Drawings for Parashat Vayeshev

Last year I posted these pictures in the context of “Dreams“, but here I would like to focus specifically on this parasha. I posted Yosef in the pit first, and not his dreams which got him there, because it is more in line with the goal of this series.

In 2013-14, while teaching at Barkai Yeshivah in Flatbush, I would regularly draw a pastel drawing as students were preparing their parasha study sheets. My guiding principal was to find something not stereotypical, if possible. Below this picture is Yosef’s dreams – quite a stereotypical motif – which I must pay homage to. However, this is a unique picture, because it is intended to express despair, being alone and abandoned.

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My Breakthrough

This Shabbat, as I was walking from Clifton to Passaic, NJ, for a family Bar Mitzvah, I had an astounding realization. I realized that I have been struggling to find a solution to an idea – and did not realize that I have not only found a solution, but have been doing it for a few years!

Let me explain…

Stage #1:

Menorah Midrash Drawing

For a long time, I have wanted to express ideas in Torah that inspired me, through art. Ideas such as the light of the Menorah being more valuable to G-d than billions of stars and galaxies, or the powerful scene of King Saul going to battle with his sons, knowing they will die – doing the right thing, or Abraham being taken to see planet earth from the outside, and several more ideas. I tried sketching them in different ways, but something just wasn’t right…and so I was stuck for several years, occasionally trying to paint them in this way or that.

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Stage #2:

When I was in the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, a few years ago, I saw paintings that were more than just a canvas, which interacted with the space around them. I realized later that I was stuck because I was trying to paint an idea on canvas or on paper, when it needs to be perceived in space.

This opened me to the idea of installation art, and I sat to illustrate installations for my various ideas. This would involve lighting, sound, and all kinds of things… but it is an expensive endeavour, and perhaps one day I will have the time and resources to launch it…and so I reached a standstill.

Avraham Outside Installation Draft
First sketch of an idea for installation art

Stage#3:

On Shabbat, as I was walking from Clifton to a bar mitzvah in Passaic, NJ, I realized that not only had I found a solution for this quest, but I have been doing it for a few years!

Imagine, standing in the planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History (as in this video), with galaxies as your backdrop, the whole mood is set – and then light a candle, or talk about individual investment and uniqueness. And then it hit me – “I can do that!” I realized that the museum is where I can convey my ideas, and have an attentive audience, I can ‘make my art’.

Perhaps what triggered this realization is a couple questions a writer for the Jewish Press asked me, for an article. But either way, what blew my mind is that I had found the solution without realizing it, and have been doing it for a while. At least for some of my ideas, this is the perfect setting. And for the rest – who knows what the future holds?

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My favorite classroom!
Some of the questions from the Jewish Press, and my answers below:

Can you tell me one story of something that happened on a tour that encourages you in your work?

Having a 5 year old an 82 year old, an egalitarian woman Rabbi and a hassidic family all learning Torah together in the museum – where else can you do that?

How does what you do differ from a standard museum tour?

I bring my adventurers (or clients) into a world where we don’t look at “interesting stuff” from the past. Rather, we are engaging in our ongoing identity, the Saga of Klal Yisrael. To us, Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus are yesterday, and the Assyrian and Persian Empires are things we read about in our liturgy, prayers, and our holidays. It brings the museum and our Torah to life in a special way, with an interdisciplinary educational approach.

Parashat Lech-Lecha in Rhymes

Here’s for fun: I made a brief introduction to each Aliya in the Parasha, in rhymes. Enjoy!

It can be read by two people, which is why I made it in two colors (bold and regular)

First Aliya

This is the Story of Avram, Sarah and Co.

From when they left Ur Kasdim, a while ago

God said “Lech-Lecha” – go to the unknown land

And when the time comes, everyone will understand

That you are a blessing for the world,

You’ll be wealthy, and your name shall be heard

In Canaan they arrive,

And to settle they may strive

But hunger struck, oh-no!

So pack up your suitcases, and down to Egypt – we go!

 

Second Aliya

Welcome to Egypt, where we have the Nile and bread!

“Where can we find a good breakfast and bed?”

“Just in case something goes bad-

We really have to think ahead

– say you’re my sister, we have the same dad”

But Pharaoh had a different idea,

And Sarai to his palace, was taken to see-a

Well G-d didn’t like that at all,

And he sent plagues on Pharaoh – household and all

So Sarai and Avram back to Canaan he sent

With gifts and good stuff and lots of money he spent

Third Aliya

Family matters – did we ever mention?

That even back then required attention?

So we’re telling you now, we can say that you’ve heard

That Lot’s shepherds fought over grazing their herds

“Let’s not have a fight, you do not have to stay

You go live in one place, and we’ll go away!”

Sarai and Avram – they went down to Hebron

And Lot and his shepherds – went to Sodom

“Now look all around you” said G-d to Avrom

The time will arrive, indeed it shall come

When you many children, this land will call home

 

Fourth Aliya

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Kedorla’omer – or how ever you pronounce it

Has came with his buddies to squash this rebellion

Four kings against five, what a battalion

Lot – he was captured, so Avram has heard,

So in hot pursuit he and his people were spurred

What a chase it was, half the country they ran

But they rescued Lot, and every woman and man

And so with a royal banquet, to put it to rest,

The king of Shalem, Malkitzedeck, did attest:

“Thank you, Avram, G-d bless you – you’re the best”

Sixth Aliya

“I am G-d who took you out of Ur Kasdim,

to inherit this land, that was the scheme”

“But how will I know, that these children, you see,

Will inherit the land, that I cannot foresee?”

