Parshat Tetzaveh

Artist: Meirav Davish Ben Moshe,  Israel

The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are tangible materials in my recent works. I came to them seeking to rebuild my artistic world on a foundation of language, instead of models or landscapes. When the work is done, the foundational text might be legible or completely obscured and lost. The final work is in between media, it may be re-read or re-interpreted from several points of view.

This use of layered images and text facilitates an attempt to approach something that is fundamentally impossible and forbidden to depict. Jewish and Muslim tradition limit the scope of mortal art in order to distance it from idolatry, but also because humans cannot and should not try to emulate the perfect creation of God. Depiction is representation and representation is control. Any depiction is sacrilege. Holiness demands silence. Allusion, metaphor and abstraction are the artist’s way to solve the urge for expression, to skirt these prohibitions and whisper that which may not be said.

Tetzave, as I understand it, is concerned with the manner of preparing oneself for a sacred activity: How to sanctify oneself? What to wear? How to contemplate? What is the proper order of actions? Which voices should surround one? How should a person come before God? The essence of this parasha is the setting of rules for proper conduct. The community maintains faith that the method will secure the righteousness and success of the endeavor. This ritual procedure, that is dictated to the Levites as representatives of the larger Israelite community, is intended to guide the believers towards faith in the abstract God by giving God a tangible presence in their lives.

The painstaking detail and meticulous instructions, conveyed with unquantified faith and intent, will lead the master of ceremony – and the community he represents – on the true road through the unknown. It might help the individual feel less lonely in this world, and bring hope and faith to his or her days and nights. Without these guides, human is left unattended and alone to act according to his or her own notions and desires.

This work strikes a balance between the two extremes of art: order and boundaries or complete creative freedom. On one hand, I set up a system of harmonic boundaries, bare squares of text in a rectangular frame. The structure maintains an internal balance based on the repetition of the number four. On the other hand, the letters take over the hand in unruly lines. The ink flows. The pen scratches and the parchment does not yield. I stood in the ritual alone, weaving words into action, immersed trustfully and faithfully in the work itself to be in charge.

About Meirav

Meirav Davish Ben Moshe was born in Israel where she lives and works. She studied art at the New York Studio School in New York City and later received her MFA from the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. Meirav is a multi-media artist working in drawing, installation and performance. She is an active landscape architect and a founder of the Israeli Desert Initiative. Her works have been included in museums and galleries in Israel, Japan and the USA and her work can be found in many private and public collections.

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