Tag Archives: tisha b’av

Tisha B’Av, Kamtza and Bar Kamtza

Despair by Laya Crust

We are coming to the end of the “Three Weeks of Mourning”, the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av is the Hebrew date of the ninth day of the month of Av. It is a day of Jewish mourning, commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. The first destruction was at the hands of the Babylonians and the second at the hands of the Romans. It meant the loss of our centre of worship, the loss of our home, and the expulsion from our homeland.

Kamtza bar Kamtza 1 by Laya Crust

There is a story of  two men with similar names, Kamtza and bar Kamtza. The men lived in Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple, under Roman domination. There was a misunderstanding and one of the men was insulted and shamed in front of other people. The repercussions just got worse and worse. Pride and lack of consideration tangled the possibility of a graceful conclusion.

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Kamtza Bar Kamtza 2 by Laya Crust

The story is often studied in conjunction with Tisha B’Av. It is used as an exemplar of how שנאת חינם , baseless hatred and intense social divisiveness, can cause the downfall of a society. If you want to read the story go to http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/404863/jewish/Kamtza-and-Bar-Kamtza.htm

We are seeing extremes in blame and hyperbole in the streets, in the media, and coming from angry world leaders every day.

Conflict destroys communities. People want their opinions to be heard, but often don’t want to listen to a different point of view. People talk over each other. The conversation becomes garbled, unintelligible and angry. Sometimes the conflicting ideas actually mirror each other. We need to listen to others in order to get on the same “line”.

Kamtza- bar Kamtza 3 by Laya crust

We must figure out how we can talk respectfully to those around us. Sometimes we hear things we don’t understand, that don’t make sense to us. The other opinion may sound like babble but sincere discussion and striving for compromise make peace possible.

Kamtza bar Kamtza 4 by Laya Crust

We don’t have to be in lockstep with anyone. We should never accept a stance that is destructive or cruel. But I have to believe that sincere communication can bring if not exactly what a nation or person wants, it can at least bring what a nation or person can handle in a peaceful and constructive way.

I hope open communication will become more widespread among families, communities, countries and regions. Empathy and mutual respect will save the world.

Have a good Shabbat and a meaningful Tisha B’Av,


The image “Despair” is part of the exhibit “ILLUMINATIONS” currently on display at the Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto, Canada. The exhibit includes 88 haftarah images created by Laya Crust, as well as a number of other art pieces. The display is open to the public.

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Mattot- Masei

Jeremiah’s Despair Laya Crust

It is the height of summer and we are observing a period of mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av, the day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples. There are three “Haftarahs of Rebuke” which are read in the three weeks preceding Tisha B’Av, all words from the prophet Jeremiah. On this week’s Shabbat we read two parshas: Mattot and Masei.

Jeremiah was a prophet whose life spanned the reign of 5 kings. It was a tumultuous time in Jewish history, a time of idolatry and war. Jeremiah warned B’nei Yisrael that they were going to be punished for their idol worship, . At the end of his life, in 586 BCE, Judah was destroyed and Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah, who was reviled for his messages, escaped to Egypt but the majority of Jews were exiled to Babylon. The illustration I created for Mattot is an homage to Art Spiegelman’s “Maus”. I have drawn Jeremiah looking out of his window watching his beloved city’s destruction.

The path the Israelites followed from Egypt to Canaan is described in great detail in the first 49 verses of the parsha Masei. It was a long and arduous journey for the Israelites and they strayed from Gd’s lessons throughout.

The Perilous Desert Journey Laya Crust

In the haftarah of Masei the prophet Jeremiah reminded B’nei Yisrael how Gd led His people “out of the land of Egypt, through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and pits, through a land of drought and of the shadow of death…. And into a land of fruitful fields…” (ch.2: 6,7). 

There is negativity and sadness in the haftarah. Jeremiah reminded B’nei Israel of the difficult trek through the desert and how Gd protected and took them to the Promised Land. Then Jeremiah describes B’nei Yisrael’s sins. At the very end of the haftarah Jeremiah mitigates the message slightly by telling the people that if they return to Gd “in sincerity, justice and righteousness nations will bless themselves by you and praise themselves by you.”

The word “איך”- How? is used twice in the haftarah asking how Israel can have changed so much, turning to sinning and base behaviour. This reminds us of the word “איכה”- the Hebrew word for “Lamentations”. On the Ninth of Av we will read the book of “Lamentations”.

