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Posts Tagged ‘expression’

Vayikra: The Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

To the modern mind, korbanos may seem foreign or hard to understand. Yet they were a key component of the service of Hashem.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that offerings served many purposes, including a primary purpose of expressing thanks to Hashem. Thus, following the book of Exodus comes the book dealing with sacrifices as an expression of thanks for the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

“A man, when he offers…” (1:2).

Although many matters are taught in this book of Vayikra, the first and therefore most conspicuous subject is the korbanos. This had been foretold: “We shall go…and we shall sacrifice to Hashem our G-d” (Shemos 3:18); also “Send out My son and he shall serve Me” (ibid. 4:23), “and we shall sacrifice to Hashem our G-d” (ibid. 5:3), and “go sacrifice to your G-d” (ibid. 8:21).

The first service of Hashem in the form of korbanos was actually performed by the Pesach-sacrifice in Egypt, and the first national achievement after the giving of the Torah was the Mishkan where they would serve Hashem with offerings. We learn therefore the principle that after being delivered from affliction or from peril, the first reaction should be to bring offerings to Hashem.

Even before, it is proper to make vows to sacrifice to Hashem. “I beseech You, I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.… I shall pay my vows unto Hashem” (Tehillim 116:16-17). Sefer Vayikra, therefore, which follows Sefer Shemos (which contains the entire narrative of the Exodus from Egypt), properly begins with the outstanding subject of sacrifices to Hashem.

Although the korbanos have many purposes and many lessons, the first of all the intentions is the expression of gratitude; and the foremost is the gratitude for the Exodus from Egypt. Thus Noach offered sacrifices when he survived the Flood (Bereishis 8:20), and Jacob (ibid. 28:20) vowed offerings for his deliverance from adversity.

Before beginning on the subject of sacrifices, mention must be made of the opinion of the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:32). He declares that because at that time men were accustomed to the practice of sacrificing to images, Hashem’s plan was to substitute sacrifices to the true G-d in the place of the idolatry of the nations: “He transferred to His service that which had formerly served as a worship of creatures or of imaginary things.”

But once these sacrifices to Hashem have become Torah, they remain Torah forever, even after all the nations have discontinued the practice of sacrifices. It thus becomes included in the principle: “The Holy One, blessed is He, desired to bestow merit on Israel; therefore He increased for them Torah and mitzvos” (Makos 23b).

But even without the Rambam’s explanation (or in addition to his explanation) there are important and eternal lessons to be gained from the korbanos, and that the practice of these commandments bestowed excellence of intellect and character on our nation. Thus the loss of the Sanctuary was not only the loss of the many mitzvos which the sacrifices provided, but it was also a loss of great opportunities for perfection of mind and character available because of the Beis HaMikdash.

But the impression the service of the Sanctuary created in the minds and souls of the nation never went lost, and continues forever as part of the national heritage. The words of the Torah that describe the Sanctuary service continue forever to be read and studied, and thus our nation gains part of the benefits the Avodah was intended to provide.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

State to Israeli High Court: Boycott Law Constitutional

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Deputy Attorney-General Uri Keydar, representing the State on the issue of the constitutionality of the recently-passed Boycott Law, wrote that the law is constitutional even though it limited freedom of expression because it was narrowly tailored to specific calls for boycotts.

The state set out its position before the High Court of Justice Tuesday in response to three petitions asking the court to revoke the legislation.

The law, which was passed in July 2011, grants Israeli targets of public boycotts the right to seek financial redress for damages in court. The law also empowers the finance minister to prohibit entities supporting boycotts from participating in state tenders.

The petitioners claim that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty by stifling freedom of expression, with specific concern for criticism of government policies and actions in Judea and Samaria.

“The law does not prevent anyone from publishing a public call for the government to alter its policies in regard to Judea and Samaria as part of any opposition to government policy in that region,” Keydar wrote in response.

Knesset Committee Passes Bill Banning Use of Nazi Words and Symbols

Monday, January 9th, 2012

A bill making the use of Nazi name-calling and symbols in public punishable by a fine was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Monday. Proposed by MK Uri Ariel from the National Union, the bill comes in the wake of a recent protest by Haredi groups, in which participants dressed in concentration camp uniforms and depicted images from the Holocaust.