Let’s make this a Covenant, A Brit, an Agreement,

For suffer they shall, working hard, with enslavement,

But they’ll make it out, very soon, you will see,

And that’s how you’ll know – because they will be free!

Avram and Sarai had no children, and were old

“So marry my maiden, Hagar” he was told

A child she bore him, his name – Yishma’el

To find out what happen, you must listen well

But one last thing must change: Avram’s designation

From now on it’s “Avraham – the Father of Many Nations”.

Seventh Aliya

Now here’s the deal, G-d said, let’s not wait

When every baby boy turns days eight

You must make a Bris, it’s called circumcision

So Avraham’s household all followed this mission

Now one last thing, said the Lord, k’nain a hora

Your wife’s name, Sarai, from now shall be Sarah

With these two new names, Avraham and Sarah,

You’ll soon have your children, bli ayin ha-ra

Believe it or not,

Do not feel indignation,

So laugh all you want,

But you’ll be a great nation

A Day at Cape Cod

On Thursday, June 14, 2018 – I spend most of the day at Cape Cod, MA.

What better way to start than museum and nature together? The Heritage Museums & Gardens was my first stop. I had a wonderful time at the gardens, labyrinth, tree house, carousel  and pathways. I especially enjoyed meditating near the waterfall pond, where I attempted a quick sketch with the tools I have available – sharpies.

Inside the three various museums, there was plenty of American art – native, old and modern. I saw plenty of original paintings from Wendell Minor’s children books – and other paintings. In the carousel gallery – I saw plenty of varied artifacts, including woven baskets, ceramics, statues, tools and even the ‘teeth’ of a whale. Yes, I rode the carousel, and I also switched horses in motion when the guard wasn’t looking.

I’m not much of a nascar enthusiast, but I got to see the Indy 500 exhibition, including cards that won the race last year. Lots of cool history in there, and there are two cars you can take a picture with. I did one of them:

And finally – Sandwich boardwalk beach. What a beautiful beach! Walking on a boardwalk from the parking lot over the marshes, over a dune and down to a beach with diverse texture. Some areas are sand, some are smaller sea shells, and even smaller to larger pebbles. What I thought would be a short walk ended up being a few relaxing hours.

Naomi’s Tragedy and Devastation

During my MA studies in Jewish Education, at Hebrew University, we were working in groups on analyzing artistic portrayals of biblical stories. I decided to add my own take, and make some art, since I haven’t been actively doing that in a long time. I miss it.

So, here goes.

Naomi’s devastation upon the loss of her two sons, a decade after her husband died. And this time her loss is complete, since as long as her children were alive, there was hope of rebuilding the family.

וַיָּמָת אֱלִימֶלֶךְ אִישׁ נָעֳמִי וַתִּשָּׁאֵר הִיא וּשְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ׃

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. (Ruth 1:3)

 

וַיָּמוּתוּ גַם־שְׁנֵיהֶם מַחְלוֹן וְכִלְיוֹן וַתִּשָּׁאֵר הָאִשָּׁה מִשְּׁנֵי יְלָדֶיהָ – וּמֵאִישָׁהּ׃

Then those two—Mahlon and Chilion—also died; so the woman was left without her two children and without her husband. (Ruth 1:5)

Note two details.

  1. The two sons’ pronoun changes. At first they are banim, sons. Ben comes from the root binyan, which means “building”. But after they die, they change to yeladim, which merely refers to their having been born. They are children. But there is no potential for being built by them:אל תקרי בניך אלא בוניך

    The Sages interpreted this verse homiletically: Do not read your children [banayikh], but your builders [bonayikh]. (Berakhot 64a)

  2. When they die, Naomi loses her husband again. She is truly bereft of him, because now she can no longer be built by her children.

 Ruth and Orpah, the daughters in law, are embraced in the background. They are also bereaving, but their loss is not as utter and total as Naomi’s.

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Wedding Picture

Back in 2009, I was working with a person who owned a jewelry store in Meah She’arim. At the time, we were working on some ideas of reproducing my art in giclee –  printing pastel painting scans onto canvas, and adding paint into them for a higher value.

Well, I’ll say I’ve experimented with different ways of selling my art, but I am happy that this venue didn’t work out. It didn’t feel authentic and I did not want to market myself in such a way.

Anyway, he asked if I would make a pastel painting of his wedding. First of all, I don’t really like working from photographs, and second – there are so many people in the background – overload!

Long story short, I ended up doing it anyway, and here is the result:

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Random drawings and paintings from my years in Telshe-Stone (2003-9)

There is no particular order or logic to these pictures. Nor is there a development, necessarily. Some of them were an attempt to get back to pastel landscaping, after a few years without, and some were just for fun, and one of them – by commission. Sadly, lots of my charcoal works have been damages by water, and this are decorated with mold – but that does add to the beauty of the work (if not the smell).

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