Tag Archives: Pharaoh

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.

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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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Bo- (or Be Careful What You Wish For)

Bo sig

Jeremiah 46: 13-28

Jeremiah (prophet) c. 655 BCE -586 BCE

Do you remember the short story by W. W. Jacobs called “The Monkey’s Paw”? We read it in school. It’s a chilling story about wishes that are granted by a mysterious monkey’s paw. The wishes are indeed granted but in horrifying ways with devastating results.

Many of us have experienced odd weather in the last few weeks. December arrived without a snowflake in Toronto, Canada where I live. Many people wished for a “White Christmas” or skiing weather for the winter break. Their prayers answered. We had extraordinary snow and ice storms in North America that moved all the way from the mid west to the east coast.

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 Trees and plants encased encased in ice were beautiful,

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but the blackouts and lack of heat and electricity were quite difficult- especially for those people who went without power for 10 days. 

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And of course Israelis and others around the world saw their share of devastating beauty with the snow and ice storms and flash floods they experienced only a month ago.

That brings me to this week’s parsha and haftarah. In parshat Bo,  Moshe as                                      G-d’s mouthpiece warns Pharaoh that if he doesn’t free the children of Israel there will be dire consequences. Three more plagues are visited upon the Egyptians. After the plagues of locusts and darkness Pharaoh loses patience with Moses. He wants the threats and the plagues to stop. Menacingly, Pharaoh proclaims to Moshe , “Go from before me, take heed of yourself. See my face no more- for on the day you see my face you will die.” Moshe  answers, “You have spoken well. I will not see your face again.” Pharaoh’s threat is taken seriously. He will never see Moshe again, but the payoff is that his eldest son- and the eldest of all Egyptians die.  Pharaoh’s wish came true- but it came at a horrific price.

The haftarah is from the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived most of his life in Israel, witnessing both sieges of Jerusalem (597 and 586). In this haftarah, after the fall of the First Temple, he warns the Children of Israel not to ally themselves with Egypt. He prophesies that Egypt will fall under the hands of Babylon.  The illustration shows Egypt being confronted by Jeremiah. That is represented by Pharaoh (Egypt) facing Moshe (Jeremiah). The background suggests the wall paintings found on ancient Egyptian frescoes and scroll paintings. The images Jeremiah uses in his warnings about Egypt are painted here- the heifer, gadflies, serpent, locusts, and trees that will be cut down. It is intriguing that the images the prophet uses echo the plagues visited upon the Egyptians.

Pharaoh’s decree not to see Moshe’s face again not only had negative implications, it had terrible results.

We are starting a new year in the Gregorian calendar. And we are entering the month of Shevat- the New Year for trees in the Jewish calendar. Many of us have a tradition of thinking about the coming year and making wishes or resolutions. We often make unnecessary or light-hearted wishes and resolutions. This year may we reflect more seriously on our realities. May we weigh what is important and what is not. Let’s not wish for good things- let’s work towards realizing them. May we achieve a year of health and  peace and integrity. And the world will become a better place through cooperation and respect.

Did you know that you can enlarge the painting at the top of this entry by clicking on it? That way you will see all the detail.                                                                                                                               We would love to read your comments and thoughts – so let us know what you think of this week’s entry. And feel free to share this blog with your friends.

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Shemot

Shemot sig

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. He was a prophet who lived during the fall of the kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians. At this point the tribe of Judah was the only tribe that had independence. Isaiah’s words are poetic but very strong. He criticizes the Northern Kingdom, the kingdom of Ephraim, describing their drunkenness and gluttony.  He goes on to predict that Judah too will fail. At the end of the haftarah Isaiah does manage to impart some comforting words. He says that the nation of Israel will return to G-d and sanctify Him.

The hafatarah takes place at a very difficult time for the Jews. The sovereignty and power of the northern kingdoms have disappeared and Judah will follow the same path.

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 who was in power during Joseph’s time. They lived 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. We can assume they lived in dwellings  similar to those of the Egyptians and had enough to eat. But once the Egyptians noticed them, their numbers, their individuality and their strength those in power 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, they were enslaved and were building the treasure cities of Pitom and Raamses, and they were commanded to drown any baby boy who was born to them. They were at their most desperate point in their history until that time.  Unbelievably their situation worsened following Moses and Aaron’s appeal to Pharaoh.

I thought about the similarities of the haftarah and the parsha. The greatest similarity was the depths to which b’nei Yisrael had fallen. Unfortunately Jews faced those unbearable conditions and situations numerous times.  The Shoah would be the darkest time 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 wss mandated. Of course in the Shoah the mandate was taken further than that.

