Just imagine you are walking through a beautiful garden. Feast your eyes on the colors of the flowers, the grass at your feet, the leaves of the trees in shades from green to silver. Listen to the birds. Let the sunshine caress your face. Smell the perfume.
Paradise? Almost. Could anything be more perfect? Add another dimension. Let your mind, soul and emotions wander in an equally beautiful garden of Jewish wisdom and values, becoming more and more immersed in their essence as you gain spiritual insights.
This is a vision, but in the near future it will become a reality. It is the vision of David Moss, perhaps best known as the artist who revived the hand-made artistic ketubah, and created the remarkable Moss Haggadah. It is a project he is working on with the collaboration of Neot Kedumim.
Neot Kedumim is the Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel, located mid-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It recreates the physical setting of the Bible, covering an area of 2,500 dunams, approximately 625 acres, and comprises a series of natural and agricultural landscapes – the Forest of Milk and Honey; the Dale of the Song of Songs; Isaiah;s Vineyard and the Fields of the Seven Species. Israeli botanist Noga Hareuveni, who won the Israel Prize in 1994, created this vision.
Now let me tell you about David Moss, who has envisioned his special dream in this magical setting. He calls it The Garden of Exploration and his goal is to gather 4,000 years of Jewish wisdom and share it with you.
David is an artist whose life revolves around two quotations found in his studio on Khutzot Hayatzer, Jerusalem’s Artists’ Lane.
“In art, the best is good enough.” (Goethe) and
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer.
A man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman.
A man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”
The latter description applies to David Moss and the dream into which he is putting his whole heart. His Garden of Exploration will translate the essence of our spirituality into a physical experience available to everyone. When it is built (the pilot project is already underway) it will combine art, graphics, sculpture, architecture, music, film, landscaping and interactive digital media. Your every step in the Garden will bring you experiences you have never had before.
You approach a small, attractive building whose glass door beckons. You peer in and see others waiting at similar doors. You try the door – it is locked. But once there are ten people – a minyan or quorum – at all of its ten portals, the doors all magically swing open together and allow you to enter. Why? To let you experience the intimacy and warmth of a Jewish community which is vividly portrayed inside.
When this vision becomes a reality – and it is on its way – it will speak to you – no matter whether you are secular or affiliated with a specific stream. It will make you think about your beliefs, your values, your connection to Judaism in a fresh way. – every visitor will be affected differently.
The Garden of Exploration will not be a place of entertainment, but a place to explore your deepest emotions, possibly to challenge and refine them and to decide how relevant they are to you. You will not be the same person when you leave as when you entered.
When the artist explained the project to me, I was reminded of a sampler hanging in my childhood kitchen. My mother had carefully stitched the words that have always stayed with me:
“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth.
One is nearer G-d’s heart in a garden
Than any place else on earth.”
All illustrations © 2013 David Moss