Tag Archives: hebrew

Visual Midrash: Artistic Commentary on the Torah

by on September 20, 2015

torah midrash art exhibit

Mid • rash | mid räSH |
noun (pl. Midrashim) an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text.

We’re unscrolling the Torah, all 54 portions; not literally, but figuratively. Artist Scott Switzer has painted each one in The Torah Series, oil paintings based on portions of the Hebrew Bible that are read each week in synagogues. The paintings capture one complete year of readings on 24” x 24” canvases that are embedded in six grids, each made up of nine panes. The exhibition is  currently on display in the PJCC Art Gallery.

The approach of finding deep and spiritual understanding of the Torah through artistic expression is referred to as visual midrash (Rabbinic commentaries on the Torah’s
teachings). Switzer, who is not Jewish, found that engaging in these stories through Judaism’s perspective, “gave them new life and changed my consciousness.” He considers the paintings in this series “ … a conversation or even a prayer.” His figurative style and color palate are reminiscent of Marc Chagall’s well-known Biblical artwork.

Visual midrash is not new to the PJCC. In 2009 our gallery hosted Seeing Sinai, a collaboration between modern artist Jill Nathanson and Judaic scholar Arnold Eisen. And certainly our vibrant Grow Justice Mural utilized this process in a community-based setting. This summer, you can partake in a workshop to create your own visual commentary. Rabbi Lavey Derby and Scott
Switzer will partner to lead a text study/studio session where each participant will have the opportunity to express their own personal artistic interpretation of the week’s Torah portion.

Our endeavor follows the footsteps of Reboot’s Unscrolled, a book featuring the works of 54 different writers and artists who were invited to select a portion of the Torah and provide their fresh interpretation. As described by Reboot, it’s now our turn to “approach the Torah with a spirit of creative adventure, wrestle with it,” and then find our own meaning. Throughout the PJCC’s 2015-2016 season, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to engage in Jewish learning and examine
multiple forms of creative midrash through poetry, musical composition, movement,  and storytelling.

The close of The Torah Series coincides with Simchat Torah on October 6, the celebratory Jewish holiday that marks the annual completion of the year’s Torah reading.  As congregants in  synagogues around the world re-roll the Torah to start anew,  we too will “roll” up Switzer’s  enchanting enterprise to share with another  community in the New Year.

PJCC Art Gallery presents
The Torah Series
On display in the PJCC Art Gallery
through October 6, 2015

 Prints are for sale through the artist. Great to commemorate bar/bat mitzvahs, life events, or other special occasions. www. scottswitzer.com.
Telephone: 208.935.5978
Email: switz_thepainter@msn.com
Specify image # (1-54); and cite PJCC for commission credit.
Allow 2 – 3 weeks for delivery




Rosh Hashanah: May We Be Blessed With A Happy, Healthy, & Peaceful New Year

by on September 11, 2014


Unlike all the other Jewish Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah, The Jewish New Year, is not linked to the remembrance of national liberation or to the commemoration of a national tragedy. In fact, Rosh Hashanah does not focus on the experience of the Jewish people in history at all. Rather it serves as a lens to examine central universalist themes of Jewish belief and values, such as mortality, change, and meaning, Unlike other holidays, Rosh Hashanah is associated with a mythological moment in time – the creation of the cosmos. The Machzor — prayerbook – for Rosh Hashanah returns to this image again and again with the words Hayom harat OlamToday is the birthday of the world. This is not a story about Jews but a story about humanity. In its most salient formulation, the creation of one world, presupposes one God, and one humanity, which implies that all people are brothers and sisters. This theme of the unification Continue reading

Passover Fun Facts

by on April 12, 2014

Are you hungry for facts and stories about Passover? Here is some interesting information you might enjoy and ponder.

The Burning Bush
We learn in the Passover story that Moses experiences a holy moment with God when he notices a burning bush in the desert. Many historians and scientists indicate that in ancient times, desert brush would catch on fire, spontaneously, quite regularly. This miracle of the burning bush was most likely not that fact that it was burning, but that it was burning without being consumed. This strikes me as a good lesson about the power of observation – sometimes things that seem quite ordinary, are in fact, anything but, and offer us extraordinary opportunities for holiness, and in Moses’ case, finding our destiny.

Continue reading