Parshat Vayelech

Medium: Oil Paints, 2015.

Artist: Chani Cohen Zada,  Israel

The story of Vayelech appears at the end of Deuteronomy, the last of the 5 books of Moses. It is a relatively short portion positioned between two longer portions, Nitzavim and Ha’azinu. Nitzavim describes the covenant that God established with the Nation of Israel until the very last of its generations. While Ha’azinu details the “song” that Moses transmits to the coming generations.

Vayelech serves as a kind of bridge between these two. Moses hands over the leadership to his successor, Joshua, and describes to him and the Nation of Israel the mission that awaits them for the coming years – to conquer the land and to eliminate the people living there. God will be with Joshua and the community of Israel during the conquest of the land and throughout their future settlement in Israel and, God assures, in the generations to come. In later Biblical texts we see that the community of Israel will sin again and will abandon their faith in God. The result being that God will withdraw God’s guardianship from them and that “terrible calamities” will come upon them. But only apparently so. For even in those times, God will be present and guide the nation forward toward its betterment. And that is the purpose of the Ha’azinu portion and the song within. It is to serve as testimony for all the generations in order to reinforce their faith and help them successfully overcome the difficult periods. The motif of the omnipresence of God fascinates me and occupies my thoughts. I am inspired by it when I paint and this interest guided me in choosing Vayelech. I am awed by the long journey of the Israelite nation. I connect myself intimately with that journey and I have observed how much faith and spiritual strength are required in order to survive periods of fear and near- destruction and in order to stand up again and rebuild and to return home to the land and flourish once again. The miraculous survival of my nation is the source of my curiosity.

What strength did we harness in order to survive? To express the notion of a hidden but omnipresent God, I chose to observe the sacred and the mundane that reside in the same moment, using a shopping mall and what lies behind it as symbolic metaphors. The shopping mall symbolizes the materialism that is the milieu of modern society’s daily existence. The darkened windows reflect back to the people in the mall, their shopping mall presence while simultaneously illuminating the Divine presence in flashes of light surrounding them. It is easy and normal for the inhabitants of the shopping mall to forget all else. In this environment, it requires force of will to open one’s mind to what is happening beyond the walls of the mall and ones shopping mind. It is a conscious choice to open toward the Divine presence.

That Divine presence is depicted in spiraling flashes of light. The spiral represents the process of humankind’s growth and evolution. Our progression will always bring us back to the starting point but we hope that we have risen another rung of the spiral. In this model of human growth, the fully completed circle that is carried out to perfection will return us with a new acquisition of knowledge.

About Chani

Chani Cohen Zada lives and works in Talmon, Israel. She is a graduate of “HaTahana” Figurative Art School Master Class. Chani works primarily with oils on canvas and wood panels. Her painting style is figurative and allegorical and her paintings deal with the spiritual conversion of matter found in daily life. Chani has exhibited in solo exhibitions including HaGalleria HaAheret, Hayek Center for Contemporary Art, Heichal Shlomo and Gallery Ofra. She has taken part in several group exhibitions including “HaTahana” studio in Tel Aviv.

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