again silent. But I understood. To know the needs of men and to bear the burden of their sorrow -- that is the true love of man. 

Aaron, the brother of Moses, also teaches how we can love our neighbors. When two people were quarreling, he would go to each separately and tell him how the other deeply regretted their argument and wished reconciliation. When the two would next meet, they would often embrace and re-establish friendly relations. Because of such acts of love and kindness by Aaron, the great Talmudic master Hillel exhorts people to “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving humanity, and drawing them closer to the Torah.”  

When a pagan confronted Hillel and demanded that the sage explain all of the Torah while he, the potential convert, stood on one leg, Hillel's response was: "What is hateful to you, do not do unto others, -- that is the entire Torah; everything else is commentary. Go and learn."


To further emphasize that "love of neighbor" applies to every human being, the Torah frequently commands that we show love and consideration for the stranger, "for you know the heart of the stranger, seeing that you  were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 23:9).

The stranger was one who came from distant parts of the land of Israel or, like the immigrants of our own day, from a foreign country. The Torah stresses the importance of treating them with respect and empathy.

The importance placed on the commandment not to mistreat the stranger in our midst is indicated by its appearance thirty-six times in the Torah, far more than any other mitzvah.  It is placed on the same level as the duty of kindness to and protection of the widow and the orphan.   [According to rabbinic tradition, most of these references to the  'stranger' refer to one who converts to Judaism (ger tzedek) or to non-Jews living in the land of Israel who accept Jewish sovereignty, observe basic laws of morality, and repudiate idolatry (ger toshav). But since we were neither converts nor formally accepted fellow-travelers in Egypt, there must be additional meaning in our obligation to the 'stranger.']

The German Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen (1842 - 1918) states that true religion involves shielding the alien from all wrong. He comments:

The alien was to be protected, although he was not a member of one's  family, clan, religious community, or people; simply because he was a family, clan, religious community or people, simply because he was a human being. In the alien, therefore, man discovered the idea of humanity.

In our world, with its great clannishness and nationalism, with its often harsh treatment of people who don't share the local religion, nationality, or culture, the Torah's teachings about the stranger are remarkable:

And a stranger shall you not wrong, neither shall you oppress him; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 19:33

Love you, therefore, the stranger; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19; Leviticus 19:34)

And you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord, your God has given you... along with the stranger that is in the midst of you. Deuteronomy 26:11

The stranger is guaranteed the same protection in the law court and in payment of wages as the native:

Judge righteously between a man and his brother and the stranger that is with him. (Deuteronomy 1:16)

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy,  whether he be of your brethren, or of the strangers that are in your land within your gates. In the same day you shall pay him.
Deuteronomy 24:14,15

When it comes to Divine forgiveness, the stranger stands on an equal footing with the native:

And all the congregation of the children of Israel shall be forgiven,  and the stranger that sojourns among them. (Numbers 15:26)

Like any other needy person, the stranger had free access to the  grain that was to be left unharvested in the corners of the field and to the gleanings of the harvest, as well as to fallen grapes or odd clusters of grapes remaining on the vine after picking (Leviticus 19:9,10; 23:22;  Deuteronomy 24:21). The stranger, like the widow and the fatherless, was welcome to the forgotten sheaves in the fields (Deuteronomy 24:19) and to the olives clinging to the beaten trees (Deuteronomy 24:20). He also partook of the tithe (the tenth part of the produce) every third year of the Sabbatical cycle (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29; 26:12).


Since God is the Creator and Divine Parent of every person, each human being is entitled to proper treatment. A person's actions, and not his or her faith or creed, are most important, as indicated in the following Talmudic teachings:

I bring heaven and earth to witness that the Holy Spirit dwells upon a non-Jew as well as upon a Jew, upon a woman as well as upon a man, upon a maidservant as well as a manservant. All depends on the deeds of the particular individual!

In all nations, there are righteous individuals who will have a share  in the world to come.    

The Talmud contains many statutes that require us to assist and care for  non-Jews along with Jews.

