Dvar Torah for Matot-Masei 5782

This week we close out the book of Bamidbar with a double parshah, Matot, meaning “Tribes”, and Masei, meaning “Travels” or “Trips” – this is the same word found in the name of our congregational religious school that we call Masa B’Yachad, or “Journey Together”.

This is a pretty technical parsha, and while there are some action scenes, there’s also a lot of material that doesn’t really support the narrative structure. Matot opens with some legal discussion about vows (specifically by women, and when they do and don’t count); and it proceeds to a Netflix-worthy scene of the Israelites’ slaughter of their enemies. But then it goes into this extremely detailed accounting of the spoils of the battle, how much was allocated to each tribe, and exactly what percentage was levied off to support the Levi’im. This is the parsha that makes you ask, “what would 675,000 sheep actually look like, and how would you possibly go about counting them all??” …lest we forget that we are, after all, nearing the end of the book of Numbers.

And a lot of Masei, as you might expect, is literally a long list of all the places the Israelites encamped in their sojourn in the desert. But one of the things that was interesting to me about this reading is that it’s full of callbacks to other recent parshiyot. We hear about the death of the prophet Bilaam, who gets put to the sword during that slaughter of Israel’s enemies. It turns out that his blessing of Israel in Parshat Balak two weeks ago was not enough to excuse him for helping corrupt the Israelites at Ba’al Peor a few pages later. We hear about Aaron’s grandson Pinchas, the priestly zealot and the hero of Ba’al Peor, who had the cliffhanger ending at the end of Balak and then got his own parsha last week. And we get the wrap-up to the story of the daughters of Tzelofchad, whose inheritance was discussed last week at the end of Parshat Pinchas. So there’s a complicated intertwining of all of these stories that behaves almost like that Netflix drama you’re going to sit down and binge-watch. (In case you can’t tell, I watched all of Stranger Things 4 this week.)

And even within today’s double parsha, we get this self-referential quality, because once we get through the list of the Travels, Parshat Masei is even more occupied with the tribes and their concerns than the parsha actually called Matot. The middle of Masei explains all the chieftainships assigned to the different tribes. And the final chapter of Masei, that we’ll read today, uses the word Matot or Mateh, “tribes” or “tribe”, 15 times within 10 verses, because the case of the daughters of Tzelofchad is highly significant to the interests of the tribes and the tribal system. So it’s like Matot is the kernel, the heart, of the book of Masei, and Masei is a kind of tribal scrapbook of their journeys along the way. 

Rabbi Yehonatan Chipman* offers a teaching about Masei in the name of Rabbi Art Green, that the long list of locations is the shorthand for a lot of stories: some that are pleasant to recall, and some not so pleasant. “But at the end of the journey, there is a certain value to remembering all the trips, to knowing that they all, however misguided and stupid they may seem in retrospect, went into one’s life, and together constitute a source for a certain kind of wisdom.” Personally, I know I find this in my own life; there are certainly episodes that I wouldn’t do the same way again, but at the same time I can’t exactly regret them because every step is part of the journey that brought me to this time and this place. 

Life really is about the journey, for good or ill, and that is why we have to remember where we’ve been. Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek – may we all be strengthened by the memories of our steps along the way. And may we all make it to the Promised Land, even if it takes us til next season to get there. Shabbat shalom!

Free printable Passover cards

I made a new Passover card design this year that I’ve been thinking about for a little while. It’s a seder plate design, but instead of the traditional Hebrew item designations in the center, I chose a word expressing the symbolism of each item.

  • Karpas – Greens – Renewal
  • Zeroah – Shankbone – Strength
  • Maror – Bitter Herb – Suffering
  • Chazeret – Lettuce – Bitterness
  • Charoset – Mortar – Building
  • Beitzah – Egg – Rebirth

It happens that this is also the week of the 2022 Etsy strike, a protest against the recent hikes in transaction fees and punitive shop policies. I have put my Etsy shop on vacation mode from April 11-18, which is actually good timing for me so I don’t have to think about packing and shipping orders while preparing for and enjoying the first few days of Passover. Thus, I am posting free printable files of this year’s design and the one I created for 2020.

