Paintings

Shabbos Queen

It often surprises me how people can exist without Shabbos. But if you never stop, you never realize you need to stop, or how could rest could be. If you watch a runner after he has finished a race, heaving and gasping for air, you wonder how he could have made it until then. But when running, you just keep going. And the finish line, that’s what keeps you going. Eyes on the prize. But sometimes with the inner pleasure of the challenge coming from the race, it is easy to forget that it is the finish line and the rest that is our end goal. Work does not make us free. Anyone who has ever lit Shabbos candles feels it - All of a sudden, things are silent. And what was then important and time pressing, which overtook your to do lists and worries, has no value anymore. Time no longer exists for practical purposes- once Shabbos begins, the purpose is for connection and unity- to yourself, to your family, to the Jewish people. Of great importance all of a sudden is eating, relaxing, laughing with others, and feeling one with creation. A Jew must laugh. And to laugh means to stop. To be utterly in the present. One spark, silence, and fufillment.

Light

The brilliance of the human condition- Man and Woman. Unity. The universe conspiring to make it all happen. Everything, in its entirety, fitting together. To look at a fragment- confusing. To look at the whole- perfect.

Loyb du mikh un ikh vel loybn dikh- Beyde Zenen Mir Fun Eyn Tsekh- Praise me and I praise you; We belong to the same union ( Yiddish proverb)

9/11

9/11 revealed many things to the American public. Surrounded by all of the physical securities- wealth, army, political leanings, we walked the streets confidently. We went to work at the most glamorous places . We felt safe. 9/11 hit, and reminded us that no physical luxury can safeguard against spiritual evil. Against terror.

9/11 is also a wake up call to the American Jew.   A Jew can dress in all of the physical costumes he desires- a suit, a tie. He may be physically indistinguishable from the rest of his society. Yet, 9/11 hits and it reminds him of that something deep within, as his tie and suit begin to unravel.

As Daniel Pearl infamously declared before he was beheaded- “ "I am a Jew. My mother is a Jew..."

No tower, no suit can take that away from us. If we try to hide it, the world will, not always so kindly, remind us of our place, our identity in this world. Our mission is in our minds. Our body is the vehicle,not the driver.

Yichud

Yichud means oneness in Hebrew.
A husband and wife are one soul, one unit, soulmates.  In heaven, a couple is one, united, decided for one another. It is only down here in this world that they are two distinct entities that must reunite. In this painting, I capture the ecstasy of that reunion. . It is here at the bedekin- the part in the marriage ceremony when the groom is lead to his bride. The joy of seeing each other after being apart for a week highlights their connection and dedication to each other. It is a Jewish law to return lost items to its owner. At the bedekin it is clear- two objects joyfully being returned to their rightful owners at  last; each other.

Haskalah

The Jewish people are not a shy people. We are a brazen nation, a stiff-necked people. We have things to say, and we are questioning, always questioning. Unable to accept the status  quo. 2 Jews, 3 opinions. Throughout history, Jews have been debating the great and small details of Jewish existence. This painting symbolizes the thinking Jew. The bright colors reflect the illumination of the mind as it challenges itself to think deeper.

Palm of Hand

It’s a funny thing about Israel. To an outsider, watching the news, it seems to be dangerous, war zone. Unsafe! But when you go there, it is like you are being cradled in Gd’s hand. You realize you  feel more comfortable there than you ever did in suburbia. You walk around the Western Wall at midnight. Trust is in the air, people reach out, laugh from deep within them. A think sense of calm and comfort pads the air and your feet as you walk around and breathe in the Holy Land. Only those who have been there know this. And no one else would believe it. Hashem leans over and whispers “It can be our secret….” with a grin. You’re in the palm of His hand.

Masada

A moment in Jewish History - The story of Masada - Imagine looking into the face of this woman. Her history- fleeing Jerusalem, the Second Temple in ruins behind her. She hears about a fortress Jews are setting up to battle the Romans for the land of her ancestors. She climbs with her husband and two children a 1300 ft rock tower over the Dead Sea. There, she and 1,000 other Jews create a life for themselves- complete with two mikvahs, one shul. Every morning she awakens in this settler town, for three years keeping Roman soldiers away. Teaching her children, living in a desert island 1300 ft in the air. This is her. She lives with the complexity of the world around her and finds beauty in it because it was what she must do. She lives glory. In the 1920s, the Hebrew writer Isaac Lamdan wrote "Masada," a poetic history of the anguished Jewish fight against a world full of enemies. According to Professor David Roskies, Lamdan's poem, "more than any other text, later inspired the uprising in the Warsaw Uprising." This painting is about the complexity of life, the heroism of a person's decision to continue on, the Jewish thrist for survival. The end of this woman and her comrades, if you do not know it, can be looked up on the internet. I do not condone their decisions. I do not condemn them. I do not know what I would do. But this is not about the end. It's about the middle. Of the glory and beauty of the fight.