We support the poor of the non-Jew along with the poor of Israel and  visit the sick of the non-Jew along with the sick of Israel and bury the
dead of the non-Jew along with the dead of Israel, for the sake of peace (mipnei darchei shalom)....  

In a city where there are both Jews and Gentiles, the collectors of  alms collect from both; they feed the poor of both, visit the sick of both, bury both, comfort the mourners whether they be Jews or Gentiles, and restore the lost goods of both, mipnei darchei shalom: to promote peace and cooperation.    

The essential spirit of Judaism toward other people was expressed
by Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah (18:1):

Jew and non-Jew are to be treated alike. If a (Jewish) vendor knows  that his merchandise is defective, he must inform the purchaser (whatever his or her religion).

Influenced by this statement by Maimonides, Rabbi Menahem Meiri of  Provence ruled in the fourteenth century that a Jew should desecrate the
Sabbath if it might help to save the life of a Gentile.  Meiri states that any previous ruling to the contrary had been intended only for ancient times for those non-Jews who were pagans and morally deficient.  The late Israeli Chief Rabbi Chaim Unterman in a responsum in which he vigorously denied a charge raised by a Dr. Israel Shahak that Jewish law forbids violating the Sabbath to save a Gentile's life quotes this decision.

Rabbi Ezekiel Landau, eighteenth-century author of Noda B'Yehuda, ruled:

I emphatically declare that in all laws contained in the Jewish  writings concerning theft, fraud, etc., no distinction is made between Jew and Gentile; that the (Talmudic) legal categories goy, akum (idolater), etc., in no way apply to the people among whom we live.

The following Midrash dramatically shows that Jews are to treat every person, not just fellow Jews, justly:

Shimon ben Shetach worked hard preparing flax. His disciples said to him, "Rabbi, desist. We will buy you an ass, and you will not have to work so hard." They went and bought an ass from an Arab, and a pearl was found on it (hidden in the saddle), whereupon they came to Rabbi Shimon and said, "From now on you need not work any more." "Why?" he asked. They said, "We bought you an ass from an Arab, and a pearl was found on it." He said to them, "Does its owner know of that?" They answered, "No." He said to them, "Go and give the pearl back to him." To their argument that he need not return the pearl because the Arab was a heathen, he responded, "Do you think that Shimon ben Shetach is a barbarian? He would prefer to hear the Arab say, 'Blessed be the God of the Jews,' than to possess all the riches of the world.... It is written, 'You shall not oppress your neighbor. 'Now your neighbor is as your brother, and your brother is as your neighbor. Hence you learn that to rob a Gentile is robbery."    

According to Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, the rabbinic leader, scholar, and Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, Shimon Ben Shetach in the above story gives a remarkable definition of a barbarian: “Anyone who fails to apply a uniform standard of mishpat (justice) and tzedek (righteousness) to all human beings, regardless of origin, color, or creed, is deemed barbaric.”

From today's perspective, the widespread and legalized practice of  slavery in biblical times seems to contradict Jewish values with regard
to treatment of human beings. However, we must look at slavery as an evolving process; it was a common practice in ancient times and was
thought to be an economic necessity. Therefore, the Torah does not outlaw it immediately but, through its teachings and laws, the Torah paved the way toward the eventual elimination of slavery.

Slavery in Israel's early history had many humane features in comparison with practices in other countries. Slaves' rights were guarded and regulated with humanitarian legislation. They were recognized as having certain inalienable rights based on their humanity. For example, slaves had to be allowed to rest on the Sabbath Day, just like their masters.

The Talmud proclaimed legislation in order to mitigate slavery's harshness, especially with regard to a Hebrew slave:

He [the slave] should be with you in food and with you in drink, lest  you eat clean bread and he moldy bread, or lest you drink old wine and he new wine, or lest you sleep on soft feathers and he on straw. So it was said, "Whoever buys a Hebrew slave, it is as if he purchased a master for himself."     

