The hills of western rural North Carolina seem an unlikely home for Messianic Scribal Arts, a ministry which produces hand-scribed Hebrew scrolls of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Lisa and Deborah Bisol—who are both sisters and artists—also create mezzuzot, machzorim (worship books for holy days), and scriptural art pieces such as illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, wood and pottery. The deeper we delve into the Scriptures, the more we see the need to express its fullness in the visual arts,” says Lisa. The arts ministry is an extension of Congregation Sh’ma Yisrael in Warne, North Carolina, led by Jim and Debbie Cummins.
Deborah is the “spiritual gemfinder” of the two sisters. Her interest and knowledge of both the Hebrew and Greek texts have resulted in word studies, which are then fleshed out in various art forms. She is well-versed in traditional Jewish thought and culture as well. Each item which Messianic Scribal Arts produces is accompanied by a written teaching.
It is especially timely to tell our Havurah readers about Messianic Scribal Arts’ Megillah Esther (the Scroll of Esther). Traditionally, the book of Esther is scribed on its own scroll (separate from the other books of the Bible) and is usually affixed to a single post (etz chaim, or “tree of life”). It is read on Purim (“Lots”), the 14th day of the biblical month of Adar. Through the feast we see God’s saving intervention through His servant Esther, when Haman the Agagite plotted to destroy all the Jews in the provinces of King Ahasuerus.
The color-illustrated paper scroll produced by the Bisols includes the traditional scribal markings and some special art markings. The hidden four-letter name of God (the Tetragrammaton), encoded backwards and forwards throughout the Hebrew text, is illuminated in gold lettering. This illustrates the principle that although there is no overt reference to God’s Name in the Book of Esther, He was certainly working behind the scenes to bring about His will.
Another special art marking is the reference to the Hebrew words “ha melech” (the king). Each time the words appear in the Messianic Scribal Arts’ scroll, they are highlighted in a rich, pink rectangle. This illustrates the rabbinical concept that references to the earthly king Ahasuerus are intended to remind us of the true King of Heaven and His greater, everlasting dominion.
Hand-painted, full-color borders beautify each page with ornamental crowns to illustrate the royalty of God. The velvet scroll is hand-embroidered in metallic gold thread. An interlinear is provided with the scroll for a line-by-line breakdown of the Hebrew, the transliteration and the English translation. A two-page insert describes all the special and traditional markings in the scroll. An audiotape of the blessings chanted before and after the reading of the scroll is also included, along with the special Purim cantillation of the four mandatory public readings from the Scriptures themselves.
Messianic Scribal Arts has a catalogue that can be obtained from their address: 187 Scenic Road, Warne, NC 28909
E-mail: [email protected]
Purim materials are also available through Jews for Jesus’ Purple Pomegranate Productions catalogue.