Tag Archives: Egypt

Shabbat Shira – it’s music

Halleluhu by Laya Crust

Parshat B’Shalach                        Haftarah: Judges 4: 4 – 5: 31

Music is magical. We can’t see it, touch it, smell it or taste it. We can hear it and magically it can transform our mood and take us to other places in our imagination. We all know about love songs (a billion), break-up songs (2 billion), songs of tribute (“Starry Night” about Vincent Van Gogh) and patriotic songs (“La Marseillaise”and “HaTikvah”). All our secrets can be unearthed (“Killing Me Softly”) and raw emotion can be exposed (Stravinsky’s compositions).

Music is a beautiful union of art, science, math, and imagination. I remember a friend of mine- a physicist- being amazed and unbelieving when I told him I loved music. “How is that possible? ” he asked. “You’re an artsy.” I was really surprised by that comment because I had always thought that music was art and emotion. That was when I found out that there is a close relationship between science and music.

Miriam’s Song by Laya Crust

Music is an integral part of joyous Judaism. In the Torah portion B’Shalach we read “The Song of the Sea”.  It is Moses’ song of praise to God that was sung after the Israelites safely crossed the Red (or Reed) Sea, and were saved from the angry Egyptian army. The women, led by the prophet Miriam, sang and danced and made music on their “tof”, a handheld drum. There is a beautiful painting of the women led by Miriam playing their drums in The Golden Haggadah, and another lovely rendition in The Sarajevo Haggadah.

Devorah the Prophetess by Laya Crust
(inspired by a painting from a 17th C. Judeo-Persian book)

This Bible reading describing the escape into the desert, across the sea, and the ultimate Song of the Sea is paired with an adventure story in the Book of Judges. Led by the prophet Devorah the Israelites won a battle against Sisera’s Army. A woman named Yael completed the defeat by killing Sisera. Devorah then sang a song of praise about the triumph and Yael’s conquest.

 When we are happy, when we are sad, when we want to remember or forget, when we want to meditate or pray, be left alone or celebrate with others we often turn to music. Because it is a comforting, joyous and spiritual medium the most beautiful parts of prayer are often paired with music. The painting at the top of the page shows biblical instruments mentioned in “psoukei d’zimra”, prayers we say in the morning.

On this Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song, pay attention to the songs and music composed by Moses, Miriam, and the prophetess-judge Devorah. Enjoy the art, the sounds, and the music around you and have a Shabbat Shalom.

Laya

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The Last Meal in Egypt

Moses and Pharaoh by Laya Crust

This week’s parsha, “Bo”, recounts the last three plagues God inflicted on the Egyptians. It also describes the last meal in Egypt. The story of the Ten Plagues and the escape of the Israelites from Egypt was the beginning of a new epoch for the Israelites. This exodus would be the event that forged a new nation.

I was struck by the God’s explicit instructions. He told the Israelites what to wear, how to paint the doorposts with blood, not to go outside the family compound, and to be ready to leave in haste. I tried to picture the situation. How would the Israelites feel, being told to brazenly roast a lamb- an animal deified by their oppressors, gather a huge group together in order to eat the Egyptian deified food, and eat it while dressed to flee? It sounds daunting.

The Israelites were told “…take a lamb to a family, a lamb to a household. But if the household is too small for a lamb, let him share with a neighbour who lives nearby, in proportion to the number of persons:” (Exodus 12: 3,4). This instruction made sure not to waste any food, but to share in both the preparation and the food. Every single family – men, women and children- would make their own offering. To use it all they would have to share. It was to be a special and memorable meal officiated not by a priest or leader but by the entire family.

According to one recipe an entire roasted lamb can feed up to 45 people. So how could so many people gather to roast and eat an entire lamb? They couldn’t leave the house to eat outside. Anyone who stepped through the doorway that had been marked with blood would be subject to the punishment of death visited upon the Egyptians.

In many communities there might have been six or eight connected houses built around a courtyard. Each house was inhabited a relative with his family. Families met to eat and cook in the central courtyard. The patriarch’s house would have an entrance to the town thoroughfare. This could explain how a group of 30 – 45 people could gather together in an enclosed space to eat an entire lamb.

The Israelites were told, “This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded,your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand: and you shall eat it in haste, “בְּחִפָּזוֹן”. ( Exodus 12:11) The word “חִפָּזוֹן” is used only three times in Torah. The second time “חִפָּזוֹן” is used is in Deuteronomy 12:3. Moshe was describing the Passover observance of the future, which would mirror the meal from the night of the exodus.