You can download each design in 2 formats. Both fold to 4.25″ x 5.5″ to fit into an A2 envelope. The “Single Sheet Fold” can be printed on one sheet of standard printer paper and folded twice so that the message appears on the inside. (Think back to your old Broderbund Print Shop creations.) Or, if you are crafty and have card stock and a paper cutter on hand, you can print the 2-Sided version back to back and cut in half before folding. Pro tip: use a folding bone to score the card stock before folding, for a clean fold. (I don’t get affiliate commissions on these links, they’re just for clarity.)

Seder Plate (2022):

May We All Be Free (2020):

Chag kasher v’sameach, everyone: Wishing you a kosher and joyful holiday. Or, to use the softer Yiddish formulation: A zissen Peysekh, wishing you a sweet Passover.

Tu BiShvat and the Kabbalistic Four Worlds

(No, it’s not a new Harry Potter knockoff series, although couldn’t you just see that?)

tl;dr It’s the New Year of the Trees, so join me tonight at 6pm CST / 7pm EST for a virtual Tu B’Shvat seder with the Tremont St. Shul. Email or PM me for the Zoom info. BYOF – Bring Your Own Fruit!

Some 20 years ago, I was running the 20s&30s young adult group at my synagogue, Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge (MA), a.k.a. the Tremont Street Shul. I believe the first time we ran a formal Tu B’Shvat seder was in 2001, because I stayed up all night cobbling together a seder packet, which you can still download today from my website. It was a popular event year after year, with fruit platters, red and white wine, candles and eucalyptus branches on the tables. I’ve always had a fondness since then for Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees.

In 2020 and 2021, as we all became Zoom-based lifeforms in the wake of the Covid pandemic, synagogues (like most organizations) began searching for ways to build virtual community. In the spring of 2021, TBS had the great idea to run a virtual Tu Bishvat program and send out fruit baskets to their members, and they asked me to run an abridged version of the seder. It was really an honor to participate and a joy to see so many of my old chevre.

It went over well enough that they’re doing it again for 2022, tonight at 7pm EST (6pm CST). It’s free and open to the public, so contact me if you’d like the Zoom information, or sign up here.

Below are my notes from last year, since I had my script mostly written out. This year we’ll try to make it a little more focused and in-depth, but this is good background for anyone.


Tu B’Shvat, the 15th of the month of Shvat, is mentioned in Mishnah Rosh Hashanah as one of four “New Years”, the New Year of the Trees. But it didn’t start out as a holiday with ethical messages, special celebrations, or rituals. Originally it was a legal tool for counting the age of a tree, which was important for two reasons: orlah and ma’aser.

  • Ma’aser is the tithe, meaning one-tenth of a given year’s produce went to support the cohanim and levi’im, the priestly castes, who could not own land.
  • Orlah is the fruit produced during a tree’s first three years. According to Jewish law, this fruit may not be eaten or sold; it is set aside, left alone, as a reminder that all food comes from G-d. The question is, how do we know how old a tree is for purposes of counting orlah? Rather than remembering the age of each individual tree. Jewish law established 15 Shvat as the birthday of all fruit-bearing trees. As of 15 Shvat, every tree is considered one year older. So you might call it “the fiscal year-end of the trees”.

The Kabbalists noted that this teaching in the Mishnah actually says “the tree,” ilan, rather than the plural “trees,” ilanot. Why? They said that this refers to the cosmic Tree of Life, which was one of their central metaphors for reality. The roots of the Tree of Life are in heaven; the sap of Divine vitality and life flows downward through its trunk and branches to renew and energize the world at every moment.