Free speech proponents say the bill is part of a larger trend on limiting free expression in Israel. But MK Ariel said “this use is completely illegitimate and it makes no difference if those behind the use are Bilin rioters, Haredim or price tag criminals.”

Leonard Everett Fisher’s Challenge

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Hebrew Union Collage – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum

One West 4th Street, NYC;  212 824 2205

Mon. – Thurs. 9am – 5pm; Friday, 9am – 3pm. 

Free Admission (Photo ID required)

 


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. So too Noah peering out of the ark, perched on the edge of understanding that there might be a future for mankind.  Both works point to the genius of Leonard Everett Fisher as an artist and interpreter of biblical narrative. 


Leonard Everett Fisher is one of the master American illustrators of the last 50 years.  His work is found in both adult and young adult publications, counting approximately 260 books since 1955 with at least 90 of those authored and illustrated by him alone.  A native of the Bronx, in his youth he studied with Moses and Raphael Soyer in addition to Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League in New York.  After a stint as a topographer during the Second World War he went on to Yale University for undergraduate and graduate degrees and then plunged into a successful commercial book illustration career.  What is unique about his success is that he continued to make solely artistic works, simply driven by his own creative desire.


The current exhaustive exhibition at Hebrew Union College, beautifully curated by Laura Kruger, exploits both aspects of his 70-year career.  In the spacious three interior exhibition rooms his mind-boggling exploits as a book illustrator and more recent creative works are explored.  A sampling of his illustrated books of Jewish interest, many authored by Fisher himself, include: The Wailing Wall, The Dybbuk, To Bigotry No Sanction (Touro Synagogue), The Seven Days of Creation, Moses, The Wicked City (Sodom) and David and Goliath.  Additionally we see some examples of his bestselling and masterful series “The Colonial American Craftsman.”  These may be Fisher’s most successful work, a 19 volume series, published between 1964 and 1976, that is aimed at young adults and visually explores the material culture of our country’s foundation. The series includes volumes on glassmakers, architects, shipbuilders, blacksmiths, weavers, tanners, cabinetmakers; virtually every imaginable 18th century trade that was essential to building our new country.  


Furthermore there is more recent artwork by this now 87-year-old artist. The Center Fielder (2010) is a large meticulous study of a baseball player about to catch a fly ball; poised between expectation and accomplishment.  It is wonderfully odd in that the player’s baseball cap is pulled down so that he cannot actually see the ball he is about to catch. Added to this conundrum is the odd insignia of his uniform, Sigma Phi, which does not correspond to any known baseball team.  It is mysteriously significant that these Greek letters represent the second oldest Greek secret fraternal organization in the United States, founded in 1827. Suddenly to expound upon the mysteries of baseball, here revealed in one enigmatic image, is yet another facet of Fisher’s creativity.  The suspended ball flying towards the player’s mitt is an example of what Curator Laura Kruger identifies as a major motif in Fisher’s work. Again and again we see suspended objects and concentrated depictions of flat vertical surfaces; i.e. walls, that explores the tension between objects in motion and concrete backgrounds.


Notwithstanding this lifetime of artistic accomplishment, it is the large series of biblical figures he created between 1963 and 1964 that has the place of honor in the main HUC exhibition space.  Eight large paintings dominate the wall with heroic depictions of Biblical characters.  Diptychs of Yeshayahu, Yechezkel, Daniel and Yermiyahu respectively ponder the different characteristics of these prophets in relation to one another.  Job is a tall muscular figure with a fearsomely intense gaze, challenging the viewer in his provocative confrontation with God Himself. There Came a Nation shows Avraham and Yitzchak in a vertical hierarchy with Yacov just beneath them representing the foundational generations of the forefathers.

