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A Look Back at Ceremonial Tangling

A Look Back at Ceremonial Tangling

In 2007, we started BLOG Zentangle and began our enjoyable series of conversations within our Zentangle community.

In reading through these blog posts with their insightful comments, we decided to bring a few of them to your attention from time to time. It is easy, for me anyway, to sometimes think of old information as stale information. But these insights and conversations are anything BUT stale!

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, we invite you to enjoy this blog from 2017...

Rick writes:

A couple months ago, we received a call from Micah Morgovsky, CZT. She is an active Certified Zentangle Teacher and Cantor at Temple Sinai in Stamford, Connecticut (USA).

Micah asked if Maria and I would consider tangling during their upcoming Rosh Hashanah service. She would project our tangling on a giant screen so the mesmerizing pen strokes would not only help focus attention during the service but would result in beautiful artwork to memorialize the occasion.

During the following weeks, the three of us discussed details and sorted out logistics.

The day before Rosh Hashanah, we arrived at Temple Sinai to set up our document camera and test everything. This beautiful, bright and open space had seating for about 750. Above the worship area, were two giant screens . . . each  ten by fourteen feet.

The left screen would show the Rabbi, Jay TelRav, Cantor Morgovsky and other participants throughout the service. The right screen would focus on the tiles as we tangled.

During the service, Maria and I tangled six triangular tiles symbolic of the six days of creation. Each tile measured about 4.75" (12 cm) on a side. We paced ourselves so that we began each tile at a certain moment in the service. We traded back and forth as we tangled each tile.

We decided to use mooka as a connecting theme, but in true Zentangle fashion, we did not plan the specifics of any tile until seconds before we began tangling that tile.

The service began with the right screen blank. Cantor Morgovsky began with these words:

It begins as a blank page.

B’reisheet bara eloheem, et ha shamayim, v’et ha’aretz… 
In the beginning, when God began to create heaven and earth, all was unformed and void… 

The universe begins unshaped, open to endless possibilities.

The creation of Torah begins, parchment untouched, open to endless possibilities.

We, too, enter this day with the promise of new beginning, open to endless possibilities.

A blank page.

A clean slate.

A giant white screen.

Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new year. Today is the day God created the world. And today is the day we partner with God in creating ourselves anew. Above me, you may have noticed a large blank screen. This screen, like the parchment of a new Torah scroll, will mirror our own spirit of renewal. For today is a day, today is the day, of creation.

If you and I have had the opportunity to chat these last few years, you’ve probably heard me speak about Zentangle. Zentangle is a meditative art form which employs simple repetitive patterns to calm and focus the mind and, in turn, create unique and intricate artwork. We are so blessed and honored to have the founders and creators of Zentangle - Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas - with us here today.

Over the course of our worship this morning, Rick and Maria will be tangling, creating Zentangle art, on six triangular paper tiles - one for each day of creation - and you’ll be able to watch their breathtaking artwork unfold on the screen over our heads. When finished, the triangles will form the points of a magen david - a Jewish Star, the center of which is made from vellum, animal skin, much like the Torah itself, and has been tangled on and inscribed with gold-leaf and Hebrew calligraphy with the words K’hilah K’dosha - sacred community. The completed work is Rick and Maria’s gift to Temple Sinai and we plan to display it prominently within this sacred space.

We, the leadership of Temple Sinai, know that this is quite a different Rosh Hashanah experience than you might have been expecting today. And we also acknowledge that embracing change requires an open mind and sometimes even a measure of discomfort. But, as LeAnn Heller so aptly said in a recent board meeting, “If we are not uncomfortable, we cannot grow.”

To that end, we are confident that Temple Sinai, this K’hillah Kedoshah, is comprised of open-minded and creative souls who do not shy away from new experiences. So today, watch, listen, sing and pray, as we join God in bringing into this world something that has never been before. It begins as a blank page. We begin as a blank page, and together we will create something new. Please join me, as our work begins, with the blessing over Torah on page 112, a blessing of gratitude, for the gift of learning, and for the opportunity to engage our hearts and minds in the sacred work of renewal and creation.
After Micah completed her introduction, we began to tangle and continued throughout the service.

