Soul of the Shtetl
These drawings, inspired by old photographs, focus on different aspects of traditional Jewish life in the shtetl’s (small towns) of Eastern Europe from as early as 1901 until the outbreak of WW2.
I have attempted to portray the holiness and purity of even the simplest of Jews who lived in a world steeped in Torah and Jewish values. I have used light as a metaphor representing the spiritual illumination which permeated their world despite the darkness of persecution and pain which had enveloped Jewish communities for generations.
Light is symbolic of the Jewish soul, reaching forever upwards towards its source, impossible to extinguish even under the darkest of circumstances. Several drawings depict secret Torah learning in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Despite the brutal destruction of these ancient communities, our generation is testimony to the fact that we have risen again from the ashes, stronger and more determined to succeed in our task of being “a light unto the nations”. In this work I have used existing photographs as a source. I am grateful to the many unknown photographers who captured these images and in particular to the work of Roman Vishniac.
See the Soul of the Shtetl artworks here...
Jerusalem – Gateway to Heaven
“Whoever prays in this place, in Jerusalem, it is as if he has prayed before the Heavenly Throne. For the gateway to heaven is there and the doorway is open for prayers to be heard. ” Pirke D’Rabbi Eliezer (chapter 35)
Ever since the destruction of our Holy Temple by the Romans over 2000 years ago, the Jewish People have mourned its destruction and pray daily for the rebuilding of the third and final Temple in Jerusalem. We pray for redemption from our long and bitter exile. We long for a time when pain and suffering will be distant memories, and the knowledge of Hashem will permeate every corner of the universe.
The pivotal feature of the future world will be the Holy Temple, the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem. Mount Moriah, the place on which it will stand has been its destined home since the creation of the universe. It will stand in alignment to, and emanate from, the Heavenly Temple which exists as its spiritual counterpart. The earthly Temple will be, as described by the Ramchal, “the channel through which blessing and prosperity will flow to all levels of creation”. It will be “the dwelling place for the Divine Presence, a sign for all humanity of G-d’s presence in the world”. The Beit Hamikdash stands at the centre of Jerusalem, Jerusalem at the centre of the Land, and the Land of Israel at the centre of the world. The “foundation stone” of the earthly Temple, situated beneath the site of the Holy of Holies, is the point of emanation of the entire universe. At the heart of the Beit Hamikdash stood the Holy of Holies, encasing the Keruvim atop the holy Aron. This is the pathway through which all prayer arises to heaven and through which all blessing is sent from above. It is the “spiritual womb” of the universe through which all else is sustained and nourished, the gateway between heaven and earth. In my work I have endeavored to ignite our longing for the time of Mashiach and the world of the third Temple. Through images in glorious colour, in line, in light and shadow, may we be inspired to glimpse beyond the material into hidden spiritual worlds, and through intense focus on dreaming the future dream of our people, may we each play our part in bringing it to fruition.
See the Jerusalem – Gateway to Heaven artworks here...
The Tree of Life
In this series of work, I explore the verse describing the Torah as “Eitz Chaim”, a tree of life. In Mishle 3:17, we read that “it (the Torah) is a tree of life to those who grasp it and its supporters are praiseworthy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace”.
A Jew cannot live without Torah just as a tree cannot survive without water. For this reason, water is also a traditional symbol of the Torah. Just as a tree provides us with physical nourishment through its fruit and protection with its shade, so does the Torah provide us with spiritual nourishment and protection. A man is compared to a tree.
The roots buried deep below ground draw sustenance though water (the Torah), the trunk (the body) is seated on earth and the branches (the soul) reach upwards towards their source (Hashem). The life of man is reflected by the seasonal cycles through which a tree passes. The miraculous transition from winter to spring reminds us that in difficult times of life, renewal and hope lie just beneath the surface. A tree is firmly rooted in the ground, resistant to destruction even by strong winds.
The Torah and the Jewish People are a parallel to this. The Torah is rooted in Divinity and all of the forces of the physical world are incapable of detaching it from its source. Despite the many decrees and persecutions throughout history, no one has been successful at destroying the Jewish people and their Holy Torah. In Kabbalah, “Eitz Chaim” is a mystical symbol used to understand the nature of G-d and the manner in which He created the world. The Hebrew word”pardes” meaning orchard, is used to refer to the hidden secrets of the Torah, buried deep beneath its surface meaning. Tu b’Shvat, the holiday which celebrates the “birthday of trees” is unique to Judaism. It is our obligation to value, nurture and protect the “lungs of the world” given to us by G-d. Stylistically, I have embarked on an exciting journey with oil paint. Using my fingers instead of a brush is a tactile experience which imparts freshness and freedom to the work. The image grows freely and vigorously, mirroring the growth of a tree.
In this series my paintings are named according to their ‘characteristics’ and ‘personality’ rather than their species.
Frames made from recovered and recycled wood.
Ecological awareness and environmental protection are central to my work. My frames are custom made and individually designed from recovered and recycled wood by Christo Boshoff in Sedgefield. In this way the frame becomes an integral part of the artwork itself.
To contact Christo, Call: 0443432667 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
See The Tree of Life artworks and frames here...
Chuppah’s and Weddings
The representation of a bride and groom standing beneath the wedding canopy (chuppah) is a well loved image in Jewish art.
It speaks of a new beginning in the life of the new couple and the warm home and family which they will establish together.
In my work, this image also represents the “marriage” which occurred between G-d and the Jewish people at the time of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
An eternal bond of love was created when Hashem (the groom) and Bnei Yisrael (the bride) were united by the Holy Torah, representing the Ketuba, (the marriage contract).
This is encapsulated in the well known verse describing the Jewish Peoples sojourn in the desert, “I remember the love of your bridal days, how you followed me into a land unsown”.
See the Chuppah’s and Weddings artworks here...
The Kotel, also known as the “Western Wall” in Jerusalem is the last remaining wall of the second Beit Hamikdash (Temple) which was destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus in 70 A.D.
The fact that the Kotel has survived intact through centuries of warfare is truly miraculous. This holy site has been sacred to the Jewish People for thousands of years. A place of physical and spiritual pilgrimage, it is the focus of our hopes and dreams for the coming of Mashiach and the building of the third and final Temple.
Handwritten notes, lovingly placed between the cracks of the ancient stones, bear the deepest prayers of individual Jews. The Kotel is the point of contact between heaven and earth, the holiest place on earth.
See the The Kotel artworks here...
Wonders of Creation
In Tehillim, 19, we learn that “The heavens declare the glory of G-d, and the firmament tells of His handiwork” The beauty and complexity of the physical world never ceases to amaze me.
The perfection and intricacy of every aspect of creation testifies to the existence of its Creator. Hashem has cloaked the earthly realm in the disguise of natural law and every detail, from the simplest to the most complex, sings His praises.
It is my greatest pleasure to record these wonders in their splendor and glory.
See the Wonders of Creation artworks here...