Illuminated Psalms

View a gallery of selected details from an anthology of 36 psalms, “I Will Wake the Dawn: Illuminated Psalms,” by Hebrew manuscript artist Debra Band (Jewish Publication Society, 2007). In her introduction to the illuminations she writes: “Just as psalms occupy a central role in Jewish liturgy and many home and life-cycle rituals, so are they valued in the other Abrahamic religions. Islam holds the Psalms of David, known in that tradition as Zabur, among its sacred texts, although it does not incorporate them into liturgy. Psalms have formed the core of Christian prayer since its inception. Jesus, as a Jewish rabbi, quoted Psalms liberally in his teachings, and the earliest Church Fathers founded Christian prayer on Psalms. Monastic movements recite the full Book of Psalms in regular cycles, and the medieval traditions of psalters, breviaries, and books of hours, and indeed Gregorian chant, are based on readings of the Psalms….the Psalms remained key texts for Luther and Calvin and became the basis of Protestant prayer and source material for hymns. A fervent and well-read Lutheran, Bach’s Passion settings are largely based on texts from Psalms. The very first book published in the American colonies was The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, known commonly as The Bay Psalm Book and produced in Massachusetts in 1640.”

  • JB

    Beautiful, beautiful work! Almost enough to make me a believer. Your talent is surely a blessing–

  • Debra Band

    Thank you! For whatever it’s worth, I do wake up every morning grateful for my work. This particular project got me through what was, up to that point, a particularly difficult period in my life. I appreciate your comment.

  • Jacobede

    Beautiful!!! Is this regarding Psalms of King David?? sorry about my ignorance. If yes, is that possible relate the picture to the Psalm? Go bless you infinitely

  • Maribelle Vazquez

    Hello. I am on the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly mailing list and I watched the episode where I saw some of the prints highlighted above. I don’t read Hebrew, but I have always admired it’s written language; and this coupled with the colors you chose for your artwork is truly attractive work. I like them. Thank you for sharing them.
    May God bless you,
    Maribelle Vazquez

  • Cindy Brach

    Having just finished the holocaust novel Sarah’s Key, my eye was drawn to your powerful illustration of Psalm 28. I’ve always found your work stunning, but this illustration showed me a new dimension to your talent.

    I googled Psalm 28 and found the following new translation, which I found more compelling that traditional translations. Do you know if Psalm 28 is ever used in the Yizkor service on Yom Kippur?

    Psalm 28 (New International Version)

    Psalm 28
    Of David.
    1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
    do not turn a deaf ear to me.
    For if you remain silent,
    I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
    2 Hear my cry for mercy
    as I call to you for help,
    as I lift up my hands
    toward your Most Holy Place.

    3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
    with those who do evil,
    who speak cordially with their neighbors
    but harbor malice in their hearts.

    4 Repay them for their deeds
    and for their evil work;
    repay them for what their hands have done
    and bring back upon them what they deserve.

    5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
    and what his hands have done,
    he will tear them down
    and never build them up again.

    6 Praise be to the LORD,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.

    7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
    My heart leaps for joy
    and I will give thanks to him in song.

    8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
    a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

    9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

  • Debra Band

    Thank you all for your lovely and very meaningful comments. The Book of Psalms, in its entirety, is overall attributed to King David in the traditions of all three Abrahamic religions. However, the headings of many of the poems gives different sources.

    Cindy, you’ve mentioned a psalm which, in both text and painting, bears particular meaning to me: I began work on that at about midnight at the end of the day my (now late) husband had a particularly frightening surgery, and it was my scream of anxiety. I have never run across its use in Yizkor, although it would be very meaningful in that context.

    Psalms form an extraordinary, powerful body of literature that I think society in general has a tendency to prettify and sentimentalize.

    Peace and blessings,
    Debra Band

  • david fries

    I have a 1-year canon of 365 saints that I have created and is viewed on an i-Pad. Gathered from diverse sites and types each posed in situ with a mirror placed 3 poses of their choice and repilied to my question, “What do you imagine was reflected in the mirror?” Each spontaineously showed my basic thesis’ validity that 1.) Every one has Faith. 2.) They want to express it. 3.) Safely.
    And too, in this i-Pad exhibit is a collection of fruit plates, daily unique, and used both in my art and consummed as my breakfast. Without fear of criticism my partner creates , in good faith, for “The Artist”.
    My question: Who can I show this unique icon “About Faith” to there? I seek advice on how to show forth this demonstration of Faith in everyone’s heart in every place expressed, if only…they fell safe.