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There has long been a massive debate in Anglo Jewry as to whether we should take a unified stance in our support for the State of Israel or openly air our differences. It’s mostly been a noisy and shrill debate, but it’s the wrong debate – as it is deflecting us from the real issue.
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.
A few years ago, a couple, Sarah and Joseph, came to see me about their son Moshe, sixteen, who was experiencing extreme difficulty in school. Moshe did not have any serious learning problems. In fact, he was exceptionally bright and capable of succeeding in school. His problem was that he was frequently missing class. Recently he had started leaving school and spending time in an unknown location. Moshe's parents were naturally concerned for his future.
A political figure refuses to comment on a current news story in which he is involved.. In the hope of avoiding a scuffle with her parents, a teenager, who has broken curfew, quietly opens up the front door. As she makes a mad dash to her room, she tries to avoid being noticed and questioned. In both situations, a lack of communication may be perceived as failure on the part of the individual to take responsibility for his/her actions, and/or an admission of guilt. In such cases when the person does not say yes, the message being conveyed to others can be perceived as noby default, and vice versa.
Malcah Zeldis' watercolor painting "Jacob's Dream" (1982) is the only representation I know of the patriarch that represents him as bearded man with no moustache. The pink-skinned dreamer in Zeldis' painting wears a robe that evokes the technicolored dream coat his son Joseph would wear, and he sleeps on a hill using what the Bible describes as rocks (but Zeldis renders more as books) for pillows. In the background of the work, which belongs to the genre of na?ve art, one can spot the bundles of grain and the celestial objects that would later figure into Joseph's dream. As Jacob dreams of the changing of the angelic guard, Zeldis seems to say, he lays the foundation for Joseph's dreams of his own rise to power. The angels that ascend and descend the "ladder" - which is very flimsy and would surely not comply with fire codes - are red-headed and blue-eyed, and their wings sag at their sides like sacks over their shoulders.
The term "Renaissance man" is used to describe a person who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's biography of his father, Rav Dr. Yoseph (Joseph) Tzvi Carlebach (1883-1942), provides fascinating information about the life of a man who deserves to be described as a Renaissance rabbi.
A blue-skinned woman with at least one wing carries a caged dove in her right hand and has just released a golden bird from her other hand. Her hair is covered by a shawl that rests over a curved dagger (like the Yemenite jambiya) with a sheath decorated with the stars and stripes of the American flag. A corner of the shawl becomes a pair of tzitzit whose strings are wrapped around a lion's arms and midsection, perhaps restraining it. The woman, who represents a self-portrait of the artist Siona Benjamin, stands on a white ball, which unravels to reveal not string but floral patterns that border the painting. Beneath her yellow skirt, the woman wears striped pants that evoke either the uniform of a prisoner or a concentration camp inmate.
It was supposed to be temporary. Nine years ago last month, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the Israeli army to withdraw from Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) in one of the most humiliating retreats in the nation's modern history.
There are some marital issues that are too sensitive for a couple to handle alone. These issues might include mistrust; lack of marital satisfaction; conflict involving in-laws, friends, siblings, and children; verbal abuse; and so on. When dealing with such problems, the best course is to ask a professional outside party for advice and opinions.
About 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah, having predicted Nebuchadnezzar's imminent destruction of the First Temple, composed the famous line, "Why did I leave the womb - to see toil and pain - that I may live out my days in shame?" About 500 years later, Joseph ben Matthias, also known as Josephus, observed and recorded the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman emperor Titus, claiming in Book VI of the "War of the Jews" (chapter nine) that 1.1 million Jews were killed and 97,000 were enslaved in the siege.
Special Note: In my last column, I discussed the tragic consequences of Sinas ChinamB jealousy and hatred of the brothers toward Joseph that cast us into our first exile in Egypt, which continues to plague us to this very day. The following is a continuation of that column:
All Jewish Art depends upon the choice of subject as the primary vehicle to elicit meaning. Style, composition, form and innovation operate in the context of the theme drawn from Jewish texts, commentaries, Midrashim and history. For the artist, that initial choice inevitably influences the artistic agenda of what follows. In the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most treasured masterpieces of the Jewish people, the artist's choice of Biblical passages molded the intellectual shape and tone of this 14th Century Catalonian masterpiece.
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