May Jewish Book Carnival

Siddur, Exploring Exodus, Dissolving Illusions books watercolor by Leora Wenger

Welcome to the May Jewish Book Carnival!

About the Jewish Book Carnival:

The Jewish Book Carnival is a monthly event where bloggers who blog about Jewish books can meet, read and comment on each others’ posts. The carnival was started by Heidi Rabinowitz and Marie Cloutier to build community among bloggers and blogs who feature Jewish books.

On her blog, Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb, Deborah interviewed the editors of the new book The Ones Who Remember: Second-Generation Voices of the Holocaust.

Reuven Chaim Klein reviews four books on his blog The Rachack Review: Disputed Messiahs: Jewish and Christian Messianism in the Ashkenazic World during the Reformation, Moshe Emes: Torah and Science Alignment, Kabbalah and Sex Magic: A Mythical-Ritual Genealogy, and Understanding the Alef-Beis: Insights into the Hebrew Letters and the Methods of Interpreting Them.

Please read Howard Lovy’s interview for Publishers Weekly with Danica Davidson, co-author of I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz: Authors Bring Holocaust Story to Young Readers.

On gilagreenwrites, Gila interviews author Avner Landes about his debut novel Meiselman: the Lean Years.

Why is the Hebrew Bible different from all other Bibles? In April, Jill at Rhapsody in Books reviewed “The Grammar of God” by Aviya Kushner in which Kushner answers this question in a fascinating analysis.

Every day in May, Heidi Rabinowitz will post #JewishAmericanHeritageMonth daily kidlit book recommendations at the Facebook page Book of Life, featuring Jewish books from across the United States.

The Book of Life Podcast’s May episode features an interview with Dayna Lorentz, author of Wayward Creatures, a middle grade contemporary novel told in two voices: a troubled Jewish boy and a wayward coyote.

On her My Machberet blog, Erika Dreifus routinely compiles news of Jewish literary interest. Here’s one recent post, expanded for #JewishAmericanHeritageMonth and other notable May occasions and including a special Yom HaZikaron/Yom HaAtzmaut giveaway that continues through May 18.

At Jewish Books for Kids and More, Barbara Bietz interviews author Betsy R. Rosenthal about her new middle-grade novel, WHEN LIGHTNIN’ STRUCK.

Life Is Like a Library reviews Ayelet Gundar Goshen’s Waking Lions:

A Jewish Grandmother read a couple of young readers on Jewish themes from Kar-Ben Publishing and was happy to be able to give great books to a granddaughter. The Button Box by Bridget Hodder and When Lightnin’ Struck by Betsy R. Rosenthal both have wonderful stories with interesting Jewish themes, They both give some background on Spanish Jewry, which isn’t known by many people.

A Jewish Grandmother also reviewed Dear Cousin a great book with a strong moral message. It’s a very well-written eulogy/memoir by Elchonon Boruch Galbut about his cousin Brian Boruch Tzvi Galbut.

Bubby has been writing a series of posts on World War II and God’s role in Jewish history. The latest is called All the World is a Hidden Purimspiel. The plan is to put the posts together into a book.

Recent Figure Paintings

girl and her father dance with a flag
This is one of my favorite recent watercolor paintings, a girl with a flag in one hand, holding unto her father, and dancing down the middle of a street of trees. It is from the hachnassat sefer Torah that I posted about a while back.

man and his car
One advantage of not achieving likeness in a portrait is that I feel more comfortable sharing this painting of a long ago relative. He must have really been proud of that car.

Lenape Trail figures
We went on a family hike during Pesach. The morning before the hike I painted two pages in my sketchbook with exercises from Shari Blaukopf’s book Working with Color. When I got back from the hike I drew figures of our family hikers with ink on top of the pre-painted pages. I added a touch of watercolor to each figure.

Mushroom Paté — Passover Dip

oyster mushrooms watercolor
Watercolor of oyster mushrooms purchased from the mushroom stand at the Highland Park Farmers Market

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. mushrooms
    (I used a bag of oyster mushrooms from the Highland Park Farmers Market — marked as 1 lb.)
  • 1 large onion
  • Olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt or to taste
  • Spices or dried herbs (I used dried thyme)

This mushroom paté (or mushroom dip or mushroom spread) can be made in a short time. Chop then sauté the onion in olive oil (add salt at the cooking point so it will absorbed well and not be so salty if added later). Add the mushrooms, chopped into pieces. Put the onions, mushrooms, and walnuts in the food processor, then add dried herbs. Turn on the food processor until the mixture is smooth or slightly chunky. Klara Levine, who gave me this recipe, suggested it should be the consistency of haroset.

