Tag Archives: king solomon

Va Yak’hel

Inspired Va Yikahel sig

“Inspired Workmanship” by Laya Crust

In the previous Torah reading, “Ki Tissa”, we read about the sin of “the golden calf”. Just to remind you, Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God and bring them down to the Israelites below.  When Moses didn’t arrive at the expected time the nation grew worried and anxious, fearing that something bad had happened. They demanded a god, an idol,  to pray to. Breaking off their jewellery they fashioned a golden calf. The nation was punished by God. The golden calf was destroyed and three thousand men were killed.

In this week’s Torah reading Moshe invited all the people, whoever was generous of heart, ” נדיב לבו“, to bring forward gold, silver, brass, dyed linen and goats’ hair, wood, oil, spices, and precious gems. All these materials would be used to craft holy objects for the mishkan. The items to be crafted were listed and described, and  the people came forward with all that had been requested. The magnificence is described close on the heels of the sin of fashioning the golden calf. 

Wasn’t it contradictory- to punish the people for creating a golden calf but then command them to make expensive objects to be used in religious observance? The Israelites loved ornamentation and beauty. They gave their gold and precious jewelry to Aaron to make an idol to replace the absent Moshe. The answer to this seeming contradiction is in the wording.

Phrases like “wise hearted”  and “willing of heart” appear 15 times in this parsha. Only individuals who were wise hearted and generous could see past the expense and glitter of the materials through to the purpose of  prayer and service to God.  Those who are wise and generous can understand and facilitate elevation of spirit.

Beauty feeds the soul and God understood- and understands this. This parsha acknowledges the need the Israelites had for something beautiful and tangible to help them find comfort and help the on their journey.

Image result for 1299, Perpignan manuscript illumination

1299, Perpignan

Bezalel was chosen to be head architect and designer. He was filled with the spirit of God, with creativity, with understanding and with the knowledge of all kinds of craft. His aide, Oholiab, was also filled with wisdom of heart. Men and women were all invited to contribute and participate in the building of the mishkan and all the objects within it as long as they were generous of heart.

The value God places on creativity is the theme of my illustrationThe vessels are the brass pieces used in the mishkan. The painting is based on a  beautiful and timeless illumination from 1299, Perpignan, Aragon.  The two quotations are from the parsha:  “Take from among you an offering of the Lord, whoever is of a willing heart let them bring it…” (35:5)     “And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing of heart.” (35:22) The sparkling watercolour wash behind the quotations represents imagination and spirituality.

So, artists, artisans, wood workers, poets, musicians, playwrights, weavers, silversmiths,  authors, painters, dancers, photographers and potters, when you work with integrity and inspiration remember that it is God’s gift to you. This is your contribution to the spiritual beauty of the world.

Have Shabbat Shalom- one full of beauty and joy and of course – creative thinking. Hoping for peace and equality in the world,

Laya

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Shir haShirim and Springtime

Earth Tree 0028 Ketubah by Laya Crust with quotations from Shir haShirim

Ahhh, springtime. A beautiful time of the year. The flowers are blooming and we are surrounded by the sweet smells of blossoming trees.

Last week during the Shabbat of Passover we read Shir haShirim, or The Song of Songs. There are two interpretations of Shir haShirim. Throughout history many Rabbis and scholars have opined that Shir haShirim is an allegory for the love between God and the people of Israel.  The other interpretation is that it is a  love poem written by King Solomon for the Queen of Sheba.

It is an amazingly beautiful piece – poetic and lyrical. Within this poem of two lovers seeking and dreaming of each other are nestled gemsP1140782 describing nature and springtime.

Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle dove
is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.

I decided to write some of my favourite phrases from Shir haShirim in a triangular accordion fold book. There are some lovely handmade papers infused with flower petals and grasses, so I chose one of those papers  and wrote the text in a deep but subdued green, beckoning springtime into the letters themselves.

The poetry continues. In chapter 4  King Solomon describes aromatic breezes wafting through an enclosed garden. The night winds are scented with the perfumes of exotic spices.  “Nard and saffron, fragrant reed and cinnamon,with all aromatic woods, myrrh and aloes- all the choice perfumes. A garden spring, a well of fresh water, and streams from Lebanon.” P1140787

The poetry is wrapped up and enclosed, ready to be opened and shared with the world.

