Life, Death, and Birth Offerings

Paster Drawing for Parashat Tazria, Barkai Yeshiva Series, 2014

Parashat Tazria (Lev. 12:1-8) opens with matters of birth: A new life, boy or girl, and the related issues of ritual impurity and the offerings the woman would bring to the Tabernacle (Mishkan).

The two children of Aharon had just been consumed by fire (10:1-11), at the climax of the inauguration of the Mishkan. Immediately following the event, the Torah plunges into a long list of kosher and non kosher animals, forms of bodily and structural dysfunctions such as leprosy, and bizarre types of impurity and purification processes.

This tangential issues is, in the least, concerning. Must it take two whole weeks of public Torah reading (or longer, in the triennial cycle), until this matter is addressed?

The laws of Kashrut (Tazria and Metzora) all share a common theme: the importance of boundaries and distinction – whether in signs of kosher/non-kosher, celular deterioration and bodily fluids, or speech that is out of line. Nadav and Avihu, the two children of Aharon, overstepped their boundaries – out of pure love or rapture – and got themselves consumed.

Life and death, establishing boundaries, love and rebirth – all so central to our lives – are issues of intense nuance, subtlety and consequence.

This drawing shows a new mother and her child, bringing a thanksgiving offering to the Mishkan that is almost empty, for there are only few of Aharon’s sons left to serve. And yet she is celebrating life. And they are deeply involved in the process of blood, guts, fire, life and death, elevating this world through consciousness into the higher realms, into a connection with G-d, and into the betterment of humankind.

Though often tragically misunderstood, laws of kosher, boundaries regarding how we eat, dress, act and speak, are all part of the nature of relationship. And animal offerings, distant from the sentiment of the modern human (who rarely comes into contact with animals) can be a very meaningful and moving opportunity.

Sinai and Ice Wine

In this video, Tzvi (Greg) Lauren and I talk about the experience at Sinai and what it means to us – over Gat Shomron’s superb 24k Viognier Ice Wine

For Parashat Yitro – the Parasha of the Revelation at Sinai – Tzvi and I share afterthoughts on the Parasha. We talk about different wines as well as display art I did in 2014 on the parasha, seen below.

Tzvi Lauren is co-founder of heartofisrael.wine and my partner in the “pod” cast Tasting and Torah.

In these images, Moshe sits to judge the people, as they stand in line all day, awaiting their hearing. Yitro did not like this, and told his son-in-law, Moshe, “It is not good, that which you are doing”! I chose this scene because it is off the beaten path, it’s not the usual focus of art in this parasha. And I did it over winter break when students were on vacation, because I had committed myself to this series. Interestingly enough – I made a large mistake in the picture, which my art teacher pointed out (hint: it’s a chronological issue) – can you find it?

Oh, the scale you’ll go

 

SAMSUNG

An old still-life exercise from High School: Composition of assorted clothes. Gouache on paper.

Perhaps it is just me, but it looked to me like an awfully Dr. Seuss-ish mountain range, and I wanted to have some fun. Adding a small person on the bottom left, the scale completely changes. And now we can read “Oh, the places you’ll go”

Nightfall and Transcendence

WebKiddushSmall

Frame for Friday night Kiddush. Watercolor and pastel on paper.

The introduction to the saga of the Breaking of the Tablets in this week’s Torah Portion (Ki Tisa), is introduces with the commandment to observe and cherish the Sabbath, as a Sign for the Creation of the world. The following verses are famously included in the Kiddush of Shabbat Day: (Exodus 31:16-17)

וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּת לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּת לְדֹרֹתָם בְּרִית עוֹלָם׃ בֵּינִי וּבֵין בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹת הִוא לְעֹלָם כִּי־שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה  ה׳ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת־הָאָרֶץ וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שָׁבַת וַיִּנָּפַשׁ׃        שמות לא, טו-טז

The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time: it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and was refreshed.

Driving inspiration from this connection of Kiddush to the Completion of Creation, I have made a frame for a Kiddush text. This is part of a series on Jewish texts, which are customizable to different versions of the text.

A few highlights: 

Notice that the iconic Male and Female (blue and pink, for lack of better indicator), stand as giants on top of a field. The clues for that are the scale of the tractor and the pitchfork. This is meant to indicate that humanity, through the Sabbath, become elevated, and transcend the daily work and creativity, sharing the space and love with the Creator, a living testament to Creation.

Pastel was not the best medium for details, but I tried to make a Kiddush cup. Can you see it?

Night is literally descending, creating a frame for the text.

Houses in the background are alight with Shabbat candles.

 

 

Doubts

Back in 2003, my senior year in high school, I was fascinated by Salvador Dali. Inspired by his works, I made this pastel sketch, with a plan to develop it into an oil painting. That never happened, but here is the sketch.

A surrealistic desert scene, with a pearly-white human form, sitting atop a surrealistic object, contemplating.

A great idea for Yom Kippur, where we contemplate our existence here in this Desert of the Real.

לבטים יז חשון תשסג.jpg
Doubts. Sketch, 2003. Pastel on paper