I wrote a previous version of the mushroom paté recipe here. Enjoy Pesach to all those who celebrate – and to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy spring.

Adar Art, Purim Theater, and a Torah Parade

Purim mask, hamantaschen, wine
Why is Purim theatrical? To learn about the hidden Purimspiel (Purim play), visit Bubby’s post “All the World is a Hidden Purimspiel“. Why do I start a post by linking to another post? Because this post on Sketching Out is really just an excuse to show you some of my latest artwork related to Purim.

This year we were fortunate to have two Adars, two Jewish months that contain Purim. This is to fix the lunar calendar by adding an extra month (sort of like February 29, but Adar II lasts for a whole month). It seems the joyous month of Adar is a great way to do that. The first Adar has a day known as Purim Kattan, small Purim. I did the painting at the top of this post in an attempt to do a tiny Purim, but it really does not look all that small.

The expression one says at the beginning of the month is: When Adar Enters, We Increase in Joy. Mishnichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha.
adar magical - when Adar comes, we increase our joy
I sent this to friends at the beginning of Adar (which had two new moons this year — two beginnings of Adar!).

Another expression for this time period is: V’Nahafoch Hu. May all the evil decrees be turned around! I used this to decorate the gifts of food that I give to my friends (Mishloach Manot or Shaloch Manos).
Turn around the evil decrees -- boy playing flute

Two weeks ago a surprise parade came down my block. Our local shteibel was celebrating a new Torah (Hachnasat Sefer Torah). I did a drawing of a father and daughter dancing down North 8th. I later did a watercolor painting of the big float that passed in front of my house.

father and daughter dance down North 8th Avenue

Torah on parade, North 7th Avenue, Highland Park, New Jersey
What I like about this painting is the use of color on the main subjects and leaving the rest simple and monochromatic. I am learning not to worry about all the details of each person.

Mishkan Colors

mishkan colors with red, purple, blue
The passages describing colors of the Mishkan inspired me to do some drapery studies. Years ago, when I was in art school, I remember learning to do triangles of color. Put together a palette of a dark red, a medium red, and a light red. And do triangles.

When you read passages from the Torah in translation, you are often not reading exactly what the text intended. Not that we know for sure what the text intended.

In parshat Veyakhel and in parshat Pekudai (those two often go together, but this year we have a leap year — yay, two months of Adar! Lots of opportunity for joy) colors are mentioned among the items that people brought to help build the Mishkan, the holy structure for worship. The Hebrew is “techelet, argaman, and tola’at shani” (Exodus 35:6):

וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי

Tola’at Sheni seems to be some kind of red. I saw translations as scarlet or crimson. I saw tabernacle photos with worm-like creatures that were coral. Tola’at does seem to be a worm of sorts.

Techelet is some kind of blue. The Stone Chumash, published by Art Scroll, translates techelet as turquoise. Here is my turquoise version:
crimson, purple, turquoise

Robert Alter in his Bible translation uses indigo. Jewish Publication Society went with the safe translation: blue. The painting at the top of this post is my “blue” version.

Argaman is loosely translated as purple. However, one friend thought argaman should have a tint of red, as in burgundy or bordeaux. Or maybe violet. So here is yet a third version:

red, burgundy, blue Mishkan colors

I created the burgundy by loading the top painting with blue in my Linux laptop. There I used GIMP, a free and open software package, to change the hue of the purple to burgundy.

Farmers Market Watercolors

Organic Stand at Highland Park Farmer's Market
Winter is here: most humans spend less time outside. As an artist, I like pour over spring, summer, and fall photos for painting inspiration. I miss the Highland Park Farmers Market, so it has become one of my favorite themes to paint. Also, I took an online course with Shari Blaukopf called Sketching Markets in Ink and Watercolor, so that was an added incentive to paint my local market.

I have two favorite stands at the Highland Park Farmers Market. The first one I go to is the organic stand: that stand is depicted in the paintings at the top and bottom of this post. I often look for kale. It tends to be greener in the spring or fall, as kale prefers cooler temperatures. Sometimes I buy arugula, corn, parsley, or squash. I enjoyed painting all the overflowing cabbages and cauliflower in the top painting.

peaches at the farmers market in Highland Park, New Jersey
My favorite item of all are the summer peaches. New Jersey peaches in July and August are amazing. I worked hard to apply rich, opaque paint to my peaches illustration.

organic stand at the Highland Park Farmers Market
In this painting I challenged myself to include a person, some signs, and a background. Farmers markets are lively places: much for the artist to capture.