Coincidently, William Shakespeare was born on April 23,  1564 . (I wonder if he was a Pesach baby?) He died almost exactly 400 years ago, on May 3, 1616. He is known for his romantic writings, his plays and his sonnets. Sonnet 98 refers to both the flowers of spring and to love. But, I have to say it, Shir haShirim is a better read!

Take care. Feel the breeze on your face. Breathe in the beautiful scents of young blossoms. Enjoy the spring.

Best, Laya

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Vayechi

Va'yechi Sigartwork by Laya Crust

1 Kings 2:1- 12

King David, on his deathbed, giving guidance to his son Solomon who will become King.

Today is January 1, 2015, the first day of the new year on the Gregorian calendar. (FYI: It was named the Gregorian calendar after the man who first introduced it in February 1582: Pope Gregory XIII.)

Both the haftarah and the parsha are narratives of handing over the reigns of power. In the parsha Yaakov, on his deathbed, describes each of his sons. He goes on to predict how they will lead their lives. In the haftarah King David tells Solomon to vanquish their enemies, be strong and  follow Gd’s laws. Each of these men- Yaakov and David- recognize that the end of their lives is a new beginning for their sons. The new era will hopefully be easier and better than the era being left behind.

New Year’s is seen in the same way in our Western culture. We look at our ups and downs from the past year and make “New Year’s Resolutions” in the hope of having a better and/or more successful year.  In Judaism we have a beautiful prayer we say each morning, “My Gd, the soul You placed within me  is pure. You created it. You fashioned it, You breathed it into me. You safeguard it within me and eventually you will take it from me and restore it to me in time to come. As long as the soul is within me I gratefully thank you my Gd and Gd of my forefathers, Master of all works, Lord of all souls…”

Morning Prayer0059abstraction of prayer by Laya Crust

Each day we have the opportunity to see our life as a new beginning. Each day we have the opportunity to make a change for the better, face a challenge, or make a fresh start.

In this week’s texts Yaakov and David, reflecting on their own lives, were giving their sons guidance in how to look ahead. Their sons could take the exhortations as face value reflection and advice, or could take them on a more profound level. The deeper level would be for the sons to listen to their father’s and ask themselves- “What can I change in myself in order to heed this wisdom and at the same time beome a better person using the wisdom?”

In the same way we can greet January 1, and remind ourselves we can do things we love, that make us feel good, and are beneficial to others. On the same note when we read the prayer thanking Gd and we remind ourselves that we have a fresh soul each day.We can use the newness of each day to move ourseleves towards a greater ideal.

So- Happy New Year, Happy New Day, and enjoy the readings this week! Click on the images to enlarge them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Va Yak’hel

Va Yikahel sig

Kings I  7: 40 – 50

King Solomon- c. 979 BCE – 927 BCE. He was known for his wisdom, wealth and poetry.

This week’s Torah reading describes the creation of holy objects for the mishkan. It describes the materials- the gold, silver, brass, precious stones, and materials for spinning fabric. The haftarah describes the crafted vessels for King Solomon’s Temple. The magnificence is described close on the heels of the sin of fashioning the golden calf. 

Isn’t it contradictory- to punish the people for creating a golden calf but then command them to make expensive objects to be used in religious observance? They loved ornamentation and beauty. They gave their gold and precious jewelry to Aaron to make an idol to replace the absent Moshe. The answer to the contradiction is in the wording.

Phrases like “wise hearted”  and “willing of heart” appear 15 times in this parsha.  

That is the difference between the mishkan and the Temple; and the golden calf which is an idol. Only individuals who were wise hearted and generous could see past the expense and glitter of the materials through to the purpose of the prayer and service to God.  Those who are wise and generous can understand and facilitate elevation of spirit.

In this parsha my two sides are recognized- the entity of artist and the entity of womanhood.  Women are often disregarded in our writings, but here  men and women are recognized equally as being wise hearted and willing hearted.

The value God places on creativity was the theme of my illustrationThe vessels are based on one of the beautiful and timeless illuminations from 1299, Perpignan, Aragon.  The watercolour wash represents imagination and spirituality. The two quotations are from the parsha:  “Take from among you an offering of the Lord, whoever is of a willing heart let them bring it…” (35:5)     “And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing of heart.” (35:22)

So you artists, artisans, wood workers, poets, musicians, playwrights, weavers, silversmiths, etc. etc.- when you work with integrity and inspiration remember that it is God’s gift to you. This is your contribution to the spiritual beauty of the world.

Have Shabbat Shalom- one full of beauty and joy and of course – creative thinking.

**When you “click” on the illustration it will enlarge.

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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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