He said ,”You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice, from the flock and the herd…you shall eat unleavened bread, bread of distress – for you departed from the land of Egypt hurriedly (בְּחִפָּזוֹן)- so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live”. To make the memory even sharper and more accurate Moshe added, “none of the flesh of what you slaughter on the evening of the first day shall be left until morning.” (Deuteronomy 16:4)

What a scene. Bustling and fevered preparation beginning at midnight, followed by a huge group of people eating roasted lamb in the common courtyard behind the doors to the streets. Dressed in sandals, holding their staffs as they ate meat and herbs, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. And this was under the noses of their slave masters and the Pharaoh. This is a view of that night, a scene of excitement and trepidation.

Maybe that’s something that should be brought to our seder tables at Pesach. Maybe we should try to communicate to our children and even to ourselves what astounding preparation and activity was going on behind closed doors.

As mentioned above the preparation was outlined “so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live”. And that is what the Pesach seder does. It brings together families and friends, unites communities and Jews all around the world. So these are my thoughts this week. Thoughts about preparation, uncertainty, the organization of the home and sharing of space for meals, and how בְּחִפָּזוֹן is a rarely used word (in Torah) that was used for a specific type of panic and haste.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

Here are some food ideas for your Shabbat Bo table. 3 plagues: locusts, darkness, and death

Locusts

Darkness

Death of the first born-
broken hearts

You can make your own roasted meat (lamb if you want) by marinating it in olive oil and curry powder with onions, then frying or barbecuing it. If you want, eat it wearing sandals, and holding a staff! Bon Appetit.

Image result for israeli shawarma

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Joseph- VaYigash

joeyJoseph and his Dreams by Laya Crust

This picture is a painting I made for my son named Joseph, named after his grandfather Joseph, and he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah reading parshat VaYigash, about Joseph.  I portrayed Joseph in his special coat gazing at the stars and dreaming of his future. In the border are symbols of the twelve tribes- symbols of his brothers as well as other images relating to the Bar Mitzvah boy.

The colourful story of Joseph and his brothers reaches its climax in this week’s parsha. The brothers and their father, Jacob, have survived the famine in the land of Canaan but cannot survive much longer. The heart-broken patriarch reluctantly sends the brothers to Egypt to get food. They had gone before and met the Pharaoh’s second in command- and had a strange experience there. But this time they go with troubled hearts because they were warned not to come unless they brought their youngest brother, Benjamin.

Joseph is playing a game with his brothers, and it’s difficult to understand exactly why he is making the demands he is making. This parsha begins just after Benjamin has been “framed”. Joseph’s personal silver chalice has been “planted” in Benjamin’s belongings, and the Israelite brothers have been told that Benjamin will become enslaved to Pharaoh’s court as payment for the infraction.

English: Joseph Converses With Judah, His Brot...

Joseph Converses With Judah, His Brother, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

The beauty/ pathos of the story unfolds from here.  Judah steps forward and begs for understanding. He pours out his heart, recounting the family history to this great Egyptian before him. Judah hopes that by telling this leader of his father’s frailty the leader may accept Judah as a slave rather than take his youngest brother.

Joseph can carry on the charade no longer. He clears all the Egyptian attendants from the room. The text says, “and he cried out, ‘Send every man to go from me.’  And no man stood with him while Yosef made himself known to his brothers. And his voice cried out with weeping, and Egypt heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard.”

The Recognition of Joseph by His Brothers, by Peter Cornelius, 1817

When I read those phrases I imagine a stately, handsome regent who is always in control. He is a man who has faced one challenge after another but has always kept his wits about him, analyzed, strategized, and succeeded.  He has played with his brothers, waiting for just the right time to reveal his identity.  I think he was “undone”, hearing Judah’s humility and love for Yaakov, the father Joseph hasn’t seen and possibly thought he never would see again. The narrative sets the scene in a compelling way. Joseph is so overcome that he loses his controlled facade. Alone with his brothers he lets out such a cry of anguish that the entire land of Mizrayim (Egypt) hears… What powerful text.

The story had begun many years earlier. Fraternal jealousy instigated a cruel joke at best or a malicious death wish at worst. That behaviour broke a family apart and had a ripple effect on the generations that followed.

The brothers and Jacob are reunited.  Judah will become one leader of the tribes and the other brothers will unite as a group called “Yisrael”. We know from the text in the Bible that just as they separated when Joesph was sold, the tribes of Israel will once again separate and form two kingdoms.

