Just look at the expression on Jonah’s face. It combines not only fear but also 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.
Textiles as a Jewish art medium have a long and distinguished history, frequently the sole surviving artifact testifying to a community’s existence and history. Elaborate paroches from 17th century Italy still proclaim a rich and artistic love of the Torah ark so prized by Italian Jewish communities that are now but distant memories.
In the world of art and culture the rabbis generally get a bad rap. From time immemorial they have often been thought of as the prototypical zealous guardians, seen as prohibiting all sorts of imagery with righteous abandon, constantly erecting walls to guard against anything that might be tainted with idolatry. Many might even argue that the pursuit of the visual arts, whether representational or abstract, to be no more that “bittle Torah,” a waste of precious time.
God commands Ezekiel to make a map; “take a brick and put it in front of you, and incise on it a city, Jerusalem. Set up a siege against it…This shall be an omen for the House of Israel.” (Ezekiel 4:1-3) This map became a symbolic reality, a graphic tool used to convince the Jews that their precious city could indeed be destroyed as punishment for their sins.
Moshe Zabari has accomplished a remarkable feat…he has put the Matriarchs literally on top of the Torah. What a triumph for religious feminism, what a triumph for Jewish Art! His recent series of sterling silver Torah Finials (Rimonim) feature Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah as the honored subjects to effectively crown our holy scrolls.
Such a nice story the Megillah Esther is, don’t you think? The poor Jews are in exile far from home and get into a bit of trouble with God for not being so careful about theirkashrus. Their only sin was attending a treif banquet the headstrong King Ahashverous made for the whole kingdom. And then sweet but unlucky Esther gets rounded up and taken to be the King’s queen.