Printed from Chabaddayton.com

G-d Squad

G-d Squad

Chabad of Greater Dayton is home to the single largest body of work crafted by that extraordinary group of creative and dedicated men, led by Burt Saidel, known as the “G‑d Squad.”

The Torah refers to the artistry that went into the crafting of the Tabernacle in the desert as melechet hakodesh – the creative work of the Holy Place. For the Tabernacle was the place where G‑d’s presence was manifest palpably within the world, and it was a place not only of power but also of beauty.

The Rabbis declared that today, when there is no Temple, each synagogue is a mikdash me’at – a miniature Holy Temple. In that spirit, the G‑d Squad has provided us with craftwork that reflects the vision of holiness and beauty our Torah has for a house of G‑d. As in that original vision, the gap between spiritual and material disappears. These are sermons in wood, inspiring us too to transcend limitations and be a part of the beauty, truth, and mystery that unifies all things.

At the center of focus in Chabad’s sanctuary are these four pieces designed and executed by the G‑d Squad. Their original design is both pleasing to the eye and functional, and also models a deeper spiritual vision. A close look reveals that aside from a few hinges, no metal was used in the construction, just as no metal was used in the building of the biblical altar.

In the middle foreground is the bima, or reading desk, where the Torah scroll is placed to be read and behind which speakers stand when addressing the congregation.

Immediately behind the bima is the ark, in which the Torah scrolls are kept.
This graceful piece is designed to hold a second Torah scroll while another one is being read. Two ropes hold the scroll in place. On the holder is engraved a partial skyline of Jerusalem.
On the left is a close-up of the lectern on the women’s side, the inscription is visible-- Prized above rubies. It comes from the Book of Proverbs song of praise to the woman of strength. The lectern on the men’s side is seen on the right. The Hebrew inscription on it is also from the Book of Proverbs and it means “Torah is light.”
In this close-up, the two-part construction of the ark can be seen. The ark itself has a traditional Ten Commandments design in the front, in the squared shape the tablets were hewn in order to fit smoothly into the very first Torah ark, the ark of the Tabernacle. Hidden inside its doors are the curtains most often seen on the outside of arks in today’s synagogues. The bent wood of the ark displays a true mastery of woodworking craft, learned from working with Amish craftsman, and recognized by those masters as an outstanding example of that technique.
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Underneath the ark is an inscription by the men who, together and in various capacities, designed and executed all of the pieces seen in this collection. The message is modeled after a similar dedicatory inscription by the great Jewish sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, invoking the powerful image of people faithful to different ancestral traditions working to serve G‑d in peace and fellowship
Here we see the rolling bookshelves topped with screens that serve as the dividers between the men’s and women’s sections. The designs on the screens were conceived and executed by Joan Marcus. Each depicts Jerusalem in a different era; the frieze around each scene replicates designs found in Jewish buildings of that respective era.
The first two rows in both the men’s and women’s sections are provided with tables to hold the various books used during prayer and study. Each table is engraved with a Hebrew word at each of the three places it accommodates. Each word is a value or character trait mentioned in Jewish sources, and meant for contemplation during the course of prayer.

These prayer tables are an inspired artistic response to the unique circumstances of Chabad’s building. As the structure was originally used for prayer, the sanctuary was seated on a north-south axis. Since Jewish law requires prayer while faced towards Jerusalem, the orientation was switch to east-west. But since the shape of the hall here is not square, the seating pattern would now have only a few, but very wide, rows. The inspiration to transform this unusual space by placing the long prayer tables before the seats in the front rows Burt attributes to the spiritual presence of David Saidel. The power of this inspiration and its effective and moving use of this space make this an inviting place for prayer and study.