A Hymn to the Creator of Light

This stained glass window has a rich and complex history. 

It is called “Hymn to the Creation of Light” and conceived by Professor Raphael Loewe, UCL based on an 11th Century Poem of the same name (by Isaac ben Moses, transcribed below).

In Prof Loewe’s words “The Talmud (Hagigah 12b) describes a scheme of 7 concentric heavens surmounted by the divine Chariot. Isaac ben Moses, who was killed by crusaders in the Rhineland in 1096, made it the theme of a hymn for insertion in the morning thanksgiving the theme of a hymn for insertion in the morning thanksgiving for light (yotser), introducing the-angels’ cry of Holy, Holy, on the Sabbath preceding New Year, traditionally the anniversary of the creation.  No English translation has hitherto appeared. Though composed in Hebrew mainly for the Jewish highbrow, it seems to me to resemble aesthetically a mediaeval stained glass window – a major purpose in which was the instruction of an illiterate laity. The windows of Chartres are in fact less than fifty years younger than Isaac’s date of death, and they prompted me to translate his poem not only into 16th- century English but also into a 12th-century-style window design. The artistic scheme is my own; the execution is that of Michael Hall, of University College London.”

I was approached by the New North London Synagogue in 2015 to finally make the window a reality using traditional stained glass making techniques.  It was all the same a very detailed design to replicate and took a long time as you may appreciate from the photographs. 

We used mainly ‘flashed’ glass which is a mouth blown glass which usually has a clear transparent base glass and a thin layer of colour ‘flashed’ to the surface, in this case blue or red.  The thin surface is then removed to allow painting on the clear areas to create depth to the design.  Once etched, painted and fired in the kiln it was leaded into 2 halves and mounted into a light box on the wall of the Synagogue in 2015.



by Isaac ben Moses (11th Century)

God in his might did but enunciate

His Name ineffable, and heav’n to be

On high He summon’d, earth did He create

By his mere utterance – the Word that He

Would to his people speak, and have them hear:

Thus heavens were made clear

By seven assays of his breath refin’d,

That they as one should stand, their hosts cohere

In orbits, each reciprocal align’d,

When his Name’s aspirate his mouth did frame,

So be your praise his Name,

Acknowledge Him on his primeval throne

Who dons his mantl’d majesty – shall man

The true tale of his pow’r presume to scan?

Nay, Him becometh silent praise alone:

His wondrous works, his testimonies sure

They tell, who trust secure

In Him: his storied deeds each age shall press

To tell the next, and so resound his


Teach then mine intellect the way to go,

And make me understand thine ordinance

Who, cleaving to thy testimonies, know

The measure of the heav’n’s vast expanse

From end to end

whose traverse God decreed

Five hundred years would need,

Leagues which their message speak across the world:

Each heav’n’s altitude repeats that meed,

So, too, the air of each space ‘twixt them twirl’d;

Wherein He fashion’d for the sun a tent.

Come, then, the mighty deeds of God survey,

And win the wisdom to keep well your way,

For in their revolutions they present

Acts so tremendous, that the human mind

To awe must be resign’d.

O ye that fear the Lord, do you express

God’s awe in praise, and so resound his


So I recall thy Name, that therein I

May make my boast, and ever hymn that Name

Whose deeds thy perfect knowledge signify,

That win thy dread omnipotence acclaim.

For, scal’d in centuries, a meteyard marks

The seven heavens’ arcs,

Likewise their intervening atmospheres,

Measures to which each year, awaken’d, harks,

To run its fixéd span; the seven tiers

Of earth He link’d with heaven, moving round,

And made thereon abound

Goodness, made greater yet by love – to keep

From lack earth’s structure, his beneficence

Endow’ her order’d scheme with permanence.

His ministering hosts, with nimble leap,

Ubiquitous assert that He is One,

Living, like to Him none:

His Name, exalted high beyond access

In isolation so resounds his


Velum, the Drape of heav’n, is specified

The first celestial tract: here did He post

Seven pair’d regiments, the word to bide

Of seven Guardians, each o’er his host

Rais’d on a double throne – they all unite

To praise Him in the height,

To his dread Name Trishagion they sing:

All He commanded them they make their rite,

Like some inheritance – from fire they spring,

Then lapse to singeing fire, such time allow’d

As, in his Name, his Word they may fulfill,

Themselves fulfill’d as they fulfill his will.

