Tag Archives: Hebrew school

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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B’ Ha’alotecha

Behaalotchaart by Laya Crust

Numbers: ch 8- ch 12 Zechariah:  ch 2:14 – 4:7 Zechariah was a prophet in Jerusalem around the year 520 BCE.  The Jews had been exiled to Babylon but under King Cyrus were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Zechariah and Haggai encouraged the people to stop being so despondent and start rebuilding their destroyed temple.

Zechariah by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

This haftarah is replete with angels- angels talking to Joshua and angels talking to and waking Zechariah.  Zechariah tells the angel that he has had a vision of a golden menorah flanked by two olive trees. A bowl  above the menorah has seven pipes funneling olive oil to the menorah.  When the angel realizes that Zechariah doesn’t understand the symbolism of the vision he explains that the trees represent the leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel in building the Second Temple. The angel says, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” meaning that the reestablishment of the Jewish people will come through faith, not war.

Cervera, Spain, c. 1300

My illustration at the top was based on this beautiful manuscript painting from Spain, with the menorah panted in gold leaf. The menorah was a central fixture in the Temple and was lit by the Kohanim. The wicks of the menorah were arranged to shed light in one flame. That light can be seen as  the light we bring to the world.

Interestingly, is is the menorah that is the symbol of Judaism and the emblem of the State of Israel.

On that thought , may you have an illuminated week and weekend, full of flaming conversation and bright ideas.

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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Tetzaveh

Titzaveh

Tetzaveh

Ezekiel 43: 10 – 27

Ezekiel (prophet) – c.622 BCE – 570 BCE

It’s February- winter for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. Here I am in Toronto watching the snow relentlessly falling. The wind is swirling the snowflakes around those of us who have taken a walk outside. Travelling -even in our imaginations– from snowfall 2014 to Babylon 565 BCE is quite a distance. But that’s where we are going.

P1110163

Ezekiel, the son of a Cohen, was among the 8,000 Jews to be exiled to Babylon in 597 BCE.

In the Book of Ezekiel,Chapter 40, Ezekiel writes that he is carried by G-d to the land of Israel. He is set on top of a very high mountain where he sees something like the structure of a city. A man who looks like he is made of brass proceeds to give Ezekiel a very thorough tour of the future Temple.  We read about the restored Temple of Jerusalem with detailed descriptions of each element that is to be measured and positioned. The descriptions continue for over 3 chapters. The haftarah begins with the words, “Thou, son of man, describe the house to the house of Israel that they may be ashamed of their iniquities…And if they are ashamed of all that they have done make known to them the form of the house…”

 G-d gave Ezekiel an incredible amount of information on the construction of the next Temple. Along with the architectural and design plans came a provision- that the Jews had to feel remorse over their  wrongdoing. It  appears that the description of the Temple  to the Jews was in order to give them hope that they would have their Jewish world restored in the future. They were miserable. It was the 25th year of the exile to Babylon. G-d wanted to give them hope but it to be clear, however, that the temple would only be restored if the Jews were repentant and corrected their behaviours and observances.

There have been many interpretations on the appearance of the Temple over the millenia.

I based my drawing at the top of this post on a rendering of Solomon’s Temple from an illumination in an early 12th C. German manuscript. The manuscript is currently in Vienna, Austria in the National Library. I loved the way the artist showed every little detail of the Temple. The columns were drawn, the altar, the basins, the incense. And to give the viewer a true idea of the appearance of each item they were drawn on the floor plan as one would see them if the objects were standing up. It may have been done in the 12th C, but it may also have been a forerunner to the cubists. (Just joking. Maybe I’ll give a lesson on cubism another day.)

We may not be exiles in Babylon but Jews all over the world today still hope for the rebuilding of the Third Temple.  We have  a few ideas we can carry with us from this week’s haftarah- one of the ambition to live lives of goodness and integrity, and the continued longing for a unified nation able to pray together in Jerusalem.

So- what do you think of Ezekiel’s opportunity to see the Third Temple and tell his fellow Jews about it? The concept of Ezekiel being carried by G-d from Babylon to a mountain top in the future Israel is quite amazing.

Share your thoughts and share this post with your friends and on Facebook. Take care and I’ll be back next week…..

(a note:  I reconfigured the floor plan so it would fit the long narrow format that I waned for the Haftarah series.)

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Terumah

Terumah sig

Kings I,  5:26-6:13

King Solomon –  Succeeded David as King in the year  967 B.C.E.

King Solomon ruled for 40 years. He was known for his wisdom, his wealth and his writings. The haftarah and Torah portion both discuss the construction of HaShem’s “home”. In parshat Terumah G-d tells Moses that the children of Israel should make G-d a sanctuary (called a mishkan in Hebrew). Beautifully, G-d includes EVERYONE who wants to be included the project. He says to accept contributions from everyone who has a willing heart.

This announcement is followed by a list of materials that are needed to build the mishkan. It is quite an undertaking to build a portable sanctuary in the desert, but the plans are dictated and this how it may have looked. 

The haftarah is about the construction of King Solomon’s  most famous achievement – building the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The construction of the Temple under King Solomon’s reign began around 958 B.C.E. The trees (cedars and cypress) and stones were imported from Lebanon. I began to imagine how the materials were transported from Lebanon southward to Jerusalem- over mounatins, through forests, all uncultivated terrain. The idea is daunting. There were huge numbers of men involved in the production. Thirty thousand men went to Lebanon in shifts of 10,000 men, one month at a time. Seventy thousand men carried the loads. Eighty thousand men quarried the mountains. 3,300 men were appointed as overseers. It made me think of the building of the national railway in Canada!

The haftarah doesn’t describe how the stones and lumber were carried to Jerusalem. I thought about the technology of the time. Would the material be carried on ox carts? On flatbeds with wheels? With a pulley system? It seemed impossible. Then I realized- these large, heavy materials were probably transported on the Mediterranean Sea down the coast to the nearest port, and then overland to Jerusalem. The logs could have been floated down and the quarried stone could have been taken by ship or rafts. I immediately remembered a beautiful ketubah- a favourite design of mine- from 1853 Istanbul, Turkey. istanbul ketubah02It shows two large, beautiful trees on the banks of the Bosphorous River with boats sailing in the water.

This image seemed perfect for the haftarah with its abundance of trees, elaborate structures and many side chambers extending from the central building. And the flowers and the leaves!  We see the vivid florals and fruits within the foliage. (We know that there were pomegranates and lilies on the columns in the Temple.)

This ketubah, unlike many other historical  ketuboth, is painted on paper rather than parchment. The artist used watercolour and gold leaf on the artwork. The profusion of foliage is typical of ketuboth from Turkey and other Muslim countries. The leaves and flowers are painted very closely together and the dark green  of the leaves creates a wonderful undulating movement in the decoration. As is typical of these ketuboth the text is written in tiny cursive lettering centered within the arched opening allocated for lettering.

All that building and transportation mentioned in the haftarah text resulted in a beautiful structure. Unlike the mishkan which was dictated by G-d, the Temple was designed by people.

Quite an amazing feat for thousands of years ago. We don’t have the beauty of the Temple today, and we pray for its return. In the meantime haShem has blessed artists and artisans with the ability to create beautiful objects with which to enhance our daily lives and our special occasions. And thus- the beautiful ketubah from 1853 Istanbul.
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