In Israel, a new five month scholarship program being offered to young aspiring athletes – one of them could be you.
Remember. The commandment to remember reverberates throughout the Torah, starting with the Exodus from Egypt, continuing to Receiving the Torah and finally climaxing in the weekly
remembrance of the Sabbath itself. Embedded in the six remembrances is the commandment to, “remember what Amalek did to you on the way” (Devarim 25:17).
As an extension of this commandment, Megillas Esther is one long act of remembering that reaches back to ancient Shushan and returns with horrifying regularity in our daily newspapers. Eliezer Reiner, a sofer and artist of illuminated manuscripts, concentrates on the act of remembrance by simultaneously remembering the good and holy we have inherited. His labors are a constant homage to the glories of Jewish illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Reiner is a Sofer Stam with semicha from Rav Wosner of B’nai Brak who quickly found that the holy work of being a sofer held a hidden benefit for him, in the singular opportunity to express his creativity while beautifying the mitzva embodied in every text he wrote. Beyond the inherent beauty of the letters themselves, he is able to glorify G-d with elaborate images and decorations surrounding the Megillot and other texts he produces.
Born in Hungary, he studied calligraphy in Budapest and then later, the exacting skills of the sofer in France and Antwerp. Being a sofer carried great responsibility, illustrated by the simple question; “Who must be more proficient, a shohet or a sofer?” If a shohet’s work and
examination is not exactly perfect, his customers risk the sin of eating neveilah or treifah. What a responsibility! However a sofer actually carries a heavier responsibility. While his work must have a corresponding accuracy, getting each word correct, he must have the proper intention with each Torah, mezuzah, tefillin and sacred text in which he writes G-d’s holy name. That kavanah, for the sake of heaven, is necessary for any holy text to be kosher, and yet only the
sofer and G-d know whether the kavanah is proper. A sofer lacking the proper kavanah exposes his customers to the risk of a lifetime of unfulfilled mitzvot. We are totally dependent upon his skill and piety.
Reiner is well aware of his responsibility to halacha and therefore went to Rav Wosner to make sure that the illumination of manuscripts was permitted in contemporary times. He was told that the use of images, even of human beings, was well within the accepted norms for general texts and Megillot. Reiner proceeded with his project of the revival of the Golden Age of manuscript illumination. In the Middle Ages, a sofer frequently had to work with a non-Jewish artist to produce the luxuriously illuminated Jewish texts. Problems arose, however, concerning some of the illuminations creating inappropriate images of Greek and Roman figures, angels, and nudes that were out of place in sacred Jewish texts. Reiner’s vision is to create works that will be beautiful, expressive and firmly within Jewish law.
Not surprisingly Reiner has illuminated many versions of Megillas Esther. His website, www.artilluminations.com, exhibits no less than eight examples of this work, out of the over 20 hand illuminated Megillas he has created. Each Megilla is custom made for the specific needs of the customer, often reflecting individual tastes and sensibilities. The text, normally surrounded by an ornate floral design border done in gold leaf, egg tempera, acrylic paint and colored inks, is sometimes interrupted by illuminated panels, such as the startling image of the Beis haMikdash (2004) set in a bejeweled rondo, reminiscent of Italian Renaissance manuscripts. This placement reminds the reader that the Book of Esther takes place after the
destruction of the First Temple and before the construction of the Second. Much like today, the Jewish people felt themselves suspended in longing for a peaceful homeland and access to G-d.
The intensely lush visual style in all of Reiner’s work transcends mere ostentatious decoration. His images, never directly copied from ancient examples, always reflect historical styles that express a pride and love of Jewish cultural life. A developed sense of aesthetics is not foreign to Judaism, it seems it has only been temporarily forgotten. Reiner reminds us that when Noah blessed his two sons, Japheth was crowned with the skill and appreciation of beauty. Shem and Japheth were meant to live together in harmony, Torah and beauty in partnership. Over the ages, many Jews have forgotten how beauty can enhance so many aspects of Jewish life.
Reiner’s Tree of Life, (1999) carries its image well beyond a simple family tree. The surrounding “carpet page” decoration exists in exquisite tension with the naturalism of the many-branched tree. The swirling mass of brightly colored flowers, leaves and branches create a joyful meditation on sumptuousness, a reflection of the glorious but undocumented generations both past and future. Crowning the upper branches of the tree poetic verses from Taanis 5b remind us of “a tree of fruits of which were sweet, its shade pleasant, May it be [G-d's] will that all the shoots taken from you be like unto you.” Reiner’s blessing is one of visual beauty.
