Parshat B’Ha’alotcha

Pencil on parchment, 2016

Artist: Sarah Lightman,  England

In B’ha’alotcha Moses and Aaron pray to God for Miriam’s recovery. They clearly articulate their requests. Aaron asks that Miriam no longer look like a corpse. Moses asks that Miriam be healed. God grants their requests and Miriam recuperates. To me this all seems very uncomplicated – a very different reality from my own.

I used to pray frequently, and I know many prayers by heart, but I don’t say them any more. In recent, extraordinary moments in my life, I have thought about praying again, including the first night of my son Harry’s life. But my prayer book remains closed. Last year when my Grandma Gwen was dying, I didn’t pray for her, and in these drawings I re-enter this time, through texts and images. My actions became my prayers, suggested by my drawing of the hospital as an open prayer book. I didn’t pray for Grandma to recover since I knew she had had enough of living, which is not anything that Miriam is recorded to have felt. I never said goodbye to Grandma, but maybe she had already said goodbye to us? Weeks before she was hospitalized, she made this quite remarkable statement about watching Harry by telescope from Heaven. She must have known something we all did not. Without doubt, wherever she is now, she delights in Harry, as he grows and thrives.

This is an artwork about what isn’t said – not just my unsaid prayers for my grandmother but also her final message of love for me, which I understood from her action of holding my hands and face before she died. Life and death, enveloped, incorporated. Circularity threads through this page: the death of my maternal grandfather months before the birth of my son, who in turn was born nine months before Gwen, my paternal grandmother, died. There is the circle on the prayer book, the round spoon that feeds Grandma and my son, the cup on the packet of biscuits, and Grandma’s wedding ring, which I have inherited, paralleling the view through the lens of her Heavenly telescope.rael,


About Sarah

Sarah Lightman is an artist, writer, and curator. She studied at The Slade School of Art for her BA and MFA. She is co-founder and co-director of Laydeez do Comics, co-curator of Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, and editor of the multi-award winning Graphic Details: in Essay and Interviews (McFarland 2014)


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