Sunday, October 31, 2010

Art shows and marketplace-What makes Jewish art?

I've been doing art since I was a child. Around June or so I followed an urge to start "doodling" again and stocked up on #2 pencils and sketch pads and started sketching for my own artistic pleasure. As I'm Sketching I have had some interesting thoughts on the subject of being  Jewish and creating Jewish art.
Is there a specifically Jewish way to paint? Is there a particular line, or shape, or color, that’s Jewish? That speaks to the Jewish soul? If klezmer music somehow shortcuts deep to our essence, is there a visual analog to that music?
There is an assumption that Jews came late to visual art. despite popular mythology, though, the Bible does not prohibit drawing human forms. “The rabbis in the Talmud say that only the worship of graven images is a problem, not the images themselves,”. So what is Jewish art? Often Jewish art is defined as work with overtly Jewish themes, and pictures of people in stereotypically Jewish clothing or holding menorot or Torah scrolls or stars of David logically might be considered Jewish.
Is there Jewish art? We take all the experiences in our lives, and they make us who we are. Everything I create is based on everything I know. I went to day school for years when I was a child, and I also live in the world and in the world of yiddishkeit. When I think of blue, I now think of techelet  the mysterious blue dye used for the fringes of the priests’ garments in the Temple. When I think of sacred spaces, I think of The Holy Temple that once stood in Jerusalem and on a small scale every Jewish home is a type of that sacred space, and at the same time I think of the "kodesh kedoshim” the holy of holies, the tabernacle that contained the ark. So in creating my art I want my work to take you to a higher place. I do not like the idea of mixing metaphors meaning the world mixed with Jewish. I wants people's mind to go to the Torah and see Torah in visual form. And when my art is hanging on someone's walls then when a person walk into that space they feel one way, and when they walk out they should feel better because it has created a holy space for that viewer.
My art goes beyond paintings or sketches, it aslo takes shape in holy garments. Silk has become my passion. The feel of it on my skin and the flow of paints and colors excites my heart and spirit. It takes greater Kavannah (concentration) in creating a piece that will bring joy to someone who will desire to  own it when they see it in the marketplace or art show. Then there is Tambourines Art my first love and my favorite outlet to capture the Psalms and the spirit of Miriam's heart to Praise G-d with such complete emunah.

My best expierences has been in the Art shows and marketplaces for which I hear stories of what a difference my art has made for them. This in turn lifts my heart and gives me koach to continue in creating my art. My children most of all  has been that strength. One reason is my son Izzy having to deal with a chronic illness of a bleeding diorder of Hemophilia for which there is no cure and will be a lifetime struggle for him and another reason is it being so cruical for me to be a stay at home mother for all my children. If  art is not touching people then it's not something that brings joy and light in people's lives so why do it especially Jewish art? Jewish art is simply to some creating the visual form of Torah, for some it is telling their story. For me it is both.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When is it time to go back home to our Land?

I read so many quote that it has me asking should I go back home to the Eretz Yisroel?
Here is some of the passages I have read and I gathered them here. It's like collecting old letters that I have finally got around to reading. For the Jewish people as a whole, there is no divorcing ourselves from the Holy Land. Certainly, and unfortunately not in positive ways, Jews the world over are beginning to understand that whatever happens in Israel affects the Jewish people everywhere. One could see this as Chabad's ultimate objective make the whole world Eretz Yisroel. There is certainly something to this. But in this day and age, when the physical Eretz Yisroel is within reach, we can do both. Connect with the Land physically, and make our place holy spiritually.


"In all times, a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where most of the residents are idol worshippers, rather then outside the land, even in a city where most of the residents are Jews, because one who lives in Israel is considered as if he has a G-d and one who lives outside the Land is compared to one who has no G‑d" - Ketubot 110b (also Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 5:12)

"Said the Almighty: A small group in the land of Israel is dearer to Me than a full Sanhedrin outside the Land." - Talmud Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 86

"Jews who dwell outside the Land of Israel are idol worshippers in purity." - Avoda Zara 8

