Tag Archives: Joel

VaYeilech- Shabbat Shuva

VaYeilech- Shabbat Shuva by Laya Crust

Shabbat Shuva is the Shabbat between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur. On Rosh haShana we were in synagogue thinking about our past year and obstacles we faced. Many of us wondered about the coming year and what it would bring. Many of the prayers remind us of the fragility of our lives and the inevitability of death. Who will die? What is in store for us, our friends, and for our families?

The Torah reading begins with Moses’ words, “I am 120 years old today. I can no longer go out and come in, for Gd told me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan’. HaShem your Gd, He will cross before you…” Moses, the greatest prophet and leader, had to face death. But he reminded the Israelites that Gd is the eternal leader of the Jewish people.

The haftarah reading is a combination of texts from three prophets. Hosea, Micah, and Joel. The three prophets, each in their own way, ask us to endeavour to improve ourselves.

I based my painting at the top of the page on a piece by the American artist Ben Shahn. It is based on his painting called Ram’s Horn and Menorah. It illustrates Joel’s words, “Blow a shofar in Zion, consecrate a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, ready the congregation…” The words describe our communities getting ready for the Days of Awe, and Shahn in his unique way used colour and movement to convey the awe, fear and unity of these important days of reflection.

His life was dedicated to human rights and social action, and he expressed that through his prolific artworks. His paintings, graphic art, photographs and essays are devoted to the “human condition”.  The strength of human beings to survive difficulty and stand tall in the face of adversity and unfairness runs through his works. His paintings are gritty, honest, and thought-provoking.

Image result for ben shahn poster
Image result for ben shahn paintings

Shahn’s work communicates the struggle of the human spirit to succeed, not just to survive. He reminds us that we don’t live in a bubble. We must care for ourselves and those around us. Those are among the meditations of Rosh HaShana.

We are reborn each day. Each day we have the opportunity to make new choices and make them good choices. Each day we can forgive ourselves for what we didn’t do yesterday, or what we wish we had done differently. We can begin anew and strive to have a fulfilling day.

May this year be a year of health, growth, improvement and goodness. Enjoy your Shabbat and have a meaningful Yom Kippur. To you and your family from me and my family,

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.

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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 Shuva

ShabbatShuva sig

Hosea 14:2-10,   Micah 7:18-20,   Joel 2:15-27

It’s that time of year again, the count down to the holiest days of the year, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

The Shabbat between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is called “Shabbat Shuva” meaning “The Shabbat of Return”. The first words in the haftarah are, “Return (shuva), Israel, to the Lord your Gd…”  The words direct our thoughts to introspection. Later in the haftarah, in the book of Joel, it says, “Blow the horn in Zion, sanctify a fast…” The illustration for this week shows a leader blowing a shofar. People of all colours- representing people from different corners of the world- are hearing the shofar. Above them is the hand of Gd surrounded by flames, representing Gd’s presence. This illustration is based on a wonderful painting by the American Artist Ben Shahn. Shahn was born in Lithuania and came to America with his family in the early 20th Century. His life was dedicated to human rights and social action, and he expressed that through his prolific art works.

Social responsibility and expression through art is part of our history. This summer my family and I were lucky enough to go to Israel and to Prague, an amazing jewel of a city in the Czech republic. The streets are lined with beautiful, beautiful buildings. Everywhere we turned there were sculptures, embellished doorways, and decorative columns. The curving streets showcased colourful homes and eye catching balconies and windows. 
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We walked the streets and looked at the six synagogues there, synagogues that had been built throughout the centuries. The oldest is the “Alte Neu Schul” (Old New Shul) built in 1254. Two legends surround this amazing medieval structure. One is that the wings of angels transformed into doves to protect the synagogues from fire in the ghetto. The other is that of the famous “Golem” . The story is told that the Maharal, Rabbi Loew, created the Golem out of clay in order to protect the Jews of Prague. It is said that the Golem’s remains are in the attic (but we didn’t see the Golem or his remains).

The newest synagogue was built in 1906 and is breathtaking, inspired by Moorish architecture. It was built as a Reform synagogue and has an immense organ in it.  Two of Prague’s six synagogues have regular services and two of the synagogues are museums to the Jews lost in the Holocaust.

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 The beauty of Prague and the long history of Jews there was put into stark relief by our trip to the Terezin work camp/ transit camp/ ghetto 45 minutes outside of Prague. Walking through the camp where thousands of Jews had walked was more than sobering, and I have yet to integrate my impressions and emotions. Thousands of deported children, infants, women, and men walked those roads and through those doorways. But through the impossibly dark situation art flourished. Painting, theatre, music and composition were produced. Operas and plays were written and performed. Children published weekly newsletters. Although the circumstances were devastating  hope, faith and beauty survived. We saw hundreds of beautiful watercolours and drawings as well as original musical scores and even intricately crafted hand-made dolls. How inspiring!

Prayer was elevated too. A small  synagogue was built in secret. A man named Artur Berlinger decorated a storage room, painting designs and Hebrew quotations on the walls.  He led services there for a small group that lived on the same street. Below you can see stars painted on the ceiling and candles painted on the walls. The wall decoration ws intact until the flood of 2002 damaged them.

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In Prague and Terezin we saw the art of the synagogues and the art of the people. It was all around us in different forms. The art, music, theatre and architecture were created by Jews through different eras for different purposes. Much of it was done by  architects and craftsmen, but much of it was done by non-artists, adults and children, men and women, who loved artistic and creative expression.

 Art, music and creativity help make the world a brighter place.  They bring comfort to the creators and designers. The art can bring ideas, pleasure and even escape to the audience. Positive action, good deeds, political awareness- all these things are important too. So however you approach these holidays, may this be a time for reflection and creativity..
What do you think? I’d love to read your comments.
Shabbat Shuva Shalom,  Laya

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