The conflict in the history of the Jews- the competition for leadership, the separation of the nations – is foreshadowed in the story of Abraham’s sons, Isaac’s sons, and now again in the story of Jacob’s sons. We have seen the story played out over and over again. We allow ourselves to be divided by traditions, dress, levels of observance, and politics.

In addition, we live in very frightening times which are harder to navigate if we are divided. We witness and experience international terrorism, tyrannical dictatorships waging war on its citizens and neighbours, slavery, rising opiad deaths, and bizarre weather related disasters. On the other hand we live in a time with potential for incredible good. Using medical innovation, social network, communication and the sharing of resources, we can create and heal the world.

Just as Joseph and his brothers could forge a better future together, we can do the same. Joseph saved Egypt and its neighbours from starvation through sharing wisdom and strategy- we have the potential to do the same.

With prayers for peace and understanding,

Shabbat Shalom,    Laya

 

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Dreams and the Dreamer

Joseph’s dream by Laya Crust

Joseph was the ultimate dreamer in the bible. As we know it got him into trouble with his brothers, yet saved him and an entire country when he was in Egypt. In parshat Miketz we read how Joseph interprets dreams for Pharaoh, changing the course of economic and agricultural history, as well as changing the course of history for the children of Israel.

Joseph came by his ability to remember and read is dreams honestly. His father Jacob was guided both by his dreams and by angels. (The angel connection did not figure as highly in Joseph’s life.)

Jacob and the Ladder by Laya Crust

Dreams are important in many cultures. There are dream journals, dream symbols, and the idea that each element of a dream symbolizes something specific. One commonly held theory is that each person in a dream represents one characteristic of the dreamer. The truth is that successful people, those who achieve greatness, are dreamers. They have an idea, a focus, and they follow it. They hold tightly to the goal they wish to achieve, and imagine or strategize how to reach their objective.

We are celebrating Hanukkah this week. The Jewish leaders who fought and overcame the Greeks were focused dreamers who achieved what they had to achieve in order to survive. Herzl had a dream as did other Jews throughout the millennia. The dream was to return to Israel and make the land flourish, allow it to become a homeland for all Jews once again.Herzl by Laya Crust

Before Jews resettled the land in the early 1900’s the country was a barren, dusty, desert. The Jewish pioneers came and irrigated, cleared, drained swampland, and created what is now a flourishing agriculturally rich and technologically amazing jewel.

Spoiler alert– what follows is a short rant: I am pained by the world’s inability to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland that it has always been. There has NEVER been a time in history when Jews have not been in Jerusalem. I am saddened and sickened by world reaction to the logical idea of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital,  hosting embassy buildings. Jerusalem has always been a focus of Jewish culture and religion, and has been part of modern Israel since the country was recognized in 1948. If the embassies are erected in west Jerusalem why should there be any doubt or argument?

We have dreams. Dreams can lead to beautiful results. We can pay attention to our dreams- analyze what they may mean, and how we can do something better or differently. The dreams may help us reach a goal that we thought was impossible but really isn’t. We can make our lives- and the world- a happier place.

Dream One and Dream Two,  by Laya Crust

 

Have a Happy Hanukkah. May it be full of light, of joy, of peace, and happy dreams.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Count the Stars

Lech Lecha sigart by Laya Crust

Lech Lecha- Genesis 12 – 17

We meet Avraham and Sarah after the world was created, destroyed, and then re created. Living in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia they were asked to leave their home and the world as they knew it to establish a new legacy. According to midrash (biblical legend) Avraham was the son of an idol maker. He must have been an intelligent man and a strategic thinker. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps he amassed a great deal of wealth as a shepherd and also successfully led campaigns against enemy forces. Sarah was his partner and equal. She navigated soci0-political waters.  She was able to “read” people and was recognized for her beauty. (Read the amazing adventure of how she left Pharaoh’s palace with her modesty and Avram’s dignity intact- Genesis ch 12 v 11-20).

Avraham was already in his eighties when God told him that they would begin a new nation. “He (God) brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if you are able to number them. And He said to him, “So shall your seed be.” (ch. 15  v.5)   If you have ever been in the desert or in countryside on a cloudless night the sky is unbelievable. The sky is so crowded with stars one wonders how many diamonds can fit up there. And that was God’s promise to this man and woman who traveled the land together and were our first leaders.

