Parshat Vayakhel

Gouache and gold leaf on parchment, 2014

Artist: Sharon Binder,  USA

I am drawn to the image and the word. It connects with a primary place in me and remains an integral part of the essence of designing Judaica. Bezalel, the first craftsman and artist mentioned in the Bible, in particular in the Torah portion, parshat Vayekahel, serves as my first guide. I use the verse as a kind of bridge between the keruvim (the winged angelic beings).

“And He filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship.” ( Shemot 35:31)

The power of art lies in its ability to connect with others. The building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) is described in great detail in this particular parasha, and women are acknowledged as contributing creatively to its construction. Using the midrashic (interpretive) implication that Bezalel knew how to use the letters of the Hebrew alphabet to create the Mishkan, this piece depicts the Alef-Bet (the Hebrew alphabet) flying between the keruvim. I sought to capture the essence of word and image as they are guided into one’s soul.

The other guide for me was visualizing the contradiction of the Divine command to construct the Tabernacle, immediately followed by the command to cease creative work on the seventh day, a firm command to observe the Sabbath. The Divine command, given to the whole Israelite community, both men and women, to construct the Tabernacle juxtaposes the command to observe the Sabbath and cease activity on creative work on the seventh day. This juxtaposition (which forms the basis of interpreting the 39 categories of melakha/ work in rabbinic literature) is depicted in the movement of the verses where women are described weaving and donating jewelry to the construction of the Tabernacle in contrast to the image of still, quiet waters representing the Sabbath rest.

Time is like a wasteland. It has grandeur but no beauty. The hours of the seventh day are significant in themselves; their significance and beauty do not depend on any work, profit, or progress we may achieve. They have the beauty of grandeur. Beauty of grandeur, a crown of victory, ‘a day of rest and holiness, a rest in love and generosity, a true and genuine rest, a rest that yields peace and serenity, tranquility and security, a perfect rest with which Thou art pleased’(quoted from the Sabbath afternoon prayer).


About Sharon

Sharon Binder has a BA in Art from Queens College. She studied calligraphy and design in Toronto, Canada with Alf Ebsen and Nona Brown and with Donald Jackson, Sheila Waters and Thomas Ingmire. In Israel, she studied with Hella Hartman and Lili Wronker. She became fascinated with Hebrew and English letters and began integrating them into her illustrations.

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