The Destruction & Renewal, Devastation & Hope Window
When we do not mirror God’s love of us by treating each other with justice then we risk the destruction of the bonds that hold human society together. We, both aggressor and victim, may be drawn into the swirling maelstrom of chaos, as much of Jewish experience will attest.
Three biblical themes provide the principal imagery for the window: the story of the Tower of Babel, humanity’s first attempt to usurp God’s dominion; the prophet’s image of rapacious beasts seeking to devour human civilisation; and finally, the ladders, relating to the “Jacob’s Dream” window, in which the 613 rungs signify the divine obligations (mitzvot) in Torah. Here the mitzvot are broken and scattered by the human conceit of the Tower with its top in the heavens. Similarly, our actions in this time of chaos will be measured by whether we ‘ascend or descend’.
In the devastation that comes from intolerance and hate, burning symbols of Judaism, the conch-like shofar and the tallit, are pushed by the spiral of the Tower into the far corners of the square-framed window. Feathers of angels’ wings burn at the top, and fiery red glass completes the imagery of destruction. Throughout, hands emerge from the chaos, some reaching out for help, some resigned to their fate, some helping others, some pushing other hands down. Where does each of us stand in this spiralling whirlpool?
This window resembles a breastplate with seven bells (rimmonim), as in the “Shavuot” window. Are the bells being recast as gun barrels, with bullets as clappers, or are the guns being recast as bells? What is the choice, peace or war? Or are they torn fragments of Torah, scattered by the wind storm?
Yet, from devastation hope is offered: the tiny light at the centre of the window. This flame at the tip of the plaited candles, together with the wine cup and the spice tower, makes up the ceremony of Havdalah (separation) that reminds us of God’s creativity in the world. From a distance, the spots of clear light shining through the rungs of the ladder are perhaps the acts of generosity (chesed) that signal God’s redemption.