I wanted to show the hopelessness and pain of B’nei Yisrael in my illustration for the parsha and haftarah of Shemot. 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 which 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.

Those were horrible periods of time to put it mildly. In the parsha HaShem sends Moses to the children of Israel because He has not forgotten them and will free them. The haftarah concludes with a positive prediction.  Isaiah says that , “[the house of] Jacob shall not now be ashamed…. they shall sanctify the Holy One of Jacob. and shall stand in awe of the Holy One of Israel.” And in present times? We cannot forget the loss of millions of lives and many more millions of their descendants z”l. But we can look with pride at the land we once again own, the innovations and improvements to the world brought by Israeli and non-Israeli Jews and the amount of Jewish learning that exists. We must be ever cognizant and protective of the continued freedom for our people.

 

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Joseph and His Threads

And Yisrael loved  Joseph

We read the story of Joseph every year. It’s quite a tale. There is jealousy, subversion, lust, deception, desperation and at the end there is reconciliation.  It’s a good adventure and provides inspiration for musicals and bedtime stories.

 In reading and rereading it I was struck by how often clothing is mentioned. We all think of the special coat Jacob gives Joseph, the act that seems to be the catalyst for subsequent events. Throughout the saga of Joseph and his family events are punctuated by references to clothing. Sometimes the reference is to a garment being torn in mourning.

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Often the change in an outfit announces the change in a scene or situation, as when Joseph is taken out of jail and given a set of clean clothing to wear before seeing Pharaoh. 

 Why was there this focus on clothing?

 Clothing has been mentioned in previous Torah texts. Often – not always- it is related to deception or humiliation and shame.  In the story of Adam and Eve clothing doesn’t appear until Adam and Eve have sinned and they put on fig leaves to cover themselves and hide from G-d. Noah, while drunk, is uncovered and thereby humiliated.  In the story of Jacob and Esau, Jacob dons animal skins and Esau’s clothing in order to fool his father Isaac.  Later Leah wears a veil at her wedding  to trick Jacob into believing he’s marrying Rachel.  In the next generation Joseph’s brothers grab his coat and dip it in blood to fool Jacob into thinking Joseph has died.  Tamar deceives Yehudah by wearing the garb of a harlot and  Potiphar’s wife grabs Joseph’s cloak and keeps it, fabricating (pun intended) a story,  accusing Joseph of trying to molest her. The biggest masquerade of all is that of Joseph. Wearing Pharaoh’s ring,  garments of fine linen and a gold chain, he entertains his brothers while hiding his true identity

 The story of Joseph is a saga, a twisting tale of favouritism and sibling rivalry. Joseph began his life as the chosen son and was given an exceptional coat.  He wore his fabulous coat, announcing to his brothers how wonderful he thought he was. Think of it- he wore his regal cloak- the mark of his father’s favouritism- to the fields where the brothers were working hard in the sun and he was visiting, not working. He was sold into slavery because of his arrogance. Being sold into slavery and transported to a foreign land Joseph faced huge challenges.  He used his faith, intelligence and wits, rising to the highest position available in the country. Clothing and appearance continued to be elements in the saga. Sometimes they hindered Joseph and other times benefited him.P1090525

 This story sets the scene for the next chapter of the history of B’nei Yisrael where the favoured descendants of Joseph become slaves. It’s a fascinating study. I thought about how the words wove a complicated and layered story.  The repeated reference to clothing mirrored the layering of the narrative. I looked at the words as the threads of the story line.  I wove those phrases dealing with nakedness, dress, and clothing  and created 18 images for the Joseph story line.

 It seems that much of Bereshit deals with deception and appearance. Faith in one G-d is the main message of Bereshit, but deception is another.  In Joseph’s family- in the entire Jacob family chronicle – people tampered with appearance. Instead of speaking honestly to each other they often tried to get what they wanted by masquerading.

We live in a world where we are judged not only how we behave but also by what we wear. Clothing in our daily lives announce who we are and how we want to be seen.  We live in a time and a society that is very tolerant of individuality (piercings, tattoos, dreadlocks, shaven heads, hemlines of all lengths, necklines of all depths). But we are  still judged by our appearance. We can use our appearances and garb to get ahead,  and to achieve our goals. We may be masquerading but the truth catches up with us. At the end of the day the world turns and things probably work out as they should. But- it’s probably more comfortable to wear the clothes that are real rather than dress up as someone else.

 

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