It is significant that, unlike the law of the U.S. before the Civil War, the Biblical fugitive-slave law protected the runaway slave:

You shall not deliver to his master a bondsman that is escaped from  his master unto you. He shall dwell with you in the midst of you, in the
place which he shall choose within one of your gates, where he likes it  best; you shall not wrong him. (Deuteronomy 23:16,17)


One test of the decency of a community is in its attitude toward  strangers. A just society teaches its members to welcome outsiders and to be kind to those who are disadvantaged.

    Unfortunately, the history of the world is largely a history of exploitation and the violation of human rights. Today in many countries there is widespread discrimination against and oppression of people of different races, religions, nationalities, and economic status. As will be discussed in Chapter Eight, often due to injustice and repression, half the world's people lack adequate food, shelter, employment, education, health care, clean water, and other basic human needs.
Perhaps no people have historically suffered more from prejudice than the Jews. The Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust are just three of
the most horrible examples in Jewish and human history. Many times Jews have been killed, expelled from countries where they had lived and contributed to for many generations, subjected to pogroms, or converted at swordpoint (or died resisting), solely because they were Jewish. Whenever conditions were bad, the economy suffered, or there was a plague, Jews provided a convenient scapegoat.

Anti-Semitism continues today. Nazi-type groups and the Ku Klux Klan use the Internet and other means to spread their hateful messages. There are several groups that preach that the Holocaust never occurred. Jewish organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, are working to reduce anti-Semitism, but much more needs to be done to eliminate this ancient, but still ever-present and virulent disease.

It is essential to educate all people to the evils of anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. In addition to openly confronting and opposing anti-Semitism and racism, it is also necessary to work to reduce or eliminate injustice, poverty, slums, hunger, illiteracy, unemployment, homelessness, and other social ills. Just, democratic societies will be far safer for everyone, including Jews.


Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, a contemporary educator, and author indicates how strong Jewish views against racism are:

From the standpoint of the Torah, there can be no distinction between one human being and another on the basis of race or color. Any discrimination shown to another human being on account of his color or her skin constitutes loathsome barbarity.

He points out that Judaism does recognize distinctions between Jews and non-Jews, but this is not based on any concept of inferiority, but “is based on the unique and special burdens that are placed upon the Jews.”

The prophet Amos challenges the state of mind that looks down on darker-skinned people, in a ringing declaration on the equality of all races and nations. He compares the Jewish people to Blacks and indicates that God is even concerned with Israel's enemies, such as the Philistines and Syrians. 

Are you not as the children of the Ethiopians unto me,
0 children of Israel? says the Lord.
Have I not brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt?
And the Philistines from Caphtor,
And the Syrians from Kir?    (Amos 9:7)

Judaism teaches the sacredness of every person, but this is not what has always been practiced in our society. And, as with many other moral issues,
religion has too seldom spoken out in protest.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel points out the tremendous threat that racism poses to humanity:

Racism is worse than idolatry; Racism is Satanism, unmitigated evil. Few of us seem to realize how insidious, how radical, how universal
an evil racism is. Few of us realize that racism is man's gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking. 

He points out that bigotry is inconsistent with a proper relationship with God:

Prayer and prejudice cannot dwell in the same heart. Worship without compassion is worse than self-deception; it is an abomination. 

Rabbi Heschel asserts that "what is lacking is a sense of the monstrosity of inequality.” Consistent with the Jewish view that every person is created in God's image, he boldly states: "God is every man's pedigree. He is either the Father of all men or of no men. The image of God is either in every man or in no man.” 

It is an embarrassing fact that most of America's religious institutions did not originally take the lead in proclaiming the evil of segregation; they had to be prodded into action by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954.

Based on Jewish values of compassion and justice, many Jews were  active in the struggle for Civil Rights. Two Jewish college students, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, along with a black student James Chaney were brutally murdered while working for Civil Rights in Mississippi in 1964. After the Six-day war, the Black Power movement, and the rise of ethnic pride in the late 1960's, some fissures developed in the decades-long alliance of Jews and Blacks for progress in America. But while some on both sides would emphasize points of disharmony, Jews and Blacks have many common interests and goals and have much to gain by working together for a more just, compassionate, peaceful, and harmonious society, as is modeled by the continuing close cooperation between the Congressional Black Caucus and Jewish members of Congress on many issues.

