Artist: Leora Wise, Israel
And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering…And he shall take the two goats, and present them before God at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for God, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which God’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before God, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness (Leviticus 16: 5-10)…And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.” (Leviticus 16: 21-22)
Parshat Aharei Mot describes the ritual practiced on Yom Kippur during the time of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), in which a scapegoat was used as a vessel upon which to foist the people’s sins. Led off into the desert by a “fit man,” far away and out of sight, the scapegoat was finally sacrificed, cast off a cliff to meet its death and dismemberment. In this piece, I raise the scapegoat and the Fit Man from their thankless ritual anonymity and place them center stage, where we can consider their unfolding relationship and empathize with their shared fate.
I created the image, depicting the Torah portion, parshat Aaharei Mot, as an etching and then printed it on parchment. Etching is a centuries-old, slow-process, traditional technique requiring many skills, a lot of patience, and dirty hands. But it is worthwhile, as no other technique produces such a beautiful range of textures and black tones. The execution scene was influenced by Picasso’s Massacre in Korea, which was, in turn, influenced by Goya’s The Third of May 1808. The imagery was inspired by Goya’s Los Caprichos etching series, whose scenes depict social injustices. The birds of prey resemble the frenzied crowd who had neither patience nor compassion as they awaited the news of the scapegoat’s proper death. After the crowd received the news of the scapegoat’s death, they completed the ritual and resumed their lives, as full of sin as ever, all to be forgone yet again by the following year’s scapegoat.
Leora Wise, born In Israel, resides in Jerusalem. She studied at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. She is a painter, print maker and sculptor. Her works have been displayed in prominent venues in Israel and other places around the world, and have been acquired by private and institutional collectors, most recently by the Yale University Judaica Collection. www.artleora.com