As the service was ending, I placed the six triangle tiles in their spaces on a mat that Maria had cut and tangled and put that into a frame so everyone could enjoy the result.

The center hexagon was created ahead of time on vellum (calf-skin) like a traditional Torah. Maria began the center hexagon by applying a background of multicolored gouache. The she lettered the Hebrew and gilded the large initial letter. The words translate to "Sacred Community." (Hebrew reads from right to left.) We both took turns tangling the background using Sakura® Micron 05 and 01 pens.

Maria used the same multicolored gouache on the triangles which were made from 100% cotton Rives® BFK print making paper.

The immediate enthusiastic feedback validated the value of Micah's idea. People kept saying how the gentle cadence of our tangling helped them stay focused throughout the three and a half hour service.

The finished piece measured 22 x 26 inches (56 x 66 cm). As beautiful as each individual tile was, no one expected how exquisite the completed piece would be. 

This use of the Zentangle Method as an integral component to support focus and attention during a ceremony or event and create a piece of art that anchors and memorializes the event opens up an exciting new area of exploration for the Zentangle community.

This was the first time Maria or I had attended Rosh Hashanah or had even been in a temple. The service was moving and powerful. We were honored to be part of it. We will always remember the warm welcome and new friends that we made.

We are grateful to Micah, Rabbi Jay TelRav, and the community at Temple Sinai for this opportunity.

Rick and Maria


How have you incorporated Zentangle art in an event or ceremony?

Do you have ideas about how you might do that?

We (and everyone) would love to learn from your experience and thoughts.

Thank you!




  • where can I go to learn zentangle for Hebrew letter?

    Avigayil Elsner on

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  • A great post that I missed the first time, proving the merit of retelling old stories. A great reminder too of how much we can all gain if we open our heads and hearts to new experiences. Thank you, as always, for making me think as well as appreciate your tangling.

    Jem on

  • This was wonderful to read, and to find out the support and appreciation of the community was abundant, was just icing on the cake!

    Ginger White on

  • This is incredible. Such a beautiful and meaningful process and gift to all. I made a piece of Zentangle-inspired art in response to my grandfather’s death. I then incorporated a quote with the piece for our family’s thank you notes to all of our friends and family who supported us during that time. It was healing and uplifting for me to create – and I also loved hearing from people how they felt like they got to know him (and me) a bit more through it. With gratitude ~ Paige

    Paige Scheinberg on

  • I love this! A perfect way for people to experience the creation story. Our church, (United Church of Christ -Protestant ) has used Art in Worship for many years (although not Zentangle specifically). We have had artists paint during the service in various ways and also have each congregant create something from their seats and later combine the creations into a group piece. Art in worship adds so many layers of meaning and allows each person the freedom to come to their own conclusions. While typing this I just remembered that I actually drew a paradox in worship once, demonstrating how something curvy can come from straight lines. Anyway thanks for the inspiration!

    Radonna Bull on

  • This is fabulous for lots of reasons! Thank you so much for reposting it. See you next month at CZT #32!

    Shelley Bell on

  • I, too, have been incorporating Zentangle into works related to Bible journalling. I keep a running list of tangles I have found various places that display some element of Christian teaching. (e.g. Christmas, Pentecost, Easter, various Bible stories.)

    Linda Dochter, CZT on

  • I was on a liturgical arts committee once and we were always looking for ways to enhance the worship space during the various Christian liturgical seasons. I wish I had seen this blog then!

    Valerie Hess on

  • I am asked to give a workshop Zt as one of the “Focus” workshops at our Protestant Church “Westerkerk” in Gouda (the Netherlands) as start of the new community season. The grand theme of this year will be “doing something with full attention”. The meditative drawing method Zentangle fits in it like a glove.

    I hope many community members will attend. :-)

    I will print this blog to show how you were invited for this Rosh Hashanah occasion and will tell I am tangling, now and then, during the lecture in church too.
    Though I sometimes also get nice ideas for bible journaling which I mostly do combine with tangling

    ArjadL - Elefantangle on

  • Thank you for this moving and inspiring post.

    Nor'dzin Pamo on

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