Arise, O Lord, O God pursue the proud

Right to the place of reckoning: thy foes

Who, without cause, oppose,

Scatter them: thus shall angel choirs confess,

All mass’d, thy dread, and so resound thy


How awesome are his works who fashion’d all

Most wondrously! Raqia next He deck’d

(Which second heaven Firmament we call):

Twelve rising stages did He there erect.

On each flight, angels tremble in their zeal

His lauds broadcast to peal.

There are the storehouses of hail to see

Where snow, and hoarfrost and the like congeal.

Though full of awe those angels stand, yet He,

Their source of awe, Commanders for them made

To have his Word obey’d.

God’s secret those who fear Him may descry,

But who hath strength his cosmic force to tell?

Nay, strive in song those mystic pow’s to spell

That his hosts wield, the Lord to magnify,

Tracing his glory and his awe, that shine

Throughout precepts divine.

His Name He gave creation, to impress

Thereon his glory, and

resound his


Shehaqim, subtle Aether•

– store of storm,

Of winds, dense darkness, lightning, thunder, pow’r,

That, hinting at God’s thoughts, may man inform

Lies next, wherein three facing thrones do tow’r,

And figures three beside them glorify

His holy Name on high:

Assign’d their mission, Dread and Terror raise

Their voice in song, all eager to comply.

Zebul, the dazzling Palace rigg’d with stays

Of hurricanes

pair’d vaults are here the site

Where lies transcendent might,

With treasuries of dew: on either hand

In rivers fire entwin’d with waterflows

Such peace celestial doth God impose:

Who, with such angels’ regimental band

Comparison could stand?

What man, like them, his holy Name could bless

In psalmody, and so resound his


Makhon, fantastic hoard of jewels display’d

In an Establishment rais’d higher yet

By angels in majestic pomp array’d,

Distinguish’d as a troop, on whom is set

Praise of Him who such splendours did create:

Twelve Princes, chief in state

Three to each quarter of the world –

– are lords

Of the twelve months, their archons designate.

Sixth is the Residence, Ma’on, where hoards

Bursting with honey stand, sign of that sweet

Reward the just shall meet.

Intense the light as angels flap their wings

In flocks that thousand myriads multiply,

With songs they constantly diversify

In rev’rent praise of Him who form’d all things,

Wonders that mark his sovereign process

As Lord of Hosts, and so resound his


The might of ‘Araboth illumes its Skies

With light increas’d in incandescent flare

By seven times, and there the Throne doth rise

On mystic beings carried through the air,

Each with four visages

– it seems their freight,

But rather bears their weight:

Beneath, the treasuries of life are stow’d

And storehouses for souls predestinate,

With angel courses, einging in a mode

Of thrice-avouchéd sanctity, each eye

Flashing forth streaks to vie

With lightning. God, demanding faith, allied

To justice, sits in fearsome state, the light

*A robe that swathes his likeness from men’s sight

Who owns no likeness to his sight denied:

His with the scales of justice to enquire

In pages writ in fire,

Whilst, plung’d in purest streams, the angels dress

In whitest fire, and so resound his


God’s people, Jacob, for his heritage

And his appointed portion did He take,

With whom, enduring throughout ev’ry age,

His covenant of chiefest laws did make,

Wherein his own especial folk delight

Should find, glimpsing the sight

That-He of his laws’ mystery display’d,

Drawn by that lovingkindness He did plight.

So He the seventh moon’s first day hath made

The season when creation’s crown is brought

To judgment, in his court:

Even as He the one He first did frame

In his own image, though he sinn’d, did yet

Acquit to live, so He this day hath set

To keep for aye his covenant the same

In unforgetting fame,

Firm for his seed, who, judg’d, must nonetheless

Fear Him and quake, and so resound his


Therefore do ye, who seek his mercy, sound

The ram’s horn on this new moon’s festive morn,

To hail Him whom age after age has found

Faithful to keep the promise He hath sworn:

And when, all tremulous, ye stand confus’d

To hear yourselves accus’d,

Resolve in true repentance to forswear

The evil practices that ye have us’d.

For know there is no deed that man shall dare

But he must answer for it, as he may

Before that tribunal, where God alone

Seated upon his pre-existent throne

Holds annual assize, on New Year’s Day,

That comes apace, to bid you haste, intent

To meet it penitent:

And mindful that in Him will ne’er digress

Nor faith nor justice, so resound his