Parshat Vayigash

Artist: Ruth Weisberg,  USA

The line from the Torah that directly inspired my contribution was. “Joseph ordered his chariot and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel; he presented himself to him and, embracing him around the neck, he wept on his neck a good long while.” Genesis 46:29

I experience this as one of the most moving and profoundly human moments in the Torah. The universal and eternal emotions in regard to the reunion of father and son, or parent and child, is intimately expressed here. My father, Alfred Weisberg died in 1976 and my mother, Theresa, lived to be 100 years old before her death four years ago in 2012. How I long for a reunion with both my beloved parents. It is easy for the reader to understand, on a visceral level, how deeply moved Jacob is to discover that Joseph is alive. In Genesis 45;26 we learn that Jacob’s sons tell him, “Joseph is still alive; yes, he is ruler over the whole land of Egypt. His heart went numb, for he did not believe them.” But then his spirits are revived and he says, “Enough!”  “My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.”

A parent can easily understand and resonate with Jacob’s powerful resolve to be reunited with his son.  After much thought I decided to create an image in which the viewer, from the point of view of Joseph, experiences the reunion of father and son after 22 years. My focus is on his embracing arms, expressive hands and face. Joseph’s emotions may be the more complex. Has he kept his existence a secret in order to fulfill the prophecy that his brothers would bow down to him? I wanted to both depict the depth of his feelings and the nuanced range of his emotions. Joseph’s identity, at first glance, seems far more Egyptian as he is wearing their style of headgear.

However, I sought to reveal in his face and in his gesture the profound familial feelings that this reunion has evoked.

About Ruth

Ruth Weisberg, artist, Professor of Fine Arts, former Dean of the School, University of Southern California, is the Director of the USC Initiative for Israeli Arts and Humanities. Weisberg’s work is included in sixty major Museums, among them the Metropolitan, the Whitney, the Los Angeles County Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s 50thAnniversary Award, 2011, and the Southern Graphic Council International’s Printmaker Emeritus Award, 2015.

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