Avraham and Sarah were told they would not be able to number their descendants, and look at us now. There are millions of Jews living in Israel and around the world. We have never disappeared. God kept His promise. Our history hasn’t been an easy or pleasant one, but we’re still here! And we have our homeland, Israel.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote a wonderful essay for this difficult time. Here is the link:  https://www.facebook.com/rabbisacks/posts/999081956809626

Let us hope for peace and honesty in the very near future.

Have a Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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VaYeilech- And He Went

ShabbatShuva sigart by Laya Crust

Our haftarah is a combination of readings from Hosea, Micah and Joel, known as Shabbat Shuva. The reading begins, “שובה ישׂראל Return, Israel, to the Lord your Gd…”

This haftarah is always read on the Shabbat before Yom Kippur. As in the painting above, people from all the corners of the world gather to hear the shofar and pray.The

The Torah reading is “VaYeilech”, in which Moshe continues his farewell to the children of Israel. The nation is in the desert, ready to enter the Promised Land. Moshe is standing before them and wishing them strength and courage as tey continue into Canaan.

P1140028

art by Laya Crust

Moshe spent much of his life leading this nation out of slavery and to  freedom. He started with their parents and grandparents in Egypt and continued with this generation and their children in the desert. Chosen by Gd he led them through wars, drought, and internal revolts. He began the journey with his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam but they both died. At this juncture Moshe was the lone leader ready to appoint a successor. It seems that as life shifted Moshe’s emotions shifted too. In VaYeilech he sounded more like a father than he ever had before.

He began by saying, I am 120 years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. The Lord told me, “You will not cross the Jordan.”  Moshe continued by telling the nation that Gd would continue to guide and protect them. Three times in this parsha we read the words “חזק ואמץ“,  “be strong and have courage”. Moshe was aware they depended on him and that however much he himself wanted to finish the journey with b’nei Yisrael he couldn’t.

With these words he gave the nation guidance for the future- words to carry in their hearts, recognition of their potential, and strength to continue.

Moshe knew his journey had ended. He had led an incredible life, devoting himself to Gd and His people. He knew that he had not been perfect but his entire life was dedicated to carrying out what he knew his purpose was and doing it in the best way possible.

In these days between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur that is part of what we should think about. This is a time to consider what our mission in life is and to carry it out in truth and an open heart.

Have a meaningful fast.

I wish you, your family and friends a year of health, happiness and peace,

Laya

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Shabbat Shira – it’s music

Miriam's Song

Miriam’s Song by Laya Crust

Parshat b’Shalach

Haftarah: Judges 4: 4 – 5: 31

Music is magical. We can’t see it, touch it, smell it or taste it. We can hear it and magically it can transform our mood and take us to other places in our imagination. We all know about love songs (a billion), break-up songs (2 billion), songs of tribute (Starry Night  about Vincent Van Gogh) and patriotic songs (Le Marseillaise). All our secrets can be unearthed (Killing Me Softly) and raw emotion can exposed (Stravinsky).

It is a beautiful union of art, science, math and imagination. I remember a friend of mine- a physicist- being amazed and unbelieving when I told him I loved music. “How is that possible? ” he asked. “You’re an artsy.” I was really surprised by that comment because I had always thought that music was art and emotion. And then I found out the close relationship between science and music. I’ve been working on a new composition (visual, not musical) for an engineer (physics, not train). Because he is, from what I can tell, equally music and science oriented I wanted to merge the two fields in my painting.  My intention is to merge the spectrum of tone, the measure of the notes and the background ordering of the staff. Here is a draft of my ideas:

20150127_183737art by Laya Crust

Music is an integral part of  joyous Judaism. In the Torah portion B’shalach we read “The Song of the Sea”.  It is Moses’ song of praise to God that was sung after the Israelites safely crossed the Red (or Reed) Sea, and were saved from the angry Egyptian army. The women, led by the prophet Miriam, sang and danced and made music on their tof, a hand held drum. There is a beautiful painting of the women led by Miriam playing their drums in The Golden Haggadah, and another lovely rendition in The Sarajevo Haggadah.

This Bible reading describing the escape into the desert, across the sea, and the ultimate Song of the Sea is paired with an adventure story in the Book of Judges. Led by the prophet Devorah the Israelites win a battle against Sisera’s Army. A woman named Yael completes the defeat by killing Sisera. Devorah then sings a song of praise about the triumph and Yael’s conquest. halleluhu0052

 The painting here shows biblical instruments mentioned in prayers we say in the morning.

