In Israel, a new five month scholarship program being offered to young aspiring athletes – one of them could be you.
No time of prayer is more intense than at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, as we literally pray for our lives, our sustenance, and ultimately, our salvation. Our fate hangs in the balance poised between the gates of mercy and the awesome judgment we fear. No other contemporary sculpture so terrifyingly captures this primal apprehension and hope of the Days of Awe than Jacques Lipchitz’s The Prayer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art seen in the recent exhibition “Jacques Lipchitz and Philadelphia.”
Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) was born in Druskieniki, Lithuania and after schooling in Bialystok, went to Paris in 1909, then into the cauldron of the modern art revolution. Picasso and Braque, among others, were creating an entirely new way of seeing and depicting the world in Cubism. Lipchitz quickly established himself as one of the leading proponents of
Cubist sculpture. The bronzes shown here, including Sailor with Guitar, Woman With Braid and Bather, all from 1914-1917, are masterful meditations on the multiple perspectives of the Cubist vision that preserve the integrity of the human form even as the figure is reassembled with daring wit and cunning creativity.
Early in the 1930′s, Lipchitz abruptly changed both his style and subjects. His form, whether in stone, plaster or cast bronze, became baroquely expressionistic in what seemed like an organic celebration of life. His subjects were now derived from Greek mythology and Jewish life ranging from Prometheus and Theseus to Jacob and David. The subject of Prometheus, the Greek mythic figure who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, dominated his work up to the Second World War. His cruel punishment, struggle and ultimate vindication expressed Lipchitz’s concern with oppression and the struggle for liberation as he witnessed the rise of Nazism and rampant anti-Semitism.
As the Nazis invaded France in May 1940, Lipchitz first fled to southern France and then finally was forced to flee to New York in June 1941. He had become a victim (even though he survived) of the vast evil that was consuming Europe, devouring Western culture and the Jewish people. If anything, this was the time for prayer.
The Prayer was first cast from a wax model in a foundry in Long Island City in 1943. Lipchitz struggled with the complex forms that slowly draw us into the composition as we begin to make out a figure of an old man entangled in flame-like foliage. He is clad in a heavy, ornate tallis as he swings a large rooster over his head in the kapparah ritual. He holds in his other hand a book, perhaps a siddur that has burst into flames.
As we look closer the forms becomes more terrifying. The man’s midsection has been ripped open by what appears to be three rams’ heads exposing the form of a fetal lamb, curled up and nascent. It is as if in the very act of kapparah this Jew has been disemboweled, perhaps by the soul shattering blasts of the ram’s horn and has exposed the Azazel that must die on Yom Kippur to atone for the sins of the Jewish people. Lipchitz understood the power of this work explaining that, “The entire subject is the Jewish people, whom I thought of as the innocent victims in this horrible war… I was praying, I was crying when I made this work” (My Life in Sculpture, p. 163).
Further along in the exhibition is a color lithograph, The Sacrifice of Isaac, from 1968. Again, the expressionistic image demands careful study to interpret its meaning. Slowly we can discern a ram’s profile at the bottom and the suggestion of the kneeling figure of Isaac just to its right. Rising above this foundation is the figure of Abraham, knife in his right hand, locked in a struggle with a winged angel. The red ocher, broken color, is unified by a stark, nervous, black line that summarily delineates the figures.
The concept of Abraham struggling with the angel, echoing the Midrash that states that Abraham, even when he was halted, demanded to carry out G-d’s original command, brings us into the terrifying nexus of G-d’s “need” for the test. Abraham understood the need for
some kind of sacrifice so that it could come to atone for the Jewish people throughout the ages. Expiation of sin does not come easily. For Yom Kippur to be effective, we must summon the merit of Abraham’s sacrifice along with our sincere teshuvah, fasting, tzedakah, prayer and weeping as we approach G-d.
As I walked back through the exhibition somewhat shaken as these works of art settled into my consciousness, I came upon a small bronze, Biblical Scene II from 1950. A dramatic figure is poised atop a vertical mass of rock about to strike a ram with his knife. Suddenly I realized that Lipchitz had depicted Abraham’s sacrifice of the ram. Upon closer inspection, I could
make out the figure of Isaac below on the left holding the bundle of wood while one other figure waited even further below. But here, Abraham seems triumphant, almost celebrating the successful completion of G-d’s command to sacrifice. This little sculpture, done only five short years after the liberation of the camps and three years after the new State of Israel fought for its survival, celebrates sacrifice and not the saving of Isaac.
The most meaningful art does not provide answers; it only forces us to confront the most difficult of questions. The rest is up to us, just as after Yom Kippur the real challenge of permanent teshuvah and meaningful change lies ahead. Perhaps the challenge of Lipchitz’s
works is best expressed in a quote from a most unlikely source: “Ready must thou be to burn thyself in thine own flame. How couldst thou become new if thou hast not first become ashes!” (Thus Spake Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche).
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/lipchitzs-prayer/2004/10/13/
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