The Kabbalists invented the idea of a seder to celebrate Tu BiShvat. As part of their seder, they placed pitchers of both white and red wine on the table. For them, white represented hibernation, the waning of life’s power during the winter months of shrinking sunlight. Red represented the reawakening and gradual strengthening of nature’s life force. Through the seder, as we will see, they acted out and fostered the ascendance of this life force. With the triumph of the red, spring would not be far behind.

The Kabbalah speaks of four worlds. Each lower world is farther from the Infinite One; it receives its life and vitality from the world above it. Each higher world infuses the world below it as its essence. Each lower world is a “garment” or a shell for the world above it. So in order from highest to lowest, the worlds are:

  • Atzilut, nearness to G-d or Emanation directly from G-d.
  • Beriah, Creation – at the Divine level;
  • Yetzirah, Formation – the world of the angels;
  • Asiyah, Action or Completion – our own material world.

The mystic goal is to reach G-d at the center of reality. We’re going to start in our own material world of Asiyah and work inwards and upwards toward the Divine emanation. Here’s how we do it:

In the Tu BiShvat seder, we classify fruits and nuts into four categories that represent the four worlds. The analogy is based on the word kelippa, “shell”, which in Kabbalah signifies a negative force that conceals G-dliness. The categories are based on the physical structures of the fruits.


The world of Asiyah is the level of material existence at its most basic. The fruits we eat are the most weighed down by their physicality.

The first cup of wine is completely white. It symbolizes the white of winter, the sleeping earth. The growth of the past year is completed; the potential for next year’s growth lies dormant until the time is ripe.

Asiyah is represented by fruits and nuts with an edible inside but an inedible outer shell or peel, because in this world, the path to the center is blocked from the start.

  • citrus, coconut, tree nuts: borei pri ha-eitz
  • bananas: borei pri ha-adamah


Yetzirah is the world of Formation – the process of creating Something out of Something else at hand.

Yetzirah represents birth and renewal. So the second cup of wine symbolizes spring, the time of rebirth. It is white just touched with red, the color of the swelling blossoms on the tree which will eventually become the fruit.

Yetzirah is represented by fruits with a soft, edible outside but a hard inner pit, because in this world, we are closer to G-d, but the center is still blocked.

  • dates, olives, mangoes, stone fruit: borei pri ha-eitz


Beriah is the level of Divine Creation – of causing Something to arise from Nothingness, as only the Holy One can create: purely by means of linguistic movement.

The third cup of wine consists of equal parts red and white. This “balance of powers” gives it the brightest hue of red, as it shines with more light than red wine alone. It blazes like the moon in its fullness or the sun at its zenith. It symbolizes summer: the time of luxuriant growth, of nature in full bloom.

Beriah is represented by fruits that are totally soft and edible, with no interfering husk, shell or pit- because this world is nearer to G-d so that there is no obstacle to our communion with G-d. These fruits are the closest to pure emanation, and are both the most vulnerable and the most accessible to us. The more vulnerable and accessible we are, the closer we can come to G-d and the purity of creation.

  • strawberries, raspberries: borei pri ha-adamah
  • grapes, blueberries, apples, pears, figs: borei pri ha-eitz


Atzilut is the world of Divine Emanation directly from the Ein-Sof, the Limitless One. Contained in these emanations is the potential for all possibilities. This is the world of silence, of nothingness, of pre-creation.

The fourth and last cup of wine, symbolizing autumn, is the deepest shade of red. It is the color of life’s blood spilled, of leaves at their most brilliant before they fall to the ground. It is the color of fruits fully ripened which are now ready for harvest, ready to pass on their life essence to nourish and sustain. It is the last color of the setting of the sun – and also, the first color of its rising.

The world of Atzilut cannot be symbolized by a fruit’s physical characteristics. However, it can be suggested by the scent of a fragrant fruit. The Rabbis taught that a pleasant scent delights and benefits the soul, rather than the body.