Messages from the haftarah still resonate today. We are blessed to be in the “Land of Milk and Honey”, creating, cultivating, and helping nations in need. During these three weeks Jews all over the world will read Jeremiah’s words and hopefully try to improve themselves and society around them. Have a good week, and let’s look forward to a time of jubilation and more positive growth.

The artwork featured in this and most of my blogs is part of a collection of art created to illustrate the haftarahs read throughout the year. Currently the collection is on exhibit at the Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto, Canada. It is a great exhibit of my work and will be on display to the end of December, 2019. And, to let you know, I am currently working on a book of the art pieces and accompanying commentary. Exciting!!!! Have a Shabbat Shalom, Laya

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V’Etchanan- Consolation and Renewal

My summer office

In the summer I’m fortunate to be able to sit outside and do my writing and editing in the backyard. The morning as I looked around at my garden I thought about how lucky I am to have the good weather and sunshine. Then I thought about how lucky I am to have a garden. The more I thought, the harder it became- I thought about the fires in Greece and North America where gardens disappear in a moment. And the fires in Southern Israel set by terrorists who send incendiary balloons into yards, playgrounds, and fields. And I thought about the people in war torn Syria (among other countries) whose homes and lives have been bombed to pieces.

These thoughts came to me as we leave the sadness of Tisha B’Av and enter the Weeks of Consolation because the world is not healed.

This week we read the parsha and haftarah of V’Etchanan.

V’Etchanan- Maximum Impact by Laya Crust

This painting shows a flaming Mount Sinai heralding the giving of the 10 Commandments. The images around it illustrate different elements of our faith. The parsha carries with it some of the most important words of Torah which are the foundations of our faith.  In this parsha we are privileged to read, once again, the 10 commandments and we are also given the “Sh’ma Yisrael”. We are told about the Land of Milk and Honey. We even read the question presented by the first of the four sons at our Pesach seder (Deuteronomy ch. 6 v. 20). We read about Moshe speaking to the children of Israel as they are about to enter the land of Canaan. He warns the children of Israel not to forget God’s laws.

V’Etchanan- Measuring the Skies with a Span,   by Laya Crust

This haftarah is the first Haftarah of  Consolation. Isaiah said that God created the heaven and the earth. God “measured the water in the hollow of His hand and measured the skies with a span…”

We are reminded that God created the world- that no man could do it and no man could even measure it. The parsha reminds us of the laws, the ethics, and the miracles God has given us. Moshe also reminds us, the Jews and Israelites, that He will protect us and our land if we safeguard His gifts to us. Those gifts are the Ten Commandments and accompanying laws.

As I sit in my beautiful garden in peaceful Toronto I am aware of the tragedies in the world. I can only believe that God is protecting Israel and safeguarding it from its multiple enemies. By living ethically, by respecting others and respecting all lives, we help to safeguard Israel too.

So, here we are beginning the Seven Weeks of Consolation, reading the words of Isaiah. He is still trying to guide a wayward group. Hopefully we will be able to live in a peaceful land flowing with Milk and Honey. Hopefully the unity and mutual support will prevail.

All the best and Shabbat Shalom, Laya



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Tisha B’Av

Tisha BAv sigart by Laya Crust, inspired by Miklos Adler

We will be observing Tisha B’Av this Saturday night, July 21, 2018 through Sunday evening, July 22. It is the anniversary of the destruction of both the First Temple (586 BCE) and the Second Temple (70 CE) in Jerusalem. Although they occurred about 655 years apart they occurred on the same day in the Hebrew calendar. Many other Jewish tragedies are also remembered on Tisha b’Av-  the day has been called the “saddest day in Jewish history”. We read the Book of Eicha which was written by the prophet Jeremiah, and other calamities are commemorated by reading kinnot (poetry of sorrow).