 


Job (detail) (1964), gelatin tempera on board by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy John Tucker Collection

 

 

Moses, Now is the quintessential image of Fisher’s style: dramatic, clear and powerful.  The great lawgiver is shown descending the mountain ready to smash the tablets in anger.  Three preparatory drawings are nearby and we clearly see the development of Fisher’s idea.  First he conceived of Moshe as a poised Renaissance character, then a dramatic Baroque figure in motion, clenched fist and stylized tallis swirling around him.  In the final painting Fisher concentrates the drama and simplifies the emotion into a monochromatic black, white and red.  Suddenly Moshe’s anger has become more reflective, his hand now open in determined gesture and his face contemplating what he is about to do to God’s holy law.  In his way, Fisher saves Moshe from the sin of heedless fury.

 

 



Moses, Now (1963) India Ink, gouache on paper by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy the artist

 

 

Interestingly enough, more than thirty years later Fisher returned to the subject of Moshe in an illustrated book of the same name.  Here the lawgiver lovingly holds the tablets in a deep and tortured contemplation.  We see the mountain behind him with the long mass of the Jewish people at its base.  We immediately understand Moshe’s concern that this people will not cherish the Law as he does.  They are tragically fated to stray.

 

 


Jonah (detail) (1964), gelatin tempera on board by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Peter and Carol Mack Collection

 

 

The figure of Jonah is seen from above, floating in an abstracted well meant to evoke the giant fish’s innards.  His hands and forearms stick out from his sides in helplessness, defenseless against God’s judgment.  But it is the absolutely stunned expression on Yonah’s face that cuts to the heart of Fisher’s vision.  The artist has convincingly plumbed the soul of the prophet who momentarily thought he could escape God’s command.  He is confronted by his own rebellion and terrified by its consequences.  We can easily see from this how the sprout of repentance must grow and be nurtured.

 



Noah (detail) (1964) by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, CT

 

The cleverest painting in the exhibition is Noah.  He stands inside the ark peering out its window at a dove in mid-flight bearing an olive branch in its beak.   As we have observed before the bird in mid-air is a hallmark of Fisher’s style complemented by the solid wooden construction of the ark.  But it is the play between Noah’s hands and facial expression that truly animates the painting.  His hands tell us that he is about to do something – either to grasp the bird or to formulate a thought.  The notion of being on the threshold of action is then concretized by the concentrated thought in his expression.  Pursed lips and intense staring eyes tell us Noah has just realized the meaning of the dove returning with the olive branch.  The fact that somewhere on dry land there is an olive tree tells him that soon he will be able to exit the ark with his family and all the animals and begin the process of recreating earthly life.  Fisher’s focus on this moment of revelation narrates into Noah’s story, telling us he didn’t know exactly how God would conclude the destruction of the world.   The artist has uncovered the narrative of hope and faith in Noah’s tale.


 


Noah (1964), acrylic on Masonite by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, CT

 

 

The distinction between illustration and art is that illustration describes what the viewer already knows.  Its details, textures and visual delights confirm a well-known visual universe.  Art does something totally different.  Art tells us what we don’t already know.  Art reveals the hidden and realizes a new truth, surprising and thrilling the viewer with discovery.  Leonard Everett Fisher’s artworks do exactly that as he casts his insightful eye on biblical figures and the world around us alike.

 


Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com

Leonard Everett Fisher’s Challenge

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Hebrew Union Collage – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum

One West 4th Street, NYC;  212 824 2205

Mon. – Thurs. 9am – 5pm; Friday, 9am – 3pm. 

Free Admission (Photo ID required)

 


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. So too Noah peering out of the ark, perched on the edge of understanding that there might be a future for mankind.  Both works point to the genius of Leonard Everett Fisher as an artist and interpreter of biblical narrative. 


Leonard Everett Fisher is one of the master American illustrators of the last 50 years.  His work is found in both adult and young adult publications, counting approximately 260 books since 1955 with at least 90 of those authored and illustrated by him alone.  A native of the Bronx, in his youth he studied with Moses and Raphael Soyer in addition to Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League in New York.  After a stint as a topographer during the Second World War he went on to Yale University for undergraduate and graduate degrees and then plunged into a successful commercial book illustration career.  What is unique about his success is that he continued to make solely artistic works, simply driven by his own creative desire.


