Parshat Vayikra

Acrylic on parchment, 2011

Artist: Anne Françoise Bar-Or,  Israel

“Moment before Making the Sacrifice”

When we think about “sacrifice” we see, in most cases, the difficult part: the blood, the torture, death. However, when I read Parshat Va’yikra, I took particular note of the moment of placing the hands on the sacrificial beast / “And he (the Priest) shall lay his hand on the head of the offering / – “וסמך ידו על ראש קרבנו ׁ” (Levit. 3:2) It is a brief moment, but one layered in meaning. It is a moment of thought, compassion, and deep awareness. I chose to depict this moment for I see support, acceptance and forgiveness are all present. The topic of “sacrifice” is a question of great magnitude for me, one that remains open and unanswered. Why are sacrifices necessary? What end does sacrifice serve? There are places in the Bible that say that the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He has no need for sacrifices.

For example, in Isaiah 1:11: “What need have I of all your sacrifices?” says God. “I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, and suet of fatlings and blood of bulls; and I have no delight in lambs and he-goats.” In Proverbs 21:3, we read: “To do what is right and just / Is more desired by the Lord than sacrifice.” And there are many other examples. I understand from these readings that, while there are sacrifices, there are things of greater importance as well. As a person of faith who accepts the words of the Bible, I identify more with this latter line of thinking in my daily life.

The process of painting Parshat Vayikra was challenging and fascinating. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to work with new and different material. I usually work on linen canvas with oil paints. For this work, I drew on parchment and used water-based, acrylic paints for fear of the interaction between the parchment and the oils. Because I had only one parchment and because acrylics dry rapidly, I had to work quickly and be precise in my decisions. In order to study the subject, I made several visits to a goat farm near my house in Nataf, and to my great fortune, it was just the time of calving season. I took a number of photographs and made several preliminary sketches as well as two oil paintings on canvas that served as studies for my final work.

As an artist who works through reflection, I can barely understand the matter of sacrifice. When I paint, I’m called upon to give up my automatic and habitual manner of thinking informed by my prior knowledge of things. I am required to suspend my judgment – beautiful or ugly, stupid, elegant, etc. I practice wanting to see my subjects as they were before I could define them – a view that I had before a table was known to me as a table and before a flower had the name “flower.” In this way I can let the survival instinct in me die in order to make room for something purer. Might this be called a type of sacrifice? Art is a tool for me and through my artistic practice I also practice toward maintaining a similar attitude in my relationships with people and the world around me.

About Anne

Anne-Françoise Ben-Or was born and raised in Belgium. She studied painting and sculpture at the Israel Museum as well as the prestigious Jerusalem Studio School under the guidance of Israel Hershberg. Anne’s work has been shown in both solo and group shows throughout Israel. She resides with her family in Nataf, Israel.

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