Tisha B’Av is treated as a day of mourning. We fast from sunset to sunset- unlike most other Jewish fasts which last from sunrise to sunset. We don’t wear leather, listen to music, swim, and we sit on the ground. One tradition is to eat a hard boiled egg dipped in ashes before the fast begins. The “Book of Lamentations”, “Eicha” in Hebrew, is read by candle light sitting on the floor.
We also read Jeremiah 8:13 – 9:23, a series of some of Jeremiah’s gloomiest prophecies.  Invasion, siege, famine, starvation, doom, devastation, death, lament, cruelty are the themes of this haftarah. The dirge is unrelieved by words of comfort. These words reflect the emotion of Tisha b’Av.  The image chosen for Tisha b’Av is based on a woodcut by the Shoah artist Miklos Adler. Miklos Adler was a Hungarian Concentration camp survivor who depicted the autrocities of the Shoah. He was born in 1909 and died in 1965 in Israel.He painted,drew and did woodcuts. His woodcuts can be seen in a powerful haggadah called “The Survivor’s Haggadah”.The picture I drew is based on one of his haggadah woodcuts. It shows Jews waiting at a train station, looking at smoke in the form of faces rising out of crematoria chimney stacks.

I hope you have a meaningful fast and that we all endeavour to make Israel strong, and make the world a better place. Maybe we will see peace… we can work towards that. If you have comments or reflections on Tisha B’Av or the imagery please post your ideas.I would love to hear from you.

Best, Laya

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 Isaiah 49: 1-26

Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 BCE

This summer of 2014 or 5774 of the Jewish calendar has been a difficult one.  We have just observed the Three Weeks of Mourning culminating with the fast of Tisha B’Av, and we are entering the Seven Weeks of Consolation.

The Torah portion, V’Etchanan, was described by my good friend Rabbi Michael Skobac as being like the ultimate full box of Crayons. Not only do you get all the colours, you get gold and silver too. This parsha carries with it some of the mo st important words of Torah which are the foundations of our faith. The painting on the top of the page shows the giving of the 10 Commandments with images around it describing different elements of our faith. It was created for my son Max on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah.

We read about Moshe speaking to the children of Israel as they are about to enter the land of Canaan. He warns the children of Israel not to forget Gd’s laws. In this parsha we are privileged to read, once again, the 10 commandments and we are also given the “Sh’ma Yisrael”. We are told about the Land of Milk and Honey. We even read the question presented by the first of the four sons at our Pesach seder (Deuteronomy ch. 6 v. 20). So, as Rabbi Skobac said, it is the crayon box including the gold and the silver.


The image on this Haftarah page is one of Moses looking at the land of Canaan- which he has been forbidden to enter. It was a tragic moment. Moshe had dedicated his life to leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land, but he was not allowed to enter. The one consolation- if it was a consolation-was that Gd allowed Moses to see the land of Canaan. Gd said, “Go up to the top of the Pisgah and lift your eyes westward, northward, eastward and southward, and look with your eyes…”  3:27.  Moshe saw its greatness and its beauty from a vast perspective that no-one else would ever see. Maybe it was a gift that Moshe did not see the struggles and the sins of b’nei Yisrael once they had entered the Promised Land.

So, here we are beginning the Seven Weeks of Consolation, reading the words of Isaiah. He is still trying to guide a wayward group. And in Israel people are trying to put back the pieces of their lives after a month of war and lives lost.

Hopefully we will be able to live in a peaceful land flowing with Milk and Honey. Hopefully the unity and mutual support we saw in the last few weeks will continue.

All the best and Shabbat Shalom, Laya




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Mattot and the Three Weeks


Jeremiah 1:1- 2:3

Jeremiah (prophet) c. 655 BCE – 586 BCE

This week we observed the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, the beginning of the Three Weeks of mourning. The haftarah readings during the three weeks  include sections from the book of Jeremiah and the book of Isaiah.  Mattot is the first of the three readings, introducing us to the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah warned B’nei Yisrael that they were going to be punished for their idol worship. He told the people  the Temple would be destroyed and they would be exiled  but the Israelites ignored him.  At the end of his life, in 586 BCE, Judah was destroyed and Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar. The majority of Jews were exiled to Babylon.

The haftarah describes Jeremiah’s conversation with Gd. The prophet’s mouth is touched by Gd’s hand, and then he successively has a vision of a flowering almond branch and a boiling cauldron. This is reminiscent of Isaiah’s mouth being touched by an angel. The almond branch represents Jeremiah’s link to Aaron the kohen and the boiling cauldron from the north represents destruction coming from the north.

 Jeremiah tried to warn the Jews about the destruction of the Temple and their fate at the hands of their enemies but the Jews wouldn’t believe him.

