New ketubah design: Flames

Friends in the Philadelphia area invited me several months ago to create the ketubah for their wedding, taking place today. I’m sadly missing the wedding itself, as I am away on vacation with my mom (this post is appearing through the magic of pre-scheduled posting; thanks, WordPress!), but I was excited to be able to play a role in their special day nevertheless.

Today is Lag Ba’Omer, the 33rd day of the seven-week “omer” period between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot. Sefirat ha-Omer is a period of semi-mourning in which a variety of joyful activities are customarily proscribed, including listening to live music, buying new clothes, cutting one’s hair (!), and getting married. However, the 33rd day of this period is observed as a minor festival, with a temporary lifting of those prohibitions… making it a very popular date for Jewish weddings, particularly when it falls out, as this year, on a Sunday.

Weddings aside, Lag Ba’Omer is typically associated with outdoor celebrations, and especially with bonfires. So when it came time to ponder artistic themes for this ketubah, I suggested fire, and the idea immediately touched off, well, sparks.


A bonfire-themed ketubah for a Lag Ba’Omer wedding.

In this all-text design, the two primary flames are the ketubah text itself: standard Orthodox Aramaic incorporating the Lieberman clause, and an accompanying English rendition (not, mind you, a translation; the actual standard legal text is highly technical and nothing so poetic). The additional decorative “sparks” rising up around the flames are verses from Song of Songs (2:10, 2:14, and 6:3). Producing this piece digitally meant that I could apply a gradient color scheme to enhance the flame effect—something we could never have achieved with hand-lettering.

The finished piece is 16×20. It was output by my go-to colleague for digital imaging, Jim Paradis of Baldwin Hill Art & Framing in Natick, MA, as an archival-quality giclée art print on smooth art paper. The entire design and approval process took just over five weeks, and the final print was shipped overnight with a week to go before the wedding.

Mazal tov, Lawrence and Ellyn!

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