When we are happy, when we are sad, when we want to remember or forget, when we want to meditate or pray, be left alone or celebrate with others we often turn to music. Because it is a comforting, joyous and spiritual medium the most beautiful parts of prayer are often paired with music.

So enjoy the art, the sounds, and the music around you.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

I would love it if you would share your thoughts or stories about music. Even if it’s lyrics to ballads by cowboys, the loneliest lyrics in the world.

 
Artist in Residence,  The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto

website  layacrust.com

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The Best Bedtime Stories

Bo sigart by Laya Crust

Parshat Bo: Exodus, chapter 10 -13

Haftarah: Jeremiah  46: 13 -28

The Best Bedtime Stories

Story time is one of the best times of the day.  We are transported to magical places. We meet extraordinary people and see things we would never come across on a typical day. Stories make time enchanting when reality is boring. You need to get someone to brush teeth? Tell a story. The wait in the doctor’s office is hours long? Tell a story. The car ride isn’t ending? Tell a story.

Our family’s favourite source of stories was Tanach (the Jewish Bible). Between the angels, the giants, the talking snakes and the trickery, what could be more exciting?

Take this week’s Torah reading. Our heroes are Moses and Aaron, two poor brothers, who were on a quest to free a nation of slaves. The downtrodden  slaves were in the grasp of a powerful ruler, the Pharaoh of Egypt. To Pharaoh’s surprise Moses and Aaron had managed to turn the water in Egypt to blood, bring millions of frogs into the cities and fields, create an infestation of lice, and destroy the spring crops with balls of flaming hail.

This week’s episode have the brothers confronting Pharaoh again.  Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ” How long are you going to be so stubborn? If you don’t let the slaves go God is going to send locusts.” The plague of locusts attacked the land, and destroyed all the crops the hail had left. That was followed by a darkness so thick the darkness could be touched. Neither Egyptians nor their animals could see or move for 3 days and three nights.

darkness 20048painting by Laya Crust

Even so, Pharaoh refused to be threatened. He raised himself up and through gritted teeth proclaimed, “Get away from me. Take heed of yourself. Never approach me again. For on the day you see my face again, you will die!” And Moses answered, “You have spoken well. I will see your face again no more.”

Then the two brothers rushed to the slaves, told them to grab their belongings and get ready for the dangerous road to freedom.

What a story!

babiesarava, challah 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So do yourself a favour. Get a comfy couch, a couple of cuddly kids, some milk and cookies. Then open up your friendly bible to Exodus chapter 10. It’s a great read . Be warned, it can get a little sad or scary at parts. That’s part of the adventure too.

Come back next week- same time, same place, and you’ll see what new exploration we may embark upon.

Laya

Artist in Residence,  The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto     website http://www. layacrust.com

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Vaera

VaEira sigArt by Laya Crust

Ezekiel  28:25 – 29:21

Ezekiel was a prophet who was exiled to Babylon around 597 BCE. It was Ezekiel who had the Vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones and who put two branches together to indicate that the two kingdoms of Judah and Joseph (the Northern Kingdom of Israel) would be united. His leadership and message of personal responsibility helped keep the Jews unified while in exile.

In this haftarah Ezekiel, living in Chaldea, warned the Jews not to ally themselves with Egypt against Babylon. Under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule it seemed that the Jews were allowed their own houses and lands and their own internal government. Ezekiel wanted to ensure that the Jews didn’t forget God and their traditions. But he did not want them to ally themselves with the Egyptians- because the Egyptians would be slaughtered.

The haftarah painting above parallels the parsha. In the parsha Moses brought down plagues against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Blood, frogs, lice, flies, cattle disease and hail all “attacked” the Egyptians.  In the haftarah Ezekiel likened Pharaoh to a “tanin” (alligator? dragon?). God said He would pull the “tanin” out of the Nile with hooks. The land of Egypt would become desolate as would the Nile. Rather than Egypt conquer Babylon, Babylon would decimate Egypt.

The haftarah and parsha are each about enslavement and the Jewish people not being in their own land. Jacob and his family went down to Egypt looking for a better life and ended up enslaved. The Jews in Israel were exiled to Babylon where they made as good a life as possible yet longed for  return to Jerusalem.

I just came back from New York where I saw industry and  construction all around me.