Desert Watercolor and Ox Falls in Pit

watercolor of Judean desert with John Singer Sargent painting as the teacher
Watercolor of Judean desert with 1905 John Singer Sargent watercolor painting as the teaching guide

As an adult who wants to learn, one needs to be creative in finding good teachers. One way that I learn new art techniques is by copying master painters. This past week I wanted to paint a desert painting, so I turned to a reproduction of a 1905 John Singer Sargent watercolor of the Judean Desert.

Why a desert? Last week the Torah portion was Yitro (Jethro, father-in-law of Moses), and the people of Israel were wandering around in the desert. So I decided to copy the John Singer Sargent painting of a desert (not the Sinai but one near Jerusalem where some of our friends live, near Jericho).

בַּחֹדֶשׁ, הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, לְצֵאת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם–בַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה, בָּאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינָי
וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרְפִידִים, וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי, וַיַּחֲנוּ, בַּמִּדְבָּר; וַיִּחַן-שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל, נֶגֶד הָהָר

In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount.
Exodus 19:1-2

We learn in parshat Yitro that Yitro was the teacher of Moshe. Moshe was settling disputes on his own, without any help. Yitro saw that this was not an efficient method of the leading the people. He suggested Moshe appoint leaders to handle many of these issues. We learn that we should not take upon all the problems of society on our own. Instead we should find others to help us.

I am thankful to my husband and to my rabbi for teaching me Torah. This coming week is parshat Mishpatim (laws). I skimmed the parsha and found many work or farm animals are used as examples to teach about disputes between people. For example, here is my illustration of an ox falling into a pit that a person has negligently left open. There is more of the week to study the parsha: looking forward to what else I will learn.
ox falls into pit in parshat mishpatim

Bloody Nile Watercolor and Solzhenitsyn on Art

Bloody Nile egret watercolor
Why do art? And how does one get inspiration? For the first question, I will quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at the end of this post. For the second, I will describe the process of how I created this watercolor.

I painted this watercolor in response to reading about Plague Number One: blood. How does one depict a bloody river Nile? A while back, I painted a dull straight river of blood. I wanted something more watery. I looked at paintings of Winslow Homer and J.M.W. Turner. Both are known for their water scenes. I happened upon a small museum book of Japanese paintings that belonged to my mother z”l. The covered showed an egret (at first, I thought it was a stork — I need to improve my birdwatching skills) bathing in a body of water. Actually, there are two egrets in the scene. I just focused on the right side. The reeds kind of look as how I would imagine greens growing next to the Nile might look. And my friend later told me indeed egrets are found in Egypt.

When I do biblical art, I recently started adding a snippet from a pasuk (a phrase of Torah) to the side of the art. Here is another version of this painting, one that cites the plague of blood:
Parshat Vaera, Shmot 7:21 “and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt.”
And there was blood throughout the land of Egypt watercolor

Quotes from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1970 Nobel Lecture

Who was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in 1918 in Kislovodsk, Russia. In 1945 he was arrested for criticising Stalin in private correspondence and sentenced to an eight-year term in a labour camp, to be followed by permanent internal exile. The experience of the camps provided him with raw material for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which he was permitted to publish in 1962. In 1970 he gave a lecture upon receiving the Nobel prize, and the main topic was art.

Not everything can be named. Some things draw us beyond words. Art can warm even a chilled and sunless soul to an exalted experience. Through art we occasionally receive–indistinctly, briefly–revelations the likes of which cannot be achieved by rational thought.

Later in the lecture:

But who will reconcile these scales of values and how? Who is going to give mankind a single system of evaluation for evil deeds and for good ones, for unbearable things and for tolerable ones–as we differentiate them today? Who will elucidate for mankind what really is burdensome and unbearable and merely chafes the skin due to its proximity? Who will direct anger toward that which is more fearsome rather than toward that which is closer at hand? Who could convey this understanding across the barriers of his own human experience? Who could impress upon a sluggish and obstinate human being someone else’s far off sorrows and joys, who could give him an insight into magnitude of events and into delusions which he has never himself experienced? Propaganda, coercion, and scientific proof are equally powerless here. But fortunately there does exist a means to this end in the world! It is art. It is literature.

