God Covers the Sky with Clouds

Rachel Braun

About Rachel Braun

Embroidery allows me to enter and interpret Jewish sacred texts. My ideas always start with words from Torah or liturgy. Next, I designs and stitches Judaic embroidery to elucidate those texts, my own style of parshanut. The drafting work is highly mathematical, incorporating ideas from geometry and algebra. My work has shown in group and solo exhibitions, including Jewish community centers, universities, synagogues, and in an American Mathematical Society juried art exhibit. In 2017, I collected my designs and divrei Torah in a book, Embroidery and Sacred Text. I gives book and art talks in person and on Zoom, and have presented at The Textile Museum (Washington DC), Jewish Study Center (Washington, DC), Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (Massachusetts), Dominican University (Illinois), Art and Scroll Studios (Zoom), and elsewhere.

About God Covers the Sky with Clouds

The text I chose from Psalm 147 includes portions of verses 8, 16 and 17: “God covers the sky with clouds, and prepares rain for the Earth, bestows snow as a blanket of wool, and throws hail like breadcrumbs.” It was stitched for my daughter, Aviva, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and her husband Justin. I love snow: the damp smell in the air just before it flurries down, the crunch of boots across a snowy yard, the peaceful quiet when a city settles down to watch the snow accumulate. Those are moments of cessation of human activity; nature plays out its course without our interference. But snow (and hail and rain) can be destructive, and indeed, the full text of the Psalm’s verses reflects that. “Who can withstand God’s cold?” asks the Psalmist at the end of verse 17. I did not stitch those words; rather, I selected phrases from within the verses that conveyed a gentler sense of nature, of the magic and beauty of precipitation. When is the cold precipitation a peaceful, sensory treat, and when is it a threat? God Covers the Sky with Clouds stitches and illustrates a core theme of the Shmita cycle: that it is God’s role, not ours, in regulating the earth’s systems. We can control some of our response: when we pause to enjoy God’s nature, when we provide warm clothes to those in need, when clean rain falls on healthy farms, when we treat the earth and its climate with care.