Israeli Children

Israeli children - Jewish children who have never known what it means to grow up in the Diaspora, as an Outsider. This image is inspired by a photograph I took walking in the streets of Jerusalem, in the market area before descending the stairs to the Western Wall. It is of Israeli children, walking the streets confidently, looking at me defiantly. I remember seeing a five year old Israeli girl pushing her two year old brother in a stroller up an enormous hill, no parent in sight. A nine year old boy riding the bus alone, discussing ideas with the driver for twenty minutes as it swerves around the city.  Israeli children’s shine with fierce independence, self assurance, and desire to investigate. They are not afraid, fish in water, raised in the natural habitat, boldly walking through the streets of Jerusalem.

Sisters

It’s funny because I just assume subconsciously that I can erase mistakes and do things over again. And sometimes, I realize this is my life- my one life. Nothing will ever come like this again. And what I have is what I’ve got. I will have and only have, 1 sister. And then I look at her and think- this what I was given! Thank you. I feel that a lot about being Jewish; I am a Jew. 1 in 457 people.. .002%. This is what I was given. Now what am I going to do with that. One animal soul, one Gdly soul. Let’s work it for what it’s worth. And when I realize that oneness- one life, one sister, one chance …. Opportunity comes once in a life time- I go.

The Holtzbergs

This painting was made with the verse “ I will give rain in its proper time” in mind. The verse is found in the second paragraph of the Shema prayer.

Gd says in the passage that if we follow his ways we will benefit and get rain in its proper time. But how could this be with the Holtzbergs? This was their plot of land, their rain, their blessings? Said Moses when he was shown a vision of the Romans slowly torturing the great sage Rabbi Akiva to death- Zot haTorah v’zot ha’schar? This is the Torah and this is the reward?

November 26, 2008.

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka were Chabad emissaries sent to Mumbai, India to settle down there for the rest of their lives and make their home the center of Jewish life in the area. Running a hostel, offering weekly meals to the community, managing a synagogue, mikvah…Complete dedication and sacrifice.

November 26, 2008 -

Pakistani Islamic terrorists surround their building and take them hostage. They are found murdered two days later, their 2 year old son Moshe escapes alive.

Zot haTorah v’zot ha’schar? This is the Torah and this is its reward?

As humans, we search for meaning. We demand the rain we deserve for our efforts, we get bothered as we look at our neighbors’ plot of land, and we search for evidence of the divine plan, design in what appears as random chaos. Even though the colors appear chaotic and random, the grid creates a definite order, subtly proclaiming the master plan behind their lives and existence.

The Holtzbergs are depicted in this painting as outlined figures, with the shadow of their existence, imprints and effects of their life in this world. They stand proudly, fighting the spiritual battle that demands acknowledgement of the order and design of the Great Architect. It is what they are meant as imprints in this world to teach us,to mold us. Through understanding our own plot of land, we prepare ourselves for receiving the rain that will come not when we want it, but in its proper time, in this world and the World to Come.

Clinton, Arafat, and Rabin

This is taken from the famous photograph capturing Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, US president Bill Clinton, and Chairman of the PLO Yasser Arafat. It is a moment that is bright and full of color,  yet the color is deceptive. The painting highlights the irony and hypocrisy that lay within this moment.

According to Chassidic thought -

The right hand of the body= the attribute of Chesed, loving-kindness

The left hand of the body = Gevurah, strength, withholding boundaries

In the middle= tiferes, a synthesis of the two, beauty.

With ones hands, comes the power of life and death, action and restraint. The Talmud states- A person should always draw people closer by means of his right hand, and push them aside with his left hand. (Sotah 47)

This painting looks at the scales as the Jew tries to navigate the right balance between the two, though unsuccessful in his calculations. It is a Jew’s nature to want to give, but he must also know when to withhold.  Rabin, and the Oslo Accords, does not bring peace to the Middle East. Rabin is later assassinated by a Jewish Israeli.

After this idyllic moment, the image shatters, the darker truth emerges.  This painting serves as a living testament to the miscalculations of the past, and a plea for the creation of a new, stronger image.