It turns out that there is a special halachic category for fruits that are enjoyed for fragrance rather than flavor. Members of this rarefied category include etrog and quince (both good for making into jelly, but not eating out of hand). So on these there is a special blessing, for smelling rather than eating them:

  • etrog, quince: ha-notein reiach tov ba-peirot, “Who gives a good fragrance to fruits.”

We’ve also included some special tree products in this category that aren’t fruit, but are used as spices.

  • cinnamon, bay, juniper: borei atzei besamim


To wind up the seder, we broke out into small groups, and I offered the following discussion questions. (For the 2022 seder, I’m planning to incorporate these more centrally into the seder format.)

  • World 1: What does it feel like when our intention is blocked from the outside?
  • World 2: What does it feel like when our intention is blocked from the inside?
  • World 3: What does it feel like when our intention moves freely through us?
  • World 4: What does it feel like when our experience transcends our intention?

Tu B’Shevat Sameach, everyone!

Book project launch: Into a Jewish Holiday Year with Yoga

In January of 2021, I was tagged by some friends into a Facebook thread from the illustrious Delia Sherman, on behalf of a friend looking for a graphic designer to help produce a self-published book with some Hebrew in it. Since that’s totally my niche, I was pleased when the co-author reached out to me the next day for some more information. That was my introduction to yoga teacher Sharon Epstein, her rabbi Tara Feldman, and their book project, which would become a labor of love for me as well: Into a Jewish Holiday Year with Yoga: A Workbook and Guided Journey for Body, Mind, and Soul (2021; ISBN 979-8-9850271-0-5; USD $19.95).

The ikar, or kernel, of the book is that these two delightful and insightful women have teamed up to structure a yoga experience around the Jewish holiday cycle. For each of 12 holidays, they had put together some basic introductory context, then drawn out a deep underlying conceptual theme, and matched it with a set of yoga poses to literally embody that theme. They also provided a guided meditation and some journaling prompts to round out the internal experience of each holiday.

Mind you, I have spent a total of about 2 hours on a yoga mat in my life, but I have a visceral appreciation for the rhythms of the Jewish calendar. We are souls and we are bodies. Bringing together the spiritual and the somatic brings depth to both perceptions. It was a real gift to get to be a part of this project and help Sharon and Tara activate its full potential.

Over the ensuing 10 months, the book format went from an 8″ square gift book to a 6×9″ paperback and finally to an 8.5×11″ workbook. Still, I had a clear vision all along for the cover art: a 12-spoked color wheel that would encompass the 12 holidays covered in the book.

In terms of the typefaces, I started with a classic Adobe pairing of Minion (serif for the body copy) and Myriad (sans-serif for the display type), including Myriad Hebrew for the few Hebrew words interspersed. Fortunately, however, once the authors realized I could handle the Hebrew easily, they decided to work more Hebrew back into the text, and we ended up choosing Shlomo for a more calligraphic feel. We also added an informal script face, John Benson’s Caliban, into the mix to enhance the display elements in English.

As part of the production process, I walked the authors through joining Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, so now I have that under my belt. We learned that Amazon lets you opt into a free ISBN assignment that can only be used internally to Amazon (since perpetuating their own monopoly is what they’re all about). But when I sought some advice from another friend, experienced Amazon author Zahara Schara, she strongly recommended investing in a real ISBN registration with R.R. Bowker, which allows you to exist in the real world of Books In Print and be found and sold in places outside the Amazon ecosystem. Note, however, that Bowker now charges $125 for a single ISBN registration, whereas you can purchase a block of 10 for $295 and use them as you need them (indefinitely—they never expire). As a frequent collaborator with self-published authors, this need has come up before, and I’ve often thought that I should go ahead and register that block of 10 ISBNs. Thus it came about that Schultz Yakovetz Judaica is now a registered “micropublisher” with R.R. Bowker, and Lev Shalem Yoga is its first official imprint. :-D

We had targeted November 1, 2021, as our publication date (just in time for a very early Chanukah 5782). After many, many fun and fruitful hours of Zoom meetings, page proofs, revisions, and a final Shehecheyanu blessing, we tied up all the loose ends in time to hit Publish on Sunday, October 31.