The current exhaustive exhibition at Hebrew Union College, beautifully curated by Laura Kruger, exploits both aspects of his 70-year career.  In the spacious three interior exhibition rooms his mind-boggling exploits as a book illustrator and more recent creative works are explored.  A sampling of his illustrated books of Jewish interest, many authored by Fisher himself, include: The Wailing Wall, The Dybbuk, To Bigotry No Sanction (Touro Synagogue), The Seven Days of Creation, Moses, The Wicked City (Sodom) and David and Goliath.  Additionally we see some examples of his bestselling and masterful series “The Colonial American Craftsman.”  These may be Fisher’s most successful work, a 19 volume series, published between 1964 and 1976, that is aimed at young adults and visually explores the material culture of our country’s foundation. The series includes volumes on glassmakers, architects, shipbuilders, blacksmiths, weavers, tanners, cabinetmakers; virtually every imaginable 18th century trade that was essential to building our new country.  


Furthermore there is more recent artwork by this now 87-year-old artist. The Center Fielder (2010) is a large meticulous study of a baseball player about to catch a fly ball; poised between expectation and accomplishment.  It is wonderfully odd in that the player’s baseball cap is pulled down so that he cannot actually see the ball he is about to catch. Added to this conundrum is the odd insignia of his uniform, Sigma Phi, which does not correspond to any known baseball team.  It is mysteriously significant that these Greek letters represent the second oldest Greek secret fraternal organization in the United States, founded in 1827. Suddenly to expound upon the mysteries of baseball, here revealed in one enigmatic image, is yet another facet of Fisher’s creativity.  The suspended ball flying towards the player’s mitt is an example of what Curator Laura Kruger identifies as a major motif in Fisher’s work. Again and again we see suspended objects and concentrated depictions of flat vertical surfaces; i.e. walls, that explores the tension between objects in motion and concrete backgrounds.


Notwithstanding this lifetime of artistic accomplishment, it is the large series of biblical figures he created between 1963 and 1964 that has the place of honor in the main HUC exhibition space.  Eight large paintings dominate the wall with heroic depictions of Biblical characters.  Diptychs of Yeshayahu, Yechezkel, Daniel and Yermiyahu respectively ponder the different characteristics of these prophets in relation to one another.  Job is a tall muscular figure with a fearsomely intense gaze, challenging the viewer in his provocative confrontation with God Himself. There Came a Nation shows Avraham and Yitzchak in a vertical hierarchy with Yacov just beneath them representing the foundational generations of the forefathers.

 


Job (detail) (1964), gelatin tempera on board by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy John Tucker Collection

 

 

Moses, Now is the quintessential image of Fisher’s style: dramatic, clear and powerful.  The great lawgiver is shown descending the mountain ready to smash the tablets in anger.  Three preparatory drawings are nearby and we clearly see the development of Fisher’s idea.  First he conceived of Moshe as a poised Renaissance character, then a dramatic Baroque figure in motion, clenched fist and stylized tallis swirling around him.  In the final painting Fisher concentrates the drama and simplifies the emotion into a monochromatic black, white and red.  Suddenly Moshe’s anger has become more reflective, his hand now open in determined gesture and his face contemplating what he is about to do to God’s holy law.  In his way, Fisher saves Moshe from the sin of heedless fury.

 

 



Moses, Now (1963) India Ink, gouache on paper by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy the artist

 

 

Interestingly enough, more than thirty years later Fisher returned to the subject of Moshe in an illustrated book of the same name.  Here the lawgiver lovingly holds the tablets in a deep and tortured contemplation.  We see the mountain behind him with the long mass of the Jewish people at its base.  We immediately understand Moshe’s concern that this people will not cherish the Law as he does.  They are tragically fated to stray.

 

 


Jonah (detail) (1964), gelatin tempera on board by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Peter and Carol Mack Collection

 

 

The figure of Jonah is seen from above, floating in an abstracted well meant to evoke the giant fish’s innards.  His hands and forearms stick out from his sides in helplessness, defenseless against God’s judgment.  But it is the absolutely stunned expression on Yonah’s face that cuts to the heart of Fisher’s vision.  The artist has convincingly plumbed the soul of the prophet who momentarily thought he could escape God’s command.  He is confronted by his own rebellion and terrified by its consequences.  We can easily see from this how the sprout of repentance must grow and be nurtured.