“This is my G-d and I will glorify Him” was uttered at the very moment of our salvation from Egyptian bondage as we were on the threshold of freedom. To remember that moment, we recite the Haggada. The Haggada which Reiner illuminated in 1982 took almost a year to complete, and it is filled with a series of totally original images that leap gleefully back and forth between ancient Egypt and contemporary Hasidic life. A little girl in a white pinafore and pigtails gingerly washes her hands, illustrating the ritual of Rahatz at the seder, while she reappears again almost hidden behind a piece of matzah to illustrate Hamotzie, reciting the Grace After Meals. The Four Sons appear, surrounded by the appropriate text and a beautifully eclectic decoration. Hasidic children are lovingly depicted and contrast with the one rebel, the young man who has chosen to become a boxer, using his might instead of his brains to challenge the world.
Visual creativity of this quality takes tremendous effort, time and skill that are usually beyond the means of most individuals’ compensation. Currently, Reiner is working on an illuminated Sefer Tehillim. Ashrei, the opening psalm, is richly decorated with golden crowns in each corner, a gold-leafed first word and illustrated inserts of the Tower of David. The psalm is set within an elaborate floral decoration that echoes the delicately crowned text. The Jewish public
must recognize that in order for artwork of this quality to be created, some kind of partnership needs to be established in the form of institutional sponsorship. In the last great age of manuscript illumination, medieval and Renaissance donors would commission elaborate works.
Contemporary institutions could use such sponsorship to honor the donors of a yeshiva, a synagogue or other large communal structure.
The act of remembering remains central to Jewish life. We need to remember our rich cultural heritage that some artists, including Eliezer Reiner, are taking it upon themselves to bring back to life. We need to remember, and recognize the efforts of artists past and present who labor to create a Jewish culture that enriches us all.
Eliezer Reiner; Sofer Stam & Illuminated Manuscripts www.artilluminations.com; (845) 426- 3954.
Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.com.
About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at email@example.com
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Leah Katz, a TeenZone camper at Oorah’s TheZone summer camp and an 11th grader at Midwood High School, read her winning essay about how TheZone changed her views on Judaism at the Jewish Heritage Awards Ceremony held at Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office in April. The purpose of the Jewish Heritage Essay Contest is to acquaint public school students with Jewish history and customs and to help foster a deeper understanding of Jewish culture. The contest is open to students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Leah’s essay is reproduced in full below.
Moshe Sharett, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, visited Egypt in 1945. In Cairo he met a most remarkable young woman, a beautiful journalist who was the darling of Egyptian high society – from high-ranking military brass, to culture icons and Muslim sheikhs, to the court of King Faruk.
The two proceeded to talk about everyday things and surprisingly her mother-in-law did not find anything else to criticize. This occurred a few more times, with my client changing the topic every time by complimenting her mother-in-law or mentioning something positive about her.
There is always a lot of confusion surrounding sensory processing disorder – mainly because there are many different diagnoses that fall under the catch-all phrase sensory processing disorder (SPD). Among them are three specific subcategories:
The doctor had warned us that even if we did everything right and followed the protocol after the follicle was of the right size, there was no guarantee of success. Fertilization still had to occur, and just like couples do not necessarily become pregnant every month, we had no way to know if we were actually expecting for two full weeks.
The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Jewish Press columnist Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, founder and president of Hineni, the international Torah outreach organization, recently addressed an overflowing audience at the Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine in southern California. Rebbetzin Jungreis’s address theme, “Making a Good Relationship Magical,” was apropos for the evening’s main mission: raising funds for the Irvine community’s mikveh.
You have probably been planning your marriage since you were about three. Let’s fast-forward to a big milestone– your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. (Don’t worry, you don’t look a day over twenty one!) Now, would you appreciate your husband buying you a dozen roses that some florist recommended?
As I mentioned in my earlier articles about our family trip to Israel, our night flight went pretty smooth, thanks to my children’s willingness to sleep throughout the flight. I, on the other hand, didn’t sleep a wink and I wasn’t feeling too great by the time we landed. But we were finally in Israel, and just being in the beautifully renovated Ben Gurion airport and hearing all the Hebrew around us was exciting enough.
While all the flowers that grace your Shavuos table will surely be a delight to your eye, these will be a delight for your palette as well. Create them at any level, simple or sophisticated; any way you make them they’re sure to be a sensation.