Rabbi Abba explained that the ultimate sign of the coming of the Moshiach is found in the verse: "But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit for My people" (Yechezkel 36:8). "When the land of Israel becomes fertile again and produces fruit in abundance, then salvation is surely near at hand." Rashi: "Indeed, there cannot be a clearer sign than this." - Sanhedrin 98a

"One should dwell in Israel even in a city where the majority are idolaters rather than in the Diaspora in a city which is inhabited completely by Jews. This teaches us that living in Israel is equivalent to [the performance of] all the commandments of the Torah." - Tosefta in Avoda Zara (5:2)

The people of Israel were exiled because they despised three things: the kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of the House of David, and the Beit HaMikdash. Rabbi Shimon ben Menassiya said, "Israel will not be shown a good sign until they return and seek out these three things." - Yalkut Shimoni 2:106 ...after living among the gentiles for close to 2,000 years, we have mingled with the nations and learned their ways. Most of today's Jews have absolutely no concept of Judaism. We cannot expect them to return and seek out the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of the House of David, because they have no idea what these things are. Rather, what do they seek? Eretz Yisroel. - Eim Habanim Semeichah, HaRav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, hk"m 3,14.

"In the Diaspora, whoever increases its settlement (by establishing a home, business, etc) adds to the destruction of the worship of G-d. But in the Land of Israel this same work is considered a mitzvah since it settles the land." - The Chatam Sofer, on the Sukkah 36a and Yoreh Deah p. 136

"Wake up dear brothers, rise up and come to Zion while the gates are still open, and G-d forbid, do not remain with those who tarry, lest it be too late and you will cry out, but not be answered." - Rabbi Atiya zt'l, from his book, Lech Lecha.

Ramban, in his Mitzvot Aseh (LeDa'at HaRamban) quoted in the first volume of Rambam's Mishneh Torah, lists "Yeshivat Eretz Yisrael - settling in the Land of Israel" as one of the mitzvot aseh, the positive precepts of the Torah, whereas Rambam does not include it in his enumeration of mitzvot aseh. We can conclude that not only is it a positive Torah precept to live in Israel, as Ramban states, but also that living outside of Israel is considered a great spiritual danger. If so we are left with a serious dilemma. Now that there is a State of Israel, how do we explain our continued dwelling in America, and the other lands of the Diaspora? - Rabbi Yaakov Klass, a"h

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interesting Midrash I read today.

The fifth house [in the heavenly Paradise] is built of onyx and jasper stones, and inlaid stones, and silver and gold, and good pure gold. And around it are rivers of balsam, and before its door flows the River Gihon. And [it has] a canopy of all trees of incense and good scent. And[in it are] beds of gold and silver, and embroidered garments. And there sits Messiah ben David and Elijah and Messiah ben Ephriam. And there is a canopy of incense trees as in the Sanctuary which Moses made in the desert. And all its vessels and pillars are of silver, its covering is gold, its seat is purple. And in it is Messiah ben David who loves Jerusalem. Elijah of blessed memory takes hold of his head, places it in his lap and holds it, and says to him: “Endure the sufferings and the sentence of your Master who makes you suffer because of the sin of Israel.” And thus it is written; He was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5) until the time when the comes. (“Midrash Konen” BhM 2:29-30)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The last day of Pesach

Our family has been celebrating the last day of Pesach with a festive meal called Messiah's meal that we invite friends and family to join us in this celebration. Most of our friends know we are Chassidic in traditions and lifestyle. It is our perferred expression of Judaism. So I will attempt to explain with help from my favorite sources to explain this tradition.

The Last day of Pesach is celebrated by eating a special festival Banquet called Mashiach Seudah a custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov. The connection of the last day of Pesach and Mashiach is explained by the Tzemach Tzedek. "The last day of Pesach is a conclusion of that which began on the first night of Pesach. The first night of Pesach is our festival comemorating our redemption from Egypt by The Holy One Blessed be He. It is the first redemption carried out through Moshe Rabbeinu who was the first redeemer,it was the beginning. The last day of Pesach is our festival comemorating the final redemption to come, When The Holy One Blessed be He, will redeem us from the last exile through the Righteous Mashiach who is the final redeemer. The first day of Pesach is Mashe Rabbeinu's festival, the last day is Mashiach's festival."

May you all have a wonderful and joyous last day of Pesach!