Our Torah Mantle

A Torah that dates back to the mid-19th century certainly deserves
a special mantle.

The mantle is a singular work of art by Washington DC fabric artist, Betty Bahl, who graciously donated her considerable talent, energy and time.

The complete story our mantle tells exceeds our space here, however, like so many worthy deeds began by following a single thread. In this case quite literally.

Visiting Nehar Shalom member Jacquelynn Abraham-Saslaw shortly after Pesach, Betty learned of our need for a new mantle. Returning to her home she chanced upon a fine multi-colored yarn – thin as thread – that to her “felt” like Nehar Shalom. However, concerned about it fiber content, she ignored, it moving on to other matters.

Many colors, textures, and fabrics began accumulating in her studio and a story seemed to be emerging – but that multicolored thread seemed to call to her again and again.

When the mantle was nearing completion, all that was needed was a finishing bit of fringe, but she was dissatisfied with every selection she tried. Finally, she researched the exact content of the thread and called Rabbi Victor to discuss matters of shatnetz, “forbidden mixtures”.

Delighted to discover the thread was permissible, Betty scooped up a skein and began fashioning it into loops you see dancing around the hem of our mantle.

Like so many creations, there are worlds within worlds in this mantle and the family portrait of Nehar Shalom that Ms. Bahl has provided us.  This garment for our first old-new Torah is one we look forward to exploring in the seasons ahead, as we seek to earn the title every shitbl strives for, that of ק ק Nehar Shalom” – that is, Kof Kof Nehar Shalom, which roughly translates as “Holy Congregation of Nehar Shalom.”

Underneath the outer garb of the Torah mantle, a blue velvet band with a silverclasp is wrapped around the parchment. It was lovingly donated in his own quiet way by Sonny Saslaw, our gabbai of blessed memory. Like the band that surrounds a Torah scroll, such simple and unseen good deeds are what hold a community together.

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