Source: The Solzhenitsyn Reader, edited by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney

Mourning Dove Watercolor

mourning dove watercolor
This week a mourning dove was wandering about my front yard. Instead of grabbing a camera and photographing the bird, I took my watercolor sketchpad (Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal) and used a pencil and pen to draw the bird. I took it back in the house, added a little watercolor to the bird, went back out again to examine the mourning dove carefully. Yes, it did have those spots toward the tail. Yes, they were a shade of darkish gray. Yes, the beak was also darkish gray. Later I looked in my Birds of New Jersey Field Guide by Stan Tekiela and learned more:

Name comes from its mournful cooing. A ground feeder, bobbing its head as it walks. One of the few birds to drink without lifting head.

The one in my yard seemed to have a longer beak than the one pictured in the book.Also, I did not see the bright color in the head that Stan Tekiela showed in his photo. Adding a bit of lavender did seem to match the bird that I saw. However, as an artist one could also say using lavender was artistic license for either shadow or for gradations of hue or saturations.

Do you see birds in your yard? Do see distinguishing marks on the birds, whether color, spots or types of feathers?

Theme of Water in Parshat Shemot

Shemot: Batya, Miriam, Baby Moshe
Parshat Shemot: Batya, Miriam, and Baby Moshe

The people of Israel are down in Egypt. A new Pharaoh comes along. He tells the midwives to kill the baby boys. Yocheved puts her baby son in a tevah in the river. Miriam watches from a distance. The daughter of Pharaoh, Batya, comes along to take care of the baby. Batya gets Yocheved to nurse the baby.

What is the importance of water?

Water is the reason Egypt is a super power: they have the Nile. Israel needs rain, creating a situation in which we need to rely on God. We need to pray for rain. This helps one build a relationship with God. Learn more from Rabbi Leibtag.

Noah vs. Moshe

What are the parallels to Noah? Both saved by a tevah. Both have forty days and forty nights. When Gods tells Noah he’s going to continue the world through him, Noah responds: OK, sure. Moshe, however, says “No.” If you destroy the people of Israel, then erase me from your book.

According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, Moshe repairs the flaw of Noah. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev teaches “Moshe is the tikkun (repair) for the soul of Noah” (Keddushat Levi, Noach). This idea is based on the Ari z”l in Sha’ar Hagilgulim who says that Moshe is a gilgul, a reincarnation of Noah.

Noah is told to build a tevah: “Make yourself an ark – tevah” (Bereishit 6:14).
Moshe is saved in a tevah: “She took a papyrus box – tevah.”

Noah is saved from the great waters of the flood.
Moshe’s name means to be drawn from the water: “Because from the water he was drawn” (Shemot 2:10). In a sense, both Noah and Moshe are “drawn from the water”.

Of Noah during the flood: “It would continue to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights” (Bereishit 7:12).
Of Moshe: “Moshe remained there with God for 40 days and 40 nights” (Shemot 34:28).

Noah does not respond nor plead on behalf of his generation, but merely carries out God’s command. “And Noah did all that God had commanded him” (Bereishit 6:22).

Moshe displays care and sympathy. We are familiar with these characteristics from Parshat Shemot when we learn that Moshe cannot sit by idly by when witnessing the suffering of others. He slays the Egyptian and saves Yitro’s daughters.

The tikkun of Noah is that Moshe is willing to suffer annihilation rather then continue without Bnei Yisrael. In complete empathy and identification with Bnei Yisrael, he ties his fate to theirs by intentionally sinning by breaking the tablets.
Source: Batya Hefter, Parshat Hashavua, Shemot, Nov 19, 2016

Moshe and the Nile

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֱמֹר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן קַח מַטְּךָ וּנְטֵה-יָדְךָ עַל-מֵימֵי מִצְרַיִם עַל-נַהֲרֹתָם עַל-יְאֹרֵיהֶם וְעַל-אַגְמֵיהֶם
(שְׁמוֹת 7:19)
Rashi explains that Moshe was saved by the Nile, so Aharon instead does the hitting of the water for the plague of dam – blood. Importance of being grateful – even to an inanimate object like a river.

More Artwork!

For those who come for the artwork, here is a pen and ink version of Miriam, Batya, and Moshe:

Miriam, Batya, baby Moshe