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I have always had a problem with the Omer. Doing the mitzvah of counting the Omer was of course pretty easy. Remembering to start the second evening of Passover and remembering to stop the day before Shavous took a little concentration but somehow I always managed. No, for me the nagging problem was always why was I doing this in the first place, other than the fact it was a biblical (according to the Rambam) commandment. Of course I understood that in some way our counting echoes the bringing and waving of the first barley crop in the Temple the second day of Passover. But we didn’t do that 49 times. Admittedly there is the Midrash Rabba and Midrash Tanhuma that relates that the Jews were told in Egypt that they would receive the Torah 50 days after the Exodus, and therefore passionately counted down the days to Matan Torah. But why did God make that a commandment once we already had the Torah? And I surely didn’t need to count 49 days to figure out when Shavous arrived: God already commanded us to keep a calendar.
It would seem that the rabbis shared my puzzlement and so in the Zohar the kabbalists started to link our counting with 49 permutations of the sefirah, lending a mystical and esoteric aspect to the mundane act of counting. Conveniently, the seven lower sefirot can be associated with the seven weeks between Passover and Shavous, and each day of the week also is associated with a specific sefirah. Combine the two and you have a complex esoteric system. One reason given for this system was the need to relive the ascent through 49 “gates” of impurity of the Egyptian bondage to the purity of revelation at Sinai. Now this system certainly added meaning to a simple count but, not being a kabbalist, its personal application is elusive.
Nowadays we think of ourselves as distant from the merit of receiving the Torah, so the notion of day-by-day self-improvement between Passover and Shavous has become paramount. A number of ethical tracts have responded to this (Amazon lists at least 10 from every conceivable point of view) including Chabad’s Rabbi Simon Jacobson; The Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer. Not surprisingly contemporary Jewish artists have begun exploring this subject, including Jacqueline Nicholls (reviewed here September 2012). For the last three years she has been doing a drawing a day for each day of that year’s Omer cycle. In 2011 she was inspired by an exhibition seen at MOMA and performed “a daily ritual of walking, finding the lost, discarded, remnants lying the street, bringing them back to my studio and drawing them – each one tagged ‘I am still alive.’” Last year she did drawings “Gather the Broken,” each broken object drawn in conjunction with Amichai Lau Lavie’s commentary. Inspired by this work, Chassidic Pop artist Yitzchok Moully has been producing one abstract painting a day for this year’s Sefiras haOmer. The results have been intriguing and impressive.
Moully is a Chabad rabbi in New Jersey who has been exhibiting his Pop Art inspired canvases since 2007. While the Abstract Omer images, each 12” x 12” acrylic on canvas, are his first fully abstract series, his earlier works of Jewish themed images feature similar bright colors and heavily symbolic approaches to subjects. Moully is deeply at home with the volatile mix of kabbalah, personal introspection and abstract painting. These works have been featured on the Huffington Post’s “live Omer counting blog” and are a significant example of the spread of Judaism’s esoteric explorations.
The underlying theme of his Omer Map is that by becoming conscious of the sefirot of each day and concentrating on its two qualities of the Divine, one can apply such a meditation to one’s personal growth, daily becoming more complete as a human being and refining ourselves in preparation to receiving yet again the Torah at Shavous. As I write this, the Omer Map is not yet finished, being a work in progress; but once this review is published it should be viewable in its entirety at www.moullyart.com.
About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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For many, contemplating our exile from our homeland is more of an intellectual endeavor than an emotional one.
I encourage all singles and their parents to urge their shadchanim to participate in ShadchanZone.
People definitely had stress one hundred and fifty years ago, but it was a different kind of stress.
It is inspirational to see the average Israeli acting with aplomb and going about daily routines no matter what is happening.
Participants wore blue and white, waved Israeli flags, and carried pro-Israel posters.
To support the Victor Center for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Miami Children’s, please call 305-666-2889 or visit www.mchf.org/donate and select the “Victor Center” fund.
The course will be taught once a month for seven consecutive months and is designed for women at all levels of Jewish knowledge.
Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.
The president’s message was one of living peacefully in a Jewish and democratic state, Jews of all stripes unified as brothers, with Arabs or citizens of other religions.
What Hashem desires most is that we learn to connect with each other as children in the same family.
You are my brothers and sisters. Your pain is my pain.
ense, along with the voluminous Oral Tradition in the Talmud, its commentaries and elaborations, make the Jewish artist the richest creative person imaginable.
The midrashic world is a dangerous place to inhabit. It delves into our sacred texts to fathom their deeper meanings, solve vexing textual and conceptual problems and, finally, make sense of the holy words in contemporary terms. Midrash is passionate and deeply creative, like the current midrashic paintings of Brian Shapiro.
Our encounters with the Divine are precious moments of personal religiosity. We believe that when we pray we are speaking directly to God and that at that moment we are in the Divine presence. And yet we are seldom conscious of the awe and fear we should also feel.
Just look at the expression on Yonah’s face. It combines fear and incomprehension at his terrible punishment of floating in the belly of the great fish.
Two of Alan Falk’s biblical paintings immediately assault us aesthetically and thematically. Isaac Blessing Jacob (2009) and The Cry of Esau (2010) document the famous stolen blessing of Beraishis 27 and its consequences. The ancient Isaac is clad in a white nightshirt, raising his bony hands in blessing over his two sons. In one, Jacob has donned a curly-haired brown Afro deceitfully offering his blind father food, while in the other, Isaac’s trembling hands attempt to bless the hysterical Esau at his feet. The cartoonish figures are caught in a melodrama of high-keyed color and exaggerated gesture that casts the biblical tale into an unfamiliar and strange realm.
Empathy and memory meet in the work of Meer Akselrod (1902-1970), the Jewish Russian artist who defied aesthetic convention and totalitarian dictates to relentlessly pursue his personal artistic vision of painting the Jewish people. His quiet courage in the face of epochal changes that convulsed his Russian homeland cannot be overestimated. They are amply attested to by his artwork, not the least of which are two pen and ink drawings, Pogrom, from 1927 – 1928, currently at the Chassidic Art Institute.
When Brocha Teichman was a young girl growing up, she always drew pictures.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/the-ethics-of-the-omer-the-abstract-omer-paintings-of-yitzhok-moully/2013/05/24/
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