Sunday, July 18, 2010

Naomi & Ruth

I had a request from TropiClay Studio to post a photo of my sculpture (my very first sculpture), Naomi & Ruth, so I thought I'd tell the story.  The story of Ruth is contained in the part of the Hebrew Bible called Ketuvim (Writings).  It is read on Shavuot, the Festival that commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

During the time of the Judges (1244 BCE to 879 BCE) when there was a famine, an Israelite family, Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their sons emigrate to Moab. Elimelech dies, and the sons marry two Moabite women: Mahlon marries Ruth and Chilion marries Orpah.

The two sons of Naomi then die themselves. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem. She tells her daughters-in-law to return to their own mothers, and remarry. Orpah leaves; however, Ruth says, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.

The two women return to Bethlehem. It is the time of the barley harvest, and in order to support her mother-in-law and herself, Ruth goes to the fields to glean from the corners of a field, as is proscribed for widows. The field she goes to belongs to a man named Boaz, who is kind to her because he has heard of her loyalty to her mother-in-law. Ruth tells her mother-in-law of Boaz's kindness, and she gleans in his field through the remainder of the harvest season.  Boaz and Ruth fall in love.

There are legal complications that delay their marriage, but are finally resolved.

Boaz and Ruth get married and have a son named Obed, who because of the previously mentioned legal issues is considered both the son and grandson of Naomi and her husband, as well as the son of Boaz and Ruth.  In the genealogy which concludes the story, it is pointed out that Obed is the descendant of Judah, and the grandfather of King David.

My Ruth & Naomi reflects the highlighted portion of the story.  Ruth became the first non-Hebrew to convert to Judaism by these words.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Mezuzah and It's Case

 Very often, either at the studio, or at shows, people will pick up a mezuzah case and ask, "Is this for flowers?"; or, "What can I put in here?"; or, quite simply, "What is this?"  Sometimes, they will have an idea of what it is, and say, "This is where you put the prayer on your door.  What is it called?"

The case is, traditionally, hung on the door post on the right, on an angle, tilted toward the door.   The letter that looks like a "W" on the case, is the Hebrew letter "shin".  It stands for the word "Shaddai", which is an epithet for God. As with almost all things Jewish, there are several theories on the derivation and meaning of "Shaddai".  I think the one that makes the most sense in context of the mezuzah is that it is an acronym standing for "Guardian of the Doors of Israel" (Hebrew: שׁוֹמֶר דְלָתוֹת יִשְׂרָאֶל), which is commonly found as carvings or writings upon mezuzah cases.

The scroll, or the "mezuzah", is a parchment upon which is a portion of the Torah called "The Shema"  ("Listen") and the second paragraph of the Shema, which is the "V'Ahavta" ("and you shall love").  The words are written by a Torah scribe, by hand, with no mistakes or corrections, in order for it to be a Kosher scroll.

When we leave our homes, and when we enter our homes, we touch the case and put our fingers to our lips to acknowledge that we are bound to act a certain way in the world and in our homes.  We are reminded to teach God's law to our children and to be an example to others.

Below is one of my mezuzah cases with the parchment that gets rolled up and put inside the case and the translation of the of the Hebrew:

(Shema) Hear, O Israel, the Eternal is 
our God, the Eternal is One.
Blessed be God’s Name and glorious kingdom forever and ever. 

(V'Ahavta) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I [God] teach you this day, shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder before your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Change in Direction

I've been exploring other blogs.  Each blog by which I have been intrigued has had a hook, a point of view, something that distinguishes itself from other blogs that are similar in nature (i.e. potter's blogs). So I have reflected on what it is I have to offer, that other potter's don't. And, at least in the part of the world I find myself living, I have Judaism.  At least m point of view as a Jewish woman creating Judaic pottery.

I am not sure where this will lead, how it will evolve or even if it will be a successful change in direction, but, it is what I have to offer, so I do, with respect and deference to the religious teachers & Rabbis from whom I have learned the Judaism I practice, including the those of Ethics of our Fathers, W. Gunther Plaut's Commentary on The Torah, and Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, together with the writings of many, many authors of Jewish literature, including but not limited to, Isaac Beshevis Singer, Elie Weisel, Milton Steinberg, J.D. Salinger, Phillip Roth, Chaim Potok, Bernard Malamud, E.L. Doctorow and Norman Mailer.

I invite people to ask questions, make comments, debate (with respect) and add their perspective.  I will say upfront that I having been raised in a Conservative Synagogue with a Conservadox Rabbi (in the 1950s!!!!) but tend toward Progressive Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism.

I am surprised, living in a town that has had a fairly large Jewish community since the 1800s, how few people know anything about Judaism.  I went into a bakery I frequent just before Passover, and half kidding, asked if they had Matzoh.  The owner of the bakery didn't know what it is.  When I tell people I make Judaica, very few people know the word.  I recently sculpted a piece called "Naomi & Ruth"  and no one knew their story.  To confess, I did not know that many Christians do not read what they call "The Old Testament."  This surprises me, as well, inasmuch as this would be the text from which Jesus preached.

I do not want this to be a place to preach, but a place to teach and I will try to keep it relevant to the pieces of Judaica I create, how they are used and why.  I don't even know how I will start, so I will say shalom for now.  "Shalom" which has in it "hello", "goodbye" & "peace".

Sunday, July 4, 2010

In the Media

This last month was a very good month for Oy Clay!!! Pottery. Even though I whined about the sales at the Studio Stroll, with some distance from the nerve wracking, expectation riddled event, I did pretty well, and the proof is in the people who have come back in the intervening month and purchased pieces. There has been a lot of local traffic on the website, due to the advertising on THE BIG CRAFTY, which I am glad to say has given me a chance (that is next Sunday, July 11th, by the way). Additionally, I am part of the Odyssey Gallery Ad this month in The Laurel of Asheville.

If you haven't been to,
lately, please check it out and give me your feedback. I think it is starting to shape up.