Securely Dwell

Linda Motzkin

About Linda Motzkin

I have been drawn to Hebrew letters and calligraphy since I took a course with Hebrew calligrapher David Moss in 1979. I subsequently became an author and co-author of Hebrew textbooks, a rabbi (HUC-JIR ’86), and I have served since 1986 as co-rabbi with my husband Jonathan Rubenstein of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs, NY. But it wasn’t until my fifth decade that I began to seriously explore Hebrew scribal arts, studying with sofer Rabbi Eric Ray (z”l), and then creating The Community Torah Project – a long-term educational endeavor, still in progress, to involve the hands-on participation of people of all ages in creating a single Torah scroll. This project has included the making of deerskin parchment from hides donated by local hunters; the tasks of fleshing, dehairing, stretching, scraping, and sanding hides to make parchment panels are among the many labors involved in making each Torah scroll that are unseen and often unacknowledged. My Hebrew calligraphic artwork has been an outgrowth of my parchment making, as not every deerskin processed yields a parchment panel suitable for Torah. Deerskins, like human skin, contain imperfections, scars, burns, tears, blemishes, which provide inspiration for works such as “Securely Dwell”.

About Securely Dwell

“Securely Dwell” is made from one large piece of torn handmade deerskin parchment (35” H X 31” W) with several additional thin pieces of deerskin parchment braided and interwoven through the holes. With acrylic paint, these interwoven parchment scraps become branches and leaves of plants, as well as an extended semicircular challah braid from which sprout new sheaves of wheat. This piece explores the interplay between human and natural cycles of creation and rest, which are among the essential themes of shmita. The Hebrew phrases included, which mean “you shall dwell securely” and “the earth shall give her fruit”, come from Leviticus 25, in which the Torah describes the cycles of Sabbath, sabbatical, shmita and jubilee. The phrase “the earth shall give her fruit” appears at the beginning of Lev 25:19, in between the two appearances of the phrase “you shall dwell securely” in Lev 25:18 and 25:19. Embedded within the letters of the Hebrew word vishavtem (“you shall dwell”) is the word “Shabbat”, which is highlighted in this piece with blue letters. Our dwelling in security is interconnected with the earth’s ability to give forth her fruit, and the earth’s ability to give forth her fruit is interwoven with our ability to rest and allow the earth to rest.