The stained glass windows on the south side of the sanctuary of Beth Hillel Temple depict the three themes of the central section of a Jewish worship service known as “The Shema and its Blessings.” These themes were chosen to complement the windows on the north wall, which use the Shema as a text. The Hebrew words on the far right window, Bar’chu et Adonai ham’vorach, and the far left window, Mi chamocha, ba’elim Adonai, are the prayers which frame this section of the service.
The three themes of “The Shema and its Blessings” are creation, revelation and redemption. Each theme, also representing a central element of Jewish theology, is depicted here in two windows, moving progressively from right to left.
God creates light and darkness, the heavens and the water, earth and vegetation, the change of seasons and time as we know it. God’s creative power enters the universe, represented by a circle of pulsating light.
God creates the higher forms of life, including humanity. The man and woman are faceless figures
standing before the tree of knowledge, good and evil. God has provided humans with creative powers, but has left the choice of how best to use those powers in human hands.
God is revealed in holy moments. ln the wilderness, God reveals the Divine Presence through a burning bush. Because Moses opens himself to the possibility of God’s presence in his life, God is known through the words Ehiyeh asher ehiyeh, “I am that I am.”
God is revealed in holy words. The central act of revelation in Jewish theology is the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Jewish tradition teaches that all ]ews, past, present and future, stood at Mount Sinai and came into the covenant with God –thus the faceless masses at the foot of the mountain.
God redeems us from oppression and suffering. Here, the darkest moment in our history as a people, the Holocaust, is depicted with the Hebrew word Zachor, “Remember,” and a memorial flame. Still, a path of hope leads to the establishment of the State of Israel and promises hope of redemptions yet to come.
God helps us dream of a redemption far greater than any of the past. A rainbow and a dove from the Biblical flood story and a light reaching up toward the heavens seek to portray the ]ewish vision of the dawn of a messianic age; of shalom, peace, for all humanity and all the world.
The three theological concepts represented in these six windows, then, constitute the basic Jewish world view — the Jewish outlook on time and history. We are a future oriented people, always looking toward a better time and recognizing our responsibility in making that time come to pass. We do this by appreciating the human role in the process of creation, by accepting the revelation of holy moments and holy words and by our belief in the possibility of the redemption of the world.
The sweeping, flowing light which courses through all six of these windows symbolizes God’s sustaining presence, flowing through ]ewish history and through our lives. lt is our knowledge of this presence which enables us –mere mortals–to reach for something better; to move forward toward the olam haba, the world to come.
Windows designed by Tom Agazzi of Potente Studios
Description by Rabbi Dena A. Feingold