Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's Shavuot - Let Us Eat Cheesecake and Drink in Art

Mark Podwal, Torah

Today is Shavuot, the holiday which celebrates Moses' receiving of the Torah from God on Mt Sinai.  Jewish or not Jewish, it's a great excuse to eat cheesecake and ice cream, for it is said that King Solomon compared the Torah to milk in the Songs of Songs, 4:11: "Like honey and milk, it lies under your tongue." Therefore, dairy products take center stage during all the festive meals: cheese blintzes, yogurt drenched salads, kugels, etc.

However, Shavuot is not just a day for showing off your favorite cheesecake recipe (or rushing to Juniors), it is a day to honor the best in us all, prescribed and supported by the golden rules that all moral codes share. Today we honor universal morality that inspires mutual kindness and selfless heroism. So, please take a break from the worrisome news that rattles our daily existence and have a huge ice cream sundae, contemplating the goodness in humankind - rather than the other stuff.

Last night, while I was reading my students' term papers, I took a break to watch a new film about Mark Podwal's current exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Prague (now on view at the Centre d'art et de culture - Espace Rachi, in Paris through May 26) and his beautiful textiles created for the Altneuschul, also in Prague. Here is the video:

My Synagogue is in Prague: Picturing Mark Podwal
a Czech television documentary about the life and art of Mark Podwal, with English subtitles.
 The 26 minute documentary chronicles Podwal's fascinating involvement with Prague 
and its seven hundred year old synagogue, the Altneuschul. 

The experience was quite moving, as I realized it was the beginning of Shavuot, the night all Jews should spend in the synagogue and pray. I wasn't literally in schul, but I felt transported to Altneuschul in time and space, revisiting a memory of being there many years ago.

Mark Podwal's images will be included in the Museum of Biblical Art's next exhibition, "As Subject ad Object: Contemporary Book Artists Explore the Sacred in Hebrew Texts," June 14 - September 29, 2013

Chag Sameach,
Beth New York

Beth Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange

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