 



Noah (detail) (1964) by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, CT

 

The cleverest painting in the exhibition is Noah.  He stands inside the ark peering out its window at a dove in mid-flight bearing an olive branch in its beak.   As we have observed before the bird in mid-air is a hallmark of Fisher’s style complemented by the solid wooden construction of the ark.  But it is the play between Noah’s hands and facial expression that truly animates the painting.  His hands tell us that he is about to do something – either to grasp the bird or to formulate a thought.  The notion of being on the threshold of action is then concretized by the concentrated thought in his expression.  Pursed lips and intense staring eyes tell us Noah has just realized the meaning of the dove returning with the olive branch.  The fact that somewhere on dry land there is an olive tree tells him that soon he will be able to exit the ark with his family and all the animals and begin the process of recreating earthly life.  Fisher’s focus on this moment of revelation narrates into Noah’s story, telling us he didn’t know exactly how God would conclude the destruction of the world.   The artist has uncovered the narrative of hope and faith in Noah’s tale.


 


Noah (1964), acrylic on Masonite by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, CT

 

 

The distinction between illustration and art is that illustration describes what the viewer already knows.  Its details, textures and visual delights confirm a well-known visual universe.  Art does something totally different.  Art tells us what we don’t already know.  Art reveals the hidden and realizes a new truth, surprising and thrilling the viewer with discovery.  Leonard Everett Fisher’s artworks do exactly that as he casts his insightful eye on biblical figures and the world around us alike.

 


Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com

Leonard Everett Fisher’s Challenge

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Hebrew Union Collage – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum

One West 4th Street, NYC;  212 824 2205

Mon. – Thurs. 9am – 5pm; Friday, 9am – 3pm. 

Free Admission (Photo ID required)

 


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. So too Noah peering out of the ark, perched on the edge of understanding that there might be a future for mankind.  Both works point to the genius of Leonard Everett Fisher as an artist and interpreter of biblical narrative. 


Leonard Everett Fisher is one of the master American illustrators of the last 50 years.  His work is found in both adult and young adult publications, counting approximately 260 books since 1955 with at least 90 of those authored and illustrated by him alone.  A native of the Bronx, in his youth he studied with Moses and Raphael Soyer in addition to Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League in New York.  After a stint as a topographer during the Second World War he went on to Yale University for undergraduate and graduate degrees and then plunged into a successful commercial book illustration career.  What is unique about his success is that he continued to make solely artistic works, simply driven by his own creative desire.


The current exhaustive exhibition at Hebrew Union College, beautifully curated by Laura Kruger, exploits both aspects of his 70-year career.  In the spacious three interior exhibition rooms his mind-boggling exploits as a book illustrator and more recent creative works are explored.  A sampling of his illustrated books of Jewish interest, many authored by Fisher himself, include: The Wailing Wall, The Dybbuk, To Bigotry No Sanction (Touro Synagogue), The Seven Days of Creation, Moses, The Wicked City (Sodom) and David and Goliath.  Additionally we see some examples of his bestselling and masterful series “The Colonial American Craftsman.”  These may be Fisher’s most successful work, a 19 volume series, published between 1964 and 1976, that is aimed at young adults and visually explores the material culture of our country’s foundation. The series includes volumes on glassmakers, architects, shipbuilders, blacksmiths, weavers, tanners, cabinetmakers; virtually every imaginable 18th century trade that was essential to building our new country.  


Furthermore there is more recent artwork by this now 87-year-old artist. The Center Fielder (2010) is a large meticulous study of a baseball player about to catch a fly ball; poised between expectation and accomplishment.  It is wonderfully odd in that the player’s baseball cap is pulled down so that he cannot actually see the ball he is about to catch. Added to this conundrum is the odd insignia of his uniform, Sigma Phi, which does not correspond to any known baseball team.  It is mysteriously significant that these Greek letters represent the second oldest Greek secret fraternal organization in the United States, founded in 1827. Suddenly to expound upon the mysteries of baseball, here revealed in one enigmatic image, is yet another facet of Fisher’s creativity.  The suspended ball flying towards the player’s mitt is an example of what Curator Laura Kruger identifies as a major motif in Fisher’s work. Again and again we see suspended objects and concentrated depictions of flat vertical surfaces; i.e. walls, that explores the tension between objects in motion and concrete backgrounds.