Welcome back to “You’re Asking Me?” where we attempt to answer questions sent in by people who fortunately have fake names, so they won’t be embarrassed. I don’t know how they got through school, though.
Speechless wonder is the reaction to the beautiful vision seen though the Arch of the Keshet Cave at the Adamit Park in the Galilee. One of the most amazing natural wonders in Eretz Yisrael, the Me’arat Hakeshet — also known as the Rainbow Cave or Arch Cave — can be found up against the Israel-Lebanon border just a few kilometers from Rosh Hanikra and the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea. It is situated amid the wild scenery on the cliffs of Nachal Betzet and Nachal Namer, on the Adamit Ridge.
In the eyes of the ram lies the artist’s commentary on the Rosh Hashanah piyyut “The King Girded with Strength.” From the Tripartite Mahzor (German 14th century), this illumination simultaneously echoes the piyyut’s praise of God’s awesome power and expresses the terror of actually being a sacrifice to God. The ram is but a reflection of Isaac. It is all in the eyes.
Reaching back in time to reclaim a family for herself and, in a yahrzeit moment, to rekindle lives snuffed out, Diana Kurz’s paintings stand as testaments to victims of the Holocaust. After a successful 20 year career as an artist and teacher, (with a strong feminist bent), in 1989 Kurz happened upon a few surviving photos of her own relatives “who disappeared during the war.” Suddenly her past opened up and possessed her. This spring (April 4 – May 2, 2012) a series of these paintings was shown at the Art Gallery at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY.
Examining a choice selection of drawings done by Itshak Holtz over 30 years ago is a rare pleasure that allows for the appreciation of his unique sensitivity and insights. I was afforded that pleasure at the inaugural exhibition of the Betzalel Gallery in Crown Heights this past May. Although this modest selection of 25 drawings and watercolors of this paradigmatic frum artist ranges from 1963 to 1999, the majority of the works is from the 1970s and reveals a special aspect of his inner artistic soul. The selection of images could easily narrate the fabric of ordinary Jewish life.
Earlier this year I was presenting my survey of Jewish art, “A Jewish Art Primer,” in a West Hartford, Connecticut synagogue and during the intermission a local artist, David Holzman, introduced himself to me. He relayed his rich and fascinating artistic background and then produced a portfolio of 8 black and white prints that he generously gave to me as a gift. As a tantalizing glimpse into recent work, they are truly amazing and I would like to share them with you.
Boris Schatz (1866 – 1932) had a revolutionary vision. He believed that the creation of a new modern Jewish visual culture would become a major force to both articulate a Jewish national identity and sustain the Zionist enterprise. In 1904 he approached Zionist leader Theodor Herzl with the proposal to establish a national arts and crafts school in Palestine and got his blessing. Tragically Herzl died later that year, but the Zionist leadership in Vienna assumed responsibility for the project and its funding.
The exhibitions that precede Judaic auctions are rather special events for anyone who has a feeling for the fabric of Jewish life as it has been lived for the last 500 years. Not only is one afforded the opportunity to see a wide variety of Judaica, books, manuscripts and Jewish art of considerable historic importance, but if something strikes your fancy; intellectually or acquisitively, you can actually handle the objects. For most artwork the thrill is in seeing it up close and judging the brushstrokes and details of a painting or watercolor. One stands in the exact proximity as the creator did.
The auction at Christie’s in Paris this May 11 of a Tuscan Mahzor, created and illuminated in the 1490’s, will be an extraordinary event. This rare example of illuminated Jewish art has not been seen publically in over 500 years and, aside from tantalizing internal suggestions, lacks conclusive identification of the scribe and illuminators. Because the gold-tooled goatskin binding was made about 50 years after the manuscript and has a different coat of arms than those found in the machzor, it is assumed that this prayerbook may have quickly changed hands.
One thing is certain about Robert Feinland – he has shuls on his mind. His career has spanned over 40 years, exploring landscape, cityscape, sculpture and abstraction. For many of those years he has focused on the relentlessly changing urban landscape of New York, feeling the necessity to document and, in some way preserve, the physical fabric of the city he loves. A selection of recent paintings, most concentrating on the Crown Heights community, is currently at the Chassidic Art Institute. Many of the images are of shuls.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/eliezer-reiner-the-mitzvah-of-memory/2004/03/31/
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