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Neveh Shalom Torah Mantles

In 2022 Congregation Neveh Shalom commissioned an additional three Torah mantles to be designed to continue the themes of the original set: fire, air, earth, water and time. Starway and Shabbat are related to the element of time, while Miriam's Timbrel connects to air.
Torah Mantle - Air Stairway Torah Mantle - Water - Miriam's Timbrel' Torah Mantle - Water - Miriam's Timbrel'

I created the first set of Torah mantles for Congregation Neveh Shalom in 1989, with the themes of elements - fire, air, earth and water - and time.

Each element related to a story from the Torah:

  • Fire, the bush that burned but wasn't consumed that Moses saw in the wilderness
  • Air, the dove and rainbow that promised an end to the flood in the time of Noah
  • Earth, the tree of life from the garden of Eden
  • Water, the splitting of the Sea of Reeds so Moses could lead the people to safety and freedom
The continuum of time was represented by the two "great lights" in the Heavens at the beginning of creation - the blazing sun for the light of day and the phases of the moon for night.

In December 2020, Congregation Neveh Shalom commissioned three additional Torah mantles. When I set out to find the right imagery, I looked back at my career and my creation of a sacred visual vocabulary that could match with stories from the text. And, once again, I returned to the elements and the continuum of time.

The first design represents air - a stairway of stars where the angels that appeared in Jacob's dream went down and up. The second design represents water - a timbrel lifted in the air and supported by the jubilant singing and dancing of the women led by Miriam.

The third design represents time - the raw elements of the eternal covenant of Shabbat. Grapes, wheat, night and day are made into the symbols blessed each week on the holy day of Shabbat. Candles, wine and bread create a sacred covenant and partnership with the Divine.

Each design is sewn with Ultrasuede and iridescent and metallic silk. The Ultrasuede is rich in color and has a luxurious surface, while the silks have their own magical quality of reflecting light and color back at the viewer.

Much as the visuals complement the stories, these Torah mantles are a place of partnership, of giving and receiving, and a place where the congregation can meet the sacred Divine.

God, where shall I find You?
High and hidden is Your place.
And where shall I not find You?
The world is full of your glory.

I have sought Your nearness, and
With all my heart I called You
And going out to meet You
I found You coming to meet me.

Judah HaLevi

February 24, 1989
Size: Approx 26" x 15" x 8" each

Inspired by a sense of the wholeness of the world and the oneness of its people, Sara Harwin searched for unique, Judaic non-figurative designs that would hold meaning for all who saw them. She began work on the designs in early 1988. Sara made a decision to use the symbols of the universe: earth, fire, air, and water, to represent the oneness and spiritual presence she sought.

The earth design is typified by the apple tree in its seasonal changes. With its tie to knowledge and mortal life, the apple tree is particularly appropriate as a symbol of the earth. Fire is depicted by the burning bush. The white dove and the covenant of the rainbow, symbols of peace and renewal represent air. Sara chose the Story of the Exodus as the symbol for water. The blazing midday sun and the cycles of the moon were selected to represent the passage of time. Proportions for each design were determined and then Sara worked with appropriate color selection. Ultrasuede was chosen as the fabric that would provide for the strong color needs of these powerful, elemental designs. Artist Janice Plehal was responsible for the execution of Sara's designs.

Star Legacy Torah Mantle
Creator of the Universe, through the work of my hands I have come to know and revere You. Sanctified by You, I stand before You, honored to have used my heart, hands and soul to help create this Torah mantel.

Shekinah, brilliance of the moon, guiding light of the world, you watch over your people, Israel. Just as the Magen David of this mantel is so tightly woven as to never fray, so too, are we all bound---each person now living--- one to the other---in Your glory and light.

Painting each star on this mantel, I witness the promise You made to Abraham and Sarah "Your children shall be as numerous as the stars in the Heavens"

I deeply feel my place in Your universe. Though I am a mere instant in the continuum of time) I am blessed and connected by Your Promise) forward and beyond to all the generations of seekers of Your Light yet to be.

The theme for the "Star Legacy" torah mantel is Genesis 22:17. This mantel was designed, sewn, and appliqued from Ultrasuede. Additional design was added by hand-painting.

Dor L'or Torah Mantle
Infinite...into to a chain into the infinite future.

This precious treasure of golden light that You have transmitted is contained within the silver and gold bow that is woven between the generations, All is set within You, Adonai, the color of the heaven-From the brightness of day through the darkness of night.The theme for this Torah cover is taken from the prayer book.

Adonoy will reign forever, Your God, Zion, shall reign from generation to generation!

Unetanah Tokef Torah Mantles
"Let us acclaim the majestic santitiy of this day for it is awesome and mighty...".

The powerful Unetanah Tokef prayer, reverently spoken on Yom Kippur, inspires all of us towards inner and outward intention toward havanah. With this prayer infusing in her heart, Sara Harwin has created stunning pure white torah mantles blazing with bronze and gold. To view them is to deepen our connection with ourselves and communities on this most sacred day.

"Teshuvah, Tefillah and Tzedakah can avert the severity of the decree...". The Unetanah Tokef gently reminds us of our power and grace in the world and it is through these inspirational jewish values that Sara's High Holy Day mantles whisper to us all. Teshuvanspeaks out from one mantle by a radiant shofar, Tellifah on an other by the shining 10 commandments and Tzedakah on the third by the eternal Star of David.

By Your Light Torah Mantle Set
For with You is the source of life-- by Your light we shall see light.

Congregation B'nai Israel
Gainesville, FL
Shin-dedicated Shabbat Zachor 5763/2003
Aleph, Tav-dedicated Shavuot 5765/2005

Creation begins with God's command: "Let there be light!" Thus beginning the central importance of Divine Light in the world. The Torah is often described in imagery of light such as Torah Orah , the Teaching of Light.

Candles are an integral part of Jewish custom and ceremony, symbolizing joy, spirituality, life and its passing. They are used only on holy days as well as most life cycle events. From birth to death, candles serve as central symbols of important transitional moments in a person's life.

Fire was regarded as the force of transformation, since it possesses the power to change matter from one form to another. Fire has also been regarded as a symbol of passion, energy, and regeneration.

Hebrew letters are the foundation for transmitting the Hebrew language. Each letter is imbued with much symbolism for Hebrew is a holy language. The letters chosen to rise out of the flames on each cover represent words of great meaning.

Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet, whose sound is that of your breath as you begin to make a sound. It is the first letter of the Ten Commandments Anochi and of G_d's name of Elohim. It also begins echad-one, adam-man and Avraham-the first Jew. It is also the first letter of the word aysh-fire, the primordial fire, that flames but does not destroy.

Shin is the second to last letter of the alphabet. It is the letter that stands alone for Shaddai- G-d's most mysterious name, which is on the klaf inside of each mezuzah. It is the first letter of shofar-ram's horn, shalom-peace/wholeness/ completion, Shabbat and shefa-resplendent radiance and shechina- the feminine presence of g-d who dwells among us.

Tav is the last letter of the alphabet. It is the first letter of tefilla-prayer, tehilim-psalms, t'shuva-turning/returning, Torah, Talmud and Tanach. Resh Lakish said that the Tav is the last letter of the Holy One's seal for Rav hanina taught that the seal of G-d is Emet/truth.

Aishet (as in Aishet Chayil) together the letters stand for the women of valor whose praises are sung at the beginning of Shabbat. These are the women of the sisterhood and granddaughter who funded this set of Torah Mantles.

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