May 2002

"There is a Jewish tale about a famous rabbi who prayed beautifully. His words reflected a lifetime of learning and a fervent heart; they were musical, and they held deep understanding, passion and compassion. ...One high holy day in his temple, his prayers reached a real epiphany of depth and intensity. At that minute, an angel landed and said, "By the way, you pray pretty well, but over in such and such village there's a fellow who prays better than you do." The rabbi was somewhat flustered, but he was determined to meet and if possible learn from this fellow. At the first opportunity he made the journey to such and such village and asked for the fellow. He was directed to a house, and there he met an illiterate tradesman. The rabbi turned to leave, thinking he had been misled, but at the door he asked the man how he had prayed at the last holy day. The man said, "I was surrounded by the prayers of the learned, the skilled, the artful, and felt so stupid, so incapable; I can't even read. All I know are the first ten letters of the alphabet. So I said to God, "All I have are these ten letters; take them and combine them however you want so that they smell good to you."

Look closely; each of the different flowers in the vase are one of the first ten letters in the Hebrew alphabet: the Aleph (the lime-green tall spikes), the Bet (the blue delphinium), the Gimmel (the rose-cored snapdragon), the Dalet (the red-orange croscosmia), the Hey (the purple salvia), the Vav (the blue salvia), the Zaylin (the orange spike), the Chet (the violet salvia), the Tet (the centers of the yellow roses), and the Yod (the tiny rose spray on left). Nine of the ten letters also make the pattern on the base of the vase.