By the afternoon of November 1, the book had hit #3 on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” in Yoga, and #5 on their Best Sellers list in the Jewish Life category… nestled in between Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. This is incredibly august company to be in.

I’m very proud of this project, and grateful to the chain of friends who brought these two dynamic Jewish women into my life. PS: It goes without saying that this book will make the perfect Chanukah gift for your favorite Jewish yoga enthusiast. Order your copy now… or if you’re anywhere near Great Neck, NY, contact Sharon Epstein for a signed author copy.

Want more? You can “like” the book’s Facebook page, or join the Lev Shalem YOGA Facebook group (tell them Erica sent you).

Help, I can’t copy my Constant Contact email: 2021 edition

A few weeks ago, a friend texted me in a panic for help, because she had gotten this vaguely threatening email from Constant Contact indicating that her email templates were about to go extinct.

At Constant Contact, we’re always looking for ways to improve our tools so that you can get the best results possible. That’s why, on March 10, we’ll be retiring your current editor in favor of our more advanced third-generation editor.

Important: As of March 10, you will no longer be able to copy emails you created in your current editor.

With our third-generation editor, all templates are mobile-responsive—meaning they automatically format to any device (over 50% of all emails are opened on a mobile device).

To make the transition to our newest editor as seamless as possible, we recommend recreating your legacy emails in one of two simple ways.

Next time you log into your account, you can:

1. Choose a new template and fill in the content you want—our third-generation editor makes it easy to customize your template and get the professional look you want.
2. Enter your legacy email or website’s URL into our branded template builder to automatically create an email that matches your website, logo and colors. Watch this short video to see how easy it is to make the change with our branded template builder.
To learn more about recreating your legacy emails, check out this helpful article.

Thank you for being a loyal customer. We’re working hard to provide you with the most powerful editor for better email marketing.

The Constant Contact Team

Note that my friend does exactly what I assume most people producing a weekly e-newsletter do: you copy the previous week’s email, leave in the sections that are relevant, delete the items that are outdated, and add any new information. You don’t start from a fresh template every week, no matter how carefully you customize the base template. So she depends on that ability to copy, and having to build out a whole new template is a nontrivial challenge.

Now, I was a daily Constant Contact user for my previous company, and I had upgraded all their templates some time ago to use the “new” third-generation editor (which at this point can’t really be called new anymore; it was launched in 2018, over three years ago). So I can confirm that the new editor truly is a lot more powerful and flexible once you get the hang of using it. However, for users who are barely comfortable with the familiar second-generation version, it’s daunting.

I told my friend not to worry, I was on the case. The thing is, she didn’t really need to learn how to build a template from scratch. She needed an experienced user (me) to create the new template, and then she’d be back into her rhythm of copying from week to week.

The first thing I did, since it was touted in the email above, was to try out that “branded template builder” to see if it would really automate the process of the new template. Truthfully, though, I didn’t even want to duplicate the design of their old email; having to start over is a good time to refresh the look and feel. Instead, I entered the URL of the organization’s website. And… I was disappointed. The builder used the dullest possible background color and didn’t even pull the logo image correctly. So I scrapped that and built a newsletter template from scratch, starting from the built-in Basic Newsletter template.

For my new template draft, I dropped in all the content from her previous week’s email – manually copying and pasting everything into the new blocks. I had made some design decisions in advance, so then I adjusted the rest of the settings on the fly, like fonts (I settled on the ever-popular Georgia), colors and background images (uploaded more thoughtfully from the organization’s website). I also created a few coordinating variations: standalone emails for short announcements, a different weekly newsletter series, and so on. No before-and-after shots here, to protect the organization’s privacy, but overall it was a definite upgrade.