Notwithstanding this lifetime of artistic accomplishment, it is the large series of biblical figures he created between 1963 and 1964 that has the place of honor in the main HUC exhibition space.  Eight large paintings dominate the wall with heroic depictions of Biblical characters.  Diptychs of Yeshayahu, Yechezkel, Daniel and Yermiyahu respectively ponder the different characteristics of these prophets in relation to one another.  Job is a tall muscular figure with a fearsomely intense gaze, challenging the viewer in his provocative confrontation with God Himself. There Came a Nation shows Avraham and Yitzchak in a vertical hierarchy with Yacov just beneath them representing the foundational generations of the forefathers.

 


Job (detail) (1964), gelatin tempera on board by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy John Tucker Collection

 

 

Moses, Now is the quintessential image of Fisher’s style: dramatic, clear and powerful.  The great lawgiver is shown descending the mountain ready to smash the tablets in anger.  Three preparatory drawings are nearby and we clearly see the development of Fisher’s idea.  First he conceived of Moshe as a poised Renaissance character, then a dramatic Baroque figure in motion, clenched fist and stylized tallis swirling around him.  In the final painting Fisher concentrates the drama and simplifies the emotion into a monochromatic black, white and red.  Suddenly Moshe’s anger has become more reflective, his hand now open in determined gesture and his face contemplating what he is about to do to God’s holy law.  In his way, Fisher saves Moshe from the sin of heedless fury.

 

 



Moses, Now (1963) India Ink, gouache on paper by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy the artist

 

 

Interestingly enough, more than thirty years later Fisher returned to the subject of Moshe in an illustrated book of the same name.  Here the lawgiver lovingly holds the tablets in a deep and tortured contemplation.  We see the mountain behind him with the long mass of the Jewish people at its base.  We immediately understand Moshe’s concern that this people will not cherish the Law as he does.  They are tragically fated to stray.

 

 


Jonah (detail) (1964), gelatin tempera on board by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Peter and Carol Mack Collection

 

 

The figure of Jonah is seen from above, floating in an abstracted well meant to evoke the giant fish’s innards.  His hands and forearms stick out from his sides in helplessness, defenseless against God’s judgment.  But it is the absolutely stunned expression on Yonah’s face that cuts to the heart of Fisher’s vision.  The artist has convincingly plumbed the soul of the prophet who momentarily thought he could escape God’s command.  He is confronted by his own rebellion and terrified by its consequences.  We can easily see from this how the sprout of repentance must grow and be nurtured.

 



Noah (detail) (1964) by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, CT

 

The cleverest painting in the exhibition is Noah.  He stands inside the ark peering out its window at a dove in mid-flight bearing an olive branch in its beak.   As we have observed before the bird in mid-air is a hallmark of Fisher’s style complemented by the solid wooden construction of the ark.  But it is the play between Noah’s hands and facial expression that truly animates the painting.  His hands tell us that he is about to do something – either to grasp the bird or to formulate a thought.  The notion of being on the threshold of action is then concretized by the concentrated thought in his expression.  Pursed lips and intense staring eyes tell us Noah has just realized the meaning of the dove returning with the olive branch.  The fact that somewhere on dry land there is an olive tree tells him that soon he will be able to exit the ark with his family and all the animals and begin the process of recreating earthly life.  Fisher’s focus on this moment of revelation narrates into Noah’s story, telling us he didn’t know exactly how God would conclude the destruction of the world.   The artist has uncovered the narrative of hope and faith in Noah’s tale.


 


Noah (1964), acrylic on Masonite by Leonard Everett Fisher

Courtesy Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, CT

 

 

The distinction between illustration and art is that illustration describes what the viewer already knows.  Its details, textures and visual delights confirm a well-known visual universe.  Art does something totally different.  Art tells us what we don’t already know.  Art reveals the hidden and realizes a new truth, surprising and thrilling the viewer with discovery.  Leonard Everett Fisher’s artworks do exactly that as he casts his insightful eye on biblical figures and the world around us alike.