Jewish identification with disadvantaged people is rooted in Jewish historical experience: we were slaves in Egypt and have often lived as oppressed second-class citizens (or worse) in ghettos, deprived of freedom and rights. Hence, we should understand the frustrations of other minorities, here and elsewhere, and their impatient yearning for equality and human dignity.

It is significant that the government of Israel has for some time had a policy of preferential treatment for immigrants who need help adjusting to their new home. Special programs have been devised for the children of Mizrachi (Middle Eastern) and Ethiopian Jews who come from homes where there is low literacy. Compensatory measures include free nurseries, longer school days and school years, special tutoring and curricula, additional funds for equipment and supplies, extra counseling services, and preferential acceptance to academic secondary schools, although there is unfortunately also some discriminatory treatment and segregation: Israel is not yet ideal in its treatment of some newcomers and minorities.

In summary, Jewish values stress the equality of every person, love of neighbor, proper treatment of strangers, and the imitation of God's attributes of justice, compassion, and kindness. Hence, it is essential that Jews work for the establishment of societies that will protect the rights of every person, each of whom is entitled, as a child of God, to a life of equitable opportunities for education, employment, and human dignity.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism," "Judaism and Global Survival," and "Mathematics and Global Survival," and over 130 articles at www.JewishVeg.com/schwartz
President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) www.JewishVeg.com
and Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV)
Associate Producer of A SACRED DUTY (asacredduty.com)
Director of Veg Climate Alliance (www.vegclimatealliance.org)

See: Gur Aryeh Yehudah

graphic kodashim

The Altar and the Ark of the Covenant portray ancient sacrificial law.
Kodashim is Hebrew for holy things.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

Kodashim is Hebrew meaning holy things. Kodashim deals with the ancient sacrificial rights of Jewish law. The offering of sacrifices was discontinued with the destruction of the Temple, but the study of Kodashim has been kept alive in part because of Judaism's stress on the importance of learning. Another reason is the hope that the Temple will be rebuilt which would restore the sacrificial cult. Yet another reason is the belief that the study of sacrificial law is equally as valid as the sacrificial act. The importance of studying such details is expressed by the idea that "...ritual law of the Torah has for its purpose the religious and moral perfection of humanity."

Sacrificial law is firmly connected to the ancient Temple. Temple activities revolved around the Altar, which along with the Ark of the Covenant, has been portrayed in the Kodashim window.

graphic tohoroth

Tohoroth is Hebrew describing cleansing or cleanliness.
Two universal symbols for cleansing are fire and water.
The laws of Tohoroth are designed to create a deep sense of awe toward God.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

Tohoroth (cleanliness) is the order dealing with the clean and unclean in things and persons. Most of these laws are, "...connected inseparably with the sanctuary, and have no validity apart from it." An explanation for this was ventured by Maimonides when he declared that the objective of the laws of Tohoroth was to set certain limitations and conditions upon Israel's approach to G-d. This created a deeper sense of awe and reverence toward G-d. For this reason, many of these laws apply only to activities carried on within the sanctuary and the holy objects used during the performance of related ritual. The laws of Tohoroth are, "...related to a higher order of existence, incomprehensible to our state of human knowledge."

The transcendental nature of Tohoroth demands a purely abstract approach to its symbolic depiction. Two universal symbols of purification are fire and water. These two elements are here suggested as a visual exemplary of Tohoroth.

Author's Bio: 

Artist - Designer - Painter since 1977 - Curtis R Doll Jr began creating Stained Glass Windows in 1979, cutting glass, assembling the windows including installation and various & sundry jobs that go along with making stained glass - began designing Monumental Architectural Glass Installations in 1983 for churches, storefronts, malls, and continued to design small, residential & commercial projects - in addition, creating computer graphics, manipulating & restoring photographs - creating Digital, Limited Edition Fine Art Prints since 1998, and his passion continues to be Gouache paintings of abstracts.