Once we had her templates ready, I also gave her a tutorial on how to use the cool features in the third-generation editor, like drag-and-drop and mobile preview. Now she’s off and running!

Are you struggling to convert your legacy second-generation Constant Contact templates? Drop me a comment or an email.

Esther: For such a time as this

Tonight and tomorrow is Purim, the holiday celebrating the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from the evil machinations of the King’s vizier. There are four central mitzvot (commandments) of this holiday, but the most iconic one is the reading of the book of Esther, known as the Megillah (Scroll).

Megillat Esther has a special trope (melody) that I’ve never learned, but this year, we’re all reading out of books at home via Zoom, and our rabbi asked me if I would take on reading chapter 4. This chapter, as it happens, has several verses that are read in the the trope used for the book of Eicha (Lamentations) on Tisha B’Av, which I learned a couple years ago, so I figured that was a sign that I should step up.

This chapter also includes a verse that has always resonated with me. Queen Esther (in the palace) and her uncle Mordechai (protesting out in the town square) exchange a series of messages via Hatach, the chamberlain, about the looming crisis for the Jews. Mordechai implores Esther to use her privileged status and access to the king to intervene for her people, saying, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to power for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

For this image, I wanted a watercolor wash background, and since it was surprisingly hard to find a suitable free version, I created my own in Photoshop. Drop me an email or a comment if you want a pointer to the exact brush settings. Then I darkened it up to improve the contrast.

I saved my images as grayscale TIFFs so I could apply the magenta color to them in InDesign, but WordPress is making me post them here as JPEGs. Do with them what you will – these backgrounds are free for personal or commercial use – but please find a way to link back to schultzyakovetz.com if you want to maintain good Internet karma.

The script font I chose is Selima, a lovely free brush script created by Jroh Creative. The block face is classic Goudy Old Style and the Hebrew is the beautiful Escritura Hebrew Demibold by Ricardo Santos.

May we all use our power and privilege to do good anytime we find ourselves in a position to do so. Who knows but that we were placed there for just such a time?

Now, off to finish cramming that reading! Purim sameach!

New year, new job

Many of you know that in the fall of 2018, I was recruited to the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana as Director of Communications & Programming.

Unfortunately, the 2020 Covid pandemic had a major impact on Federation’s budget, and the responsible thing for them to do was restructure my position down to part-time for 2021. Thus, my position at Federation ended as of Thursday, December 31, 2020.

It was my honor to serve the Northwest Indiana Jewish community in this position for the last two and a half years, and my pleasure to get to know so many members of the community better in the process. Of course, I will remain active in the community and will continue to see many people around, especially once we are able to resume in-person events. Please feel welcome to keep in touch with me personally… but if you need assistance with Federation business, call the office at 219-301-0960.

In the meantime, I’m happy to report that I found a new position as Website & Content Coordinator for BerylMartin, a design and printing company in nearby Griffith, IN. Interestingly, they specialize in funeral and memorial printing, with an extensive full-time staff of artists that create personalized tribute programs, biographical booklets, memorial portraits, photo collages, banners, keepsakes, and much more. It’s an unusual niche (which is good for competition after all) but very meaningful to the clients and families they serve. Coming to the end of my second week, I’m getting good feedback about my progress so far and my ability to contribute, which feels great. I’m very optimistic about this new chapter.

Shabbat shalom, everyone!

Free Printable: Grade K-1 “My Book About Chanukah”

Here in Northwest Indiana, my kindergartener is the only Jewish kid in her class. As many of you have no doubt experienced, that makes her the go-to for educating the class on Jewish holidays – even at age 5.

Yesterday, her teacher asked if she would read a book about Chanukah to the class this morning (fully remote of course). No problem, we thought; we have several wonderful books on hand, we’ll pick one out. However, looking them over at bedtime quickly made it clear that there wasn’t one among them that she could read fluently by herself.

