Geula Twersky’s art interweaves Jewish tradition, history and the many facets of her own life. The pain she felt as the child of a Holocaust survivor and the national euphoria she experienced as she matured in the era following Six Day War have strongly influenced her paintings. Her work delves into the significance of her name Geula — redemption.
Benji Lovitt has been translating the Israel experience through laughter since his aliyah flight landed in 2006.
Benji Lovitt’s observations on Israeli society, combined with his lifelong involvement in Jewish education, create a hilarious narrative that has brought smiles to faces all over the world.
In the last few weeks, the Torah portions have dealt with – in exhausting (and some would say boring) detail about how to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, where G-d would dwell among the nation. Obviously, at the time, it was important for G-d and Moses to give explicit instructions as to how the Tabernacle was to be built, what needed to be placed in it and what their purposes were; but why, one could ask, does it need to be in the Torah to be remembered for generations to come? Why was important for us in this day and age to know how many cubits each vessel had to be and exactly how many posts and how high and how long and more importantly how they would be joined? How the ark was to be built and out of which wood exactly. The Priest’s clothing: which materials would be used and how it would be decorated? Why do we need to know all this information?
One could say it is historically necessary, but we are taught that the Torah is not a history book, nor is it an architecture or building manual. It is a book to learn from. To learn life lessons and apply it to our everyday living and for that reason it is always relevant. When we read stories of our past it’s easier to see the reasons and find the life lessons hidden there, but what can we learn from all these exhausting details?
There is a saying, “G-d is in the details”. It is easy to come up with ideas and visions. It is easy to have a concept that appeals to everyone, but to take that concept and turn it into reality takes a lot of work and care. Time and effort. And details. If you build a car engine and leave out one of the parts – chances are, that engine is not going to work for very long, if at all. All of the parts are important. Leave one out and the whole thing falls apart.
In the Desert we were beginning to build a society, a nation. The concept had been discussed many times at earlier points in the Torah but without talking about what it involved -but in order to build a nation and a country there are a lot of details to deal with, big and small alike. The Torah comes to teach us the small details are just as important as the larger ones and if you work together and apply all the parts you will end up with a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This analogy can be applied to the nation of Israel itself. We are made up of different parts, different people who all need to come together and create a whole that is greater than the parts. Every one of us is an important part of the whole. Nothing or no one can be left out.
At OTS Amiel BaKehila we are striving to create something new. In the last few weeks we have been hard at work sitting over the details, big and small (and there are a lot of them), to make this dream become a reality. We hope that, with G-d’s help, we will succeed in coming to your community, helping you and your community connect with its people, with its heritage and with Israel, and that together we can create something that is bigger than all of its parts.
In some small way, I feel like the biblical artist Bezalel, charged with building the Mishkan.
After descending from Har Sinai (for the second time, after Yom Kippur), Moshe Rabbeinu called Bezalel into his office and tasked him with building a Mishkan – an intricate, finely constructed building with very exacting detail and what must have been a huge amount of logistical details and hard work.
“Great. I’m the man for the job. When do you need it done?” Bezalel must have asked.
“We need it by the first of Nissan,” Moses told him.
I can only imagine what must have gone through Bezalel’s mind.
Six months? That’s impossible.
We need to design plans, procure materials, raise funds, coordinate volunteers, find talented artisans, assign tasks, in areas and fields as diverse as weaving and spinning to fine metallurgy and carpentry.
I am extremely excited to introduce Amiel BaKehilla, an innovative program which will enhance the connection of Jews around the world to their own community, to their heritage, and to Israel.
We don’t know what Bezalel actually said to Moses. But we do know that he got the job done, and within six months he led an expert team who built a House of God in the desert that brought blessing and the Divine presence to Klal Yisrael in the desert.
Here in Israel, for me these past few weeks have truly been a whirlwind.
We began building Amiel BaKehila with the stated goal of sending out of first teams of Community Educators, Israel-Engagers and Jewish Artists as soon as possible.
Today, less than two weeks after we opened our office, I am extremely excited to introduce Amiel BaKehilla, an innovative program which will enhance the connection of Jews around the world to their own community, to their heritage, and to Israel.
If you know of (or are a member of) a small or mid-sized community who would like to apply to become an Amiel BaKehila community, contact me to learn more.
I would like to conclude this initial post by invoking the blessing that Moses gives the Jewish people when they constructed the entire Mishkah for the very first time. We read that (Exodus 39:43),
וַיַּ֨רְא משֶׁ֜ה אֶת־כָּל־הַמְּלָאכָ֗ה וְהִנֵּה֙ עָשׂ֣וּ אֹתָ֔הּ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה ה’ כֵּ֣ן עָשׂ֑וּ וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֹתָ֖ם משֶֽׁה:
Moses saw the entire work, and lo! they had done it-as the Lord had commanded, so had they done. So Moses blessed them.
What blessing did Moses give the people? What did he say to them? Rashi explains that,
אמר להם יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם, (תהלים צ יז) ויהי נועם ה’ אלהינו עלינו ומעשה ידינו
He said to them, “May it be His will that the Shechinah should rest in the work of your hands. And may the pleasantness of the Lord our God be upon us…” (Ps. 90:17)
There can be no better prayer than this: We pray that God blesses our work and brings the pleasantness of Jewish life and the Jewish people to Jews and the communities in which they live around the world.