I tried to think of a parallel situation where a Jew tried to warn his brethren of upcoming disaster to the nation but he or she was ignored. I remembered two individuals who lived at the time of the Second World War and attempted to rally Western Jews to put political pressure on their governments and spur them to save the Jews of Europe.  M.J. Nurenberger  was a journalist  who attempted to mobilize individuals and organizations to fight for the survival of Jews under the Nazi regime.  He wrote, met, and organized tirelessly but met with political stonewalling.  He wrote a book about his experiences called “The Scared and the Doomed”.   Arthur Szyk, an artist, used his art  to disseminate the message of Nazi goals and brutality. There are messages in his political cartoons, illustrated Haggadah and illustrated megillot.

This photograph was taken in New York in 1944 at the commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.   Nurenberger is in the 1st row, 1st on the left.  Szyk is in the 2nd row, 1st on the left.

M. J. Nurenberger with Einstein            Szyk  self-portrait , drawing the enemy


We are always at risk it seems- look at what is happening in Israel and Europe today. There are those visionaries who try to help and warn us. May we see a sustained peace for Jews, Israel,  and all humanity soon.

On a side note,  there is a program pairing people with soldiers and people on guard duty in Israel called The Shmira Project. Go to http://www.shmiraproject.com/SignUp.aspx.  You then pray and/or perform mitzvot with that soldier in mind, asking G-d to answer your good deeds with protection for that soldier.  (My soldier’s name is Noam ben Nicole.) There is no charge, and it takes 30 seconds to sign up.

Shabbat Shalom, and may these three weeks be for healing and peace.



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Stairway to Heaven

Tova and Cliel Schachter's Brit Ha'Ahuvim

Tova and Cliel Schachter’s             Brit Ahuvim

This week we are reading parshat Nitzavim, and the haftarah is from Isaiah 61:10- 63:9. It is the seventh Haftarah of consolation after Tisha B’Av and is read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh HaShana. King Cyrus has defeated Babylonia and the possibility of returning to Israel is ever closer.

As in other haftaroth that we have read recently God is presented as a bridegroom and the nation of Israel as a bride. There are two lines in this haftarah that are often sung at weddings- (excuse the transliteration) “um sis chatan al kallah, yasis alayich elokayich “. “And as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride so will your God rejoice over you”  Isaiah ch. 62: 5.

August is a beautiful month to get married. The trees are green, the flowers are bright and colourful, and we are enjoying the last relaxing weeks of summer. Two weeks ago a lovely young couple- Tova and Cliel Schachter- got married. Surrounded by family and friends they formalized their commitment to each other, embarking on a new path together.

Tova and Cliel wanted a special ketubah that would represent their values, outline their dedication to each other and reinforce their commitment to mutual respect and equality. Together we discussed the steps they had taken throughout their lives to reach this point and the ideals they share.

Their love of family, friends and Judaism are paramount in their lives. They have a desire to better the world. Their creativity and joy in all they approach is obvious. So- how to put this into a ketubah design?


It occurred to me that they had mentioned that the events of their lives were steps they had taken to arrive at this point in time. And  nothing is more important to Tova and Cliel than family. The idea of a staircase rising within a bower created by two trees seemed perfect. They used a traditional Aramaic ketubah under the chuppah and also signed a Brit Ahuvim which discusses love, respect and mutual responsibility.  The Brit Ahuvim is the text shown here.


The two family trees are growing together, sheltering and guiding a staircase that will reach to the future- to heights beyond imagination.The papercut leaves are the relatives and friends and children of the future. In the sky are 18  23 karat gold stars- a life of precious beauty.P1090134I put it all together, writing the Brit Ahuvim on the staircase, cutting the trees and leaves in a papercut design, adding the 18 stars and then combining all the elements.P1090356

It was a perfect day for the young couple, and in terms of our Jewish calendar it is a perfect time too.

We are approaching the New Year, a time of reflection and renewal. We read aboout God’s commitment to us and our promises to God. In this week’s haftarah Nitzavim we are likened to a bridegroom and a bride. As bridegroom and a bride enter a new life together with commitment and joy, may that be a template for us and our new year as well.

Mazal Tov to Tova and Cliel, and Shabbat Shalom to you!

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