I am delighted that the latest JAE DVD, THE ART OF THE HIGH HOLIDAYS, is now available in the JAE website Bookstore and on Amazon.com. This DVD is a fully narrated one-hour program that brings Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur to life through art.
The presentation offers a chronological and topical overview of visual art objects and their symbolism related to these two holidays, with 60 art selections, ranging from more than 1,000 years old to contributions from some of our best contemporary Jewish artists. The artworks reflect historical Jewish experience in specific times and places.
The program begins with Before Creation and is followed by a 20th c. abstract painting titled, The Name (HaShem). The Biblical sequence continues with The Command and two versions of Creation. Another abstract painting, The Way (Halachah), moves us into the Jewish world and leads to the Beresh'it frontispiece of the 13th century Shocken Bible. A synagogue stained glass wall in Chicago captures the light of God’s command in Genesis 1:3. Other views of Creation appear from the Sarajevo Haggadah, an etching and a contemporary silverpoint, of gold leaf, and acrylic.
Two mid-20th c. paintings reflect two different visual interpretations to the Sh’ma (Listen!) prayer. An early 20th c. Polish/German/Israeli painter documented Jewish men on their way to Selichot prayers, while a late 19th c. French Sephardi Jewish artist recorded the experience of the The Amida or Silent Prayer.
The artworks are organized by liturgy, as the Bet Alpha mosaic (6th c.) shows The Akeda or Binding of Isaac, from Genesis 22. The custom of Tashlich (Casting Off of Sins) is portrayed in a 16th c, woodcut, a 19th c., engraving, and a 21st c. sculptural vessel. Another custom, Kapporot, is related to atonement on Yom Kippur and is depicted in a 16th c. woodcut, two mid- 20th c. expressionist sculptures, and a late 20th c. naïve painting.
Shabbat Shuvah/The Sabbath of Return or Shabbat Teshuvah/The Sabbath of Repentance is the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In Europe, rabbis did not give sermons regularly but often gave a sermon about repentance on that occasion. An 18th c. woodcut in a Minhogimbukh (Book of Customs) depicts just such an event.
An illumination from a 14th c. Mahzor (Holiday Prayer Book) used the two Hebrew letters that spell Kol, for the Kol Nidre (All Vows) service. A contemporary papercut on this same theme is a special phenomenon. An etching, and two paintings show different aspects of Yom Kippur.
The technique of micrography was used to relate the story of Jonah in a 13th c. manuscript.
Two woodcuts and two paintings follow a series of Shofars from different times and places.
The program ends with a L’Dor V’Dor (One generation to another) tallit (Prayer Shawl) and Kippa (headcover) and an abstract painting, Onement, capturing a sense of equilibrium, balance, and peace.