 


Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com

Nir Rosen And Totalitarian Stupidity

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

One snowy day back in college, I was returning from class to my dorm and began to cross a small intersection. A woman was waiting at the stop sign in a large gray vehicle. As I began to pass in front of it, she suddenly drove forward into me. I banged on the hood, she came to and stopped, and I barked some remark about using her eyes. The incident was more startling than injurious, so I moved on.

I entered my dorm and saw my friend in the main gathering room. I went to him and breathlessly unloaded what had just happened. While narrating I referred to the woman driver in my youthful shorthand as “this chick.” A girl I hadn’t seen sitting nearby exploded: “CHICK? What is THAT?” I marveled to myself: I was just nearly run over by a car, and her moral priority is to police my language.

A possibly clinical emotional idiocy underpins extremism. Conspiracy theories about America and the Jews, the embrace of disinformation, an attraction to totalitarian thinking – these are some criteria for diagnosis. Above all we have the moral stupidity, the bent priorities of the true believer, the eggs which need to be broken to make the omelet of the radiant tomorrow.

Out of today’s noxious lineup of antiwar extremists steps Nir Rosen. During the celebration that erupted when Hosni Mubarak stepped down in the face of Egyptian popular revolt, Lara Logan, a CBS News correspondent, was ambushed, beaten and sexually assaulted. In response, Nir Rosentweeted, in part:

Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to [CNN correspondent] Anderson [Cooper] too.Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger

Rosen is a war correspondent whose reductive anti-imperialism rivals Ward Churchill’s. Yet he’s been celebrated, thanks to the comparative complexity of his subject matter and the troubled occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Besides the acute viciousness of his attack on a woman who had been mercilessly attacked, what’s interesting is this is hardly the first time Rosen has made vile public statements. It’s just the first time he’s been called out on it by more than a few people.

As we’ve seen relentlessly since the Second Intifada, many roads lead to the intersection of revolutionary politics and anti-Semitism. Predictably in pitch with his totalitarian stupidity, Rosen often targets Israel. On Twitter and Facebook he’s eagerly fantasized about its destruction.

He writes: “[the] new racist Israeli citizenship law should be celebrated. It [will] speed [Israel's] demise” and “Yes to a 3rd Intifada. This time hopefully with the support of the Palestinians [sic] citizens of ‘Israel.’ ” He hopes “[Israel will] be part of greater syria [sic] in the future, which will include palestine [sic]… all of Palestine, that is.” “Israel’s existence is a blight unto the nations” and “an abomination.” In one quote Rosen lays it out in the Manichaean terms native to the totalitarian mind:

i have always opposed israel and supported anybody who is opposed to israel. just as anybody concerned with justice and freedom must.

This all-or-nothing manner of thought is consistent with what is perhaps the key feature of radicalism: an inability to consider the individual. Instead life is a moil of warring collectives.

Rosen is concerned about anointed groups – the Arab and Muslim streets, the Egyptian revolutionaries, people of color, the poor, the Palestinians – and he gleefully wishes misery and harm on anyone set against them in his political passion play. Rosen first characterized his comments as a joke, and then he backed off from his expressions of remorse, calling the outrage “sanctimonious and silly.” His comments weren’t a joke; they were a slipped mask revealing hate.

Because it was individual, the odiousness of Rosen’s attack on Lara Logan surpasses his public fantasizing about Israel’s destruction. But the latter didn’t provoke outrage, or much response at all, which shows how acceptable that line of thought has become.

Rosen is now crushed under the weight of tardy opprobrium. He gave a Michael Richards-style interview to FishbowlDC in which he didn’t do himself any favors, explaining:

A part of me was bothered by how celebrities, especially white ones, get so much attention, and before I realized it was a sexual assault I was sort of anticipating a return to the old theme about unleashed brown natives attacking a white woman. Another part of me was bothered by the knowledge that Arab victims would never get attention, that this would detract from everything else that was happening, and that most victims of sexual assault, whether in Egypt or the US will never get attention.

A woman had just been beaten and sexually assaulted by a gang, and Rosen’s moral priority is policing our emotional response, lest it be racist or focused on the wrong victim.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/nir-rosen-and-totalitarian-stupidity/2011/03/02/

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