Hebrew Alphabet Shaker

November 2016
Sterling silver, steel, glass

There is a Chasidic story about a boy in synagogue reciting the Hebrew alphabet that has many many versions—indeed, in some versions he's not a boy in shul but an adult traveler, stuck outside of town at sundown as the Sabbath begins. I'll paraphrase my favorite version here:

A little boy was at synagogue with his family on Yom Kippur, and the prayers of the congregation were not leaving the synagogue but instead hanging in a cloud among the rafters. The boy wanted to pray along with the congregation in an effort to open the gates of Heaven, but he was too young to read the prayer book and had only just learned the alphabet. "God," he said silently, "all I have is the letters but I know that you know all the prayers, so I'll just give you the alphabet and let you sort it out." Concentrating on the import of the holy day, he began reciting the alphabet aloud, over and over. His parents and some of the elders moved to quiet him, but the rabbi stopped them and said "it is this boy's pure intention that has cracked through the firmament and allowed the rest of our prayers up to the Holy One."

I love this story, partially because the Breslover in me appreciates the idea of spontaneity and spiritual intent over rote ritual, and partially because the intellectual in me enjoys the similarity to the "infinite number of monkeys" theorem popularized by French mathemetician Émile Borel (an infinite number of monkeys randomly hitting the keys of an infinite number of typewriters will, given infinite time, eventually reproduce all the great works of literature).

Which, finally, brings us to this pendant. Contained inside this steel-and-glass locket are 5mm silver discs, each stamped with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The locket functions something like a combination of the above anecdote and a Tibetan prayer wheel. Rather than needing to know a specific prayer at a particular instance, focus more on the spiritual intent of the moment—whether it's need or thanksgiving or repentance or anything else—and shake the locket. There is room enough inside to shuffle the letters infinitely, and to let God rearrange them into prayers.

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