So what does Mama do? Get up Friday morning and put one together! I tried to approach it through the lens of what she would tell the class about Chanukah from her perspective.

I made it 8 pages to fit on 2 letter-sized sheets. Adobe’s Acrobat Reader should let you print this on the “Booklet” setting to come out right for folding, but just in case your printer software isn’t up to the task, I also made a PDF with the pages already doubled up (you still have to print it double-sided though).

Little one was very pleased and read it perfectly on the first try. Note that she is (of course) a fairly precocious reader for Grade K, but while I’m no literacy specialist, it would probably work well for any early readers.

I set the type in Futura Book. The illustrations are courtesy of Adobe Stock (#179419911).

Happy Chanukah!


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“The more women, the more witchcraft”

“[Rabbi Hillel] used to say: The more flesh, the more worms; The more property, the more anxiety; The more wives [nashim = women], the more witchcraft; The more female slaves, the more lewdness; The more slaves, the more robbery; [But] the more Torah, the more life; The more sitting [in the company of scholars], the more wisdom; The more counsel, the more understanding; The more charity, the more peace.”
Pirkei Avot 2:7

Marbeh nashim, marbeh cheshafim. Who doesn’t love a good out-of-context quote from the Talmud? The first time I saw this aphorism attributed to Rabbi Hillel, I thought “that can’t be real!” and ran to verify it, but here it is – just in time for October.

I’m pretty sure this passage was intended to address the concept of intentional simplicity, and how our priorities shape our lives. However, it’s also clearly directed only at men; it mentions women twice, but both times only in their roles as objects possessed by men: nashim (wives) and shefachot (handmaids). Nashim doesn’t just mean “wife”, though, it is the plural of isha and means “women” generally, so let’s run with the enjoyable surface reading here.

I created this More Women More Witchcraft design as a smaller 5×7 piece to fit comfortably into a collection, whether it’s your Halloween decor or a year-round Jewitch display.  If you’d like it scaled differently, you can always request a custom order for a print in your preferred size.

Etsy listing

Marbeh nashim, marbeh cheshafim: “The more women, the more witchcraft”. – Rabbi Hillel, Pirkei Avot 2:7.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: The pursuit of justice

When I receive a request for a custom design piece, it is often a Bible verse or other Jewish text that would make a good addition to my overall portfolio. In those cases, I add a custom design charge of $20 to the regular art pricing, which entitles the client to choose their design direction and request a complimentary round of revisions (I usually throw in a second and even a third round for free). However, the alternate drafts along the way usually result in work that I can make available for general sale.

Back in July, I had a recent Etsy customer come back to me and say “Would you consider making something for Deuteronomy 16:20, ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue’?” Of course, that verse has been on my list of ideas for a long time, so I jumped at the opportunity to work something up.

For the first pass, I wanted to evoke the feel of a protest poster. I paired Flood, a brush font with a hand-drawn feel, with the Hebrew typeface Shuneet by Michael Cunliffe Thompson. The rainbow palette as well as the black and brown lettering for “justice” play up the theme of diversity.

I wanted to create the second version as a round layout, since my client wanted it to coordinate with a previous print. This setting uses the typefaces Minion (serif), Bilbo (script), and SBL Hebrew (from the Society for Biblical Literature) for a more traditional feel. Special thanks are due to the Open Siddur Project for connecting me with the Hebrew fonts.

I made this layout available in both a rainbow and a black-and-white (grayscale) color palette. A package with all three versions is also available in my Etsy shop as a printable PDF download.

It happens that this verse from Deuteronomy falls in Parshat Shoftim, which is tomorrow’s Torah portion. Today is also Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first of the month of introspection leading up to the High Holy Days, and the theme of justice/righteousness is strongly resonant at this season, especially the idea that the pursuit of justice is life-promoting.

Wishing you all a meaningful season of spiritual preparation. We have work to do, people.