20150114_150700[1]

20150114_144452[1]

photographs by Laya Crust

The symmetry of the structures and the patterns they create can be hypnotic. Everything seems busy- even the scaffolding. For centuries people have been leaving other countries and continents for New York. Sometimes people go because they want an easier life, a more affluent life, or an adventure. Others are fleeing persecution, discrimination or poverty. Just as in our Torah and haftarah reading, it’s easy to slide into a new environment and begin leaving our religion and beliefs behind. Fortunately there are always special individuals who remind us of our roots and ideals.20150112_195911[1]

This is an Aaron HaKodesh door designed for a family that lives in Manhattan. The Aaron HaKodesh was built to hold an ancient  Torah scroll given by his grandfather to the father when he became BarMitzvah. I designed this door to express the fdamily’s joy of Judaism. The way they express their joy is through a warmth and openess to others, Jewish observance, love of Israel and kindness to those around them. These actions ensure Judaism continues- one of this week’s Torah themes. Our readings this week are about conviction, continuity in the face of difficulty, and  faith in God and His promise to never abandon us.

You can enlarge the images by clicking on them. Have a Shabbat Shalom, and enjoy this week’s exciting adventures in the Torah!

Laya

Artisit in Residence for https://pomegranateguild.wordpress.com/

Visit my website at http://layacrust.com/

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Shemot

Shemot sig art by Laya Crust

Isaiah  27:6 – 28:13 and 29: 22,23

Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 BCE

The haftarah for Shemot is from the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah lived during the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Assyrians. At this point Judah was the only Jewish independent sovereignty. The others had all fallen due to immorality, drunkenness and failure in faith.  Isaiah predicts that Judah will also be defeated.  It is a trerribly low point for the Jews.

This is similar to the situation of B’nei Yisrael in the parsha. Jacob’s descendants had gone to Egypt under the protection of the Pharaoh . They lived and flourished in Goshen, separate from the Egyptians. According to the parsha  after Joseph dies the Pharaoh says, “Behold, the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us…”  and that was the beginning of the end of comfortable living for b’nei Yisrael. When the new Pharaoh Egyptians noticed them- their numbers, their individuality and their strength he became concerned- maybe even paranoid. To counter the success and numbers of the Hebrews  Pharaoh began the process of their enslavement. By the time Moses was born the Hebrews were almost at their lowest point. They had lost their independence and they were commanded to drown any baby boy who was born to them.

       

                                   Barcelona Haggadah         Golden Haggadah

The children of Israel were at their most desperate point in their history until that time.  Unbelievably their situation worsened following Moses and Aaron’s appeal to Pharaoh.

The greatest similarity between the the haftarah and the parsha is the depths to which b’nei Yisrael had fallen. Unfortunately Jews have faced those unbearable conditions and situations numerous times.  I wanted to show the hopelessness and pain of B’nei Yisrael in my illustration for the parsha and haftarah of Shemot, and tie it to a broader history. The Shoah was the darkest time for Jews in recent history.  As in Egypt the Jews quickly moved from positions of honour and equality to  those of poverty and enslavement. In the parsha the murder of baby boys was mandated. Of course in the Shoah the mandate was taken further than that.

In my investigations of imagery  I found a series of woodcuts by Miklos Adler, a Jew from Lithuania who had been transported to Auschwitz and then to Vienna. He was liberated from Theresienstadt. The woodcut I chose shows Jewish slaves labouring under the whip of an S.S. soldier, with a Jewish corpse disregarded at the feet of the Nazi. Miklos Adler did a series of 16 woodcuts. 7 of them were printed in “A Survivor’s Haggadah”  which was edited and compiled by Yosef Dov Sheinson for Pesach, 1946.

There is such darkness and horror conveyed in the images in that Haggadah that I felt it connected the three time periods together- B’nei Yisrael in Egypt, the Jews under the Assyrians, and the Shoah.

Today, January 8, 2015, is the day after a terrible massacre of political cartoonists in France. The perpetrators of the assassinations are men who hate democracy. They blame democracy for the ills of the world. In the 1930’s and 40’s the Jews were blamed for Germany’s economic problems. In Egypt Pharaoh was ready to enslave and blame B’nei Yisrael for whatever he feared at the time. Blame is easy and can become toxic and evil very quickly. It’s easy to blame someone else or “society” for a difficulty we face or for an offence an “underdog” has committed. Each of us should try to safeguard against empty blame and try to solve the difficulties we face. That way we can be stronger as a nation and as a world.

Vive la liberte. May democracy and respect prevail.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

Artist in residence for The Pomegranate Guild  of Judaic Textiles  https://pomegranateguild.wordpress.com/

Visit my website  http://layacrust.com/

 

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