The D'rash Design Project
A visual midrash project by multimedia artist Christina Mattison Ebert featuring custom illustrations and descriptions inspired by the Torah, haftarah, Jewish holidays and more.
Prints are available on Etsy.
For image licensing or custom life cycle documents, contact the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit my multimedia narrative portfolio here.
BOOK OF DEUTERONOMY
"Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water...."
This haftarah portion comes in the period of consolation after the destruction of the Temple and focuses on God comforting a broken people. I chose to focus on the poetic phrasing and metaphorical language within this portion–the water-like imagery in the bottom two-thirds of the image is inspired by the phrasing "storm-tossed" (also translated as "tempestuous") that opens this haftarah portion in Isaiah 54:11. ("Unhappy, storm-tossed one, uncomforted!") The wording running across the top of the "water line" is the first line in the second half of this portion and is in reference to people turning back towards God for peace and happiness.
FEATURED IMAGES (click to enlarge)
BOOK of GENESIS (click to enlarge)
B'reisheetThis design was inspired by a quote from Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson (author of The Bedside Torah): “Instead of creation as the result of a cosmic battle requiring great effort, the God of the Torah creates easily simply by issuing a brief, effortless command, “‘Let there be.’” I wanted to capture the quiet, peace, simplicity and vacuousness that may have existed before the work of creation began, which Artson alludes to with this quote.
NoachAfter reading and re-reading this very full Torah portion, I found that four key themes and/or events really defined the story of Noah - corruption of humankind, the flood, drying up of the flood waters and replenishment of the populations of the earth. I used a bit of alliteration tie the themes together along the story line (robbery, rain, rebirth and redemption), which is told visually through four simple vignettes.
Lech L'chaThe blessing God recites to Abraham at the beginning of this portion forms the basis for God’s relationship with the Jewish people throughout time, so I combined the words of the blessing with the tree to symbolize the growth that started with Abraham and Sarah, who stand under the tree. The intricate mosaic pattern alludes to all the individual souls who comprise the Jewish people, coming together to form a unified nation.
VayeiraTen verses in this portion are devoted to Abraham’s plea with God not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. In a stepwise fashion, Abraham reasons with God that if there are 10 innocent people in the region, God should not destroy the good with the bad by blotting it out in entirety. That Abraham can negotiate with God is poignant — it shows that the relationship between God and man is not a one-sided power scheme favoring the divine. Rather, it is a dynamic relationship.
Hayei SarahAbraham pays the Hittites for the land on which he plans to bury Sarah even though God already promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. As Rabbi Bradley Artson posits, Abraham understands that although belief in divine ownership of the land is his personal truth, it may not be the truth of others: "...Abraham never abandoned the religious humility that accepts the possibility of being wrong." The words "a generous eye, a meek spirit and a humble soul" are from Avot de-Rabbi Nathan.
ToldotIsaac's contribution to the progression of his people is through his internal, spiritual journey — just as much as his father and son carve out the story of the Jewish people, Isaac ensures survival by attending to what already exists (for example, re-digging the wells dug by Abraham). On account of his inward focus, Jewish mysticism traditionally aligns Isaac with the divine attribute of restraint (gevurah).
Va-YetzeiThe verse at the center of this illustration is Genesis 28:12-16, after Jacob awakens from the dream in which he envisions a ladder extending between earth and heaven, with angels ascending and descending ("Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!"). Like Jacob before us, we are capable of transcending the static and noise of our modern lives in order to experience the beauty and sanctity of the present moment, regardless of the chaos and distractions of our environments.
VayishlachThis piece is based on verse 32:29 in the Book of Genesis, during Jacob's nocturnal wrestling match with an unknown being. The mysterious being says to Jacob, "...you have striven with beings divine and human and have prevailed." Jacob's struggle is universal to all humans. We wrestle with our insecurities, doubts and failings, but if we hold on, in the end we can arise with a strengthened sense of self.
VayeishevIn Vayeishev, we see clear connections between Joseph's pride and misfortune. He angers his family by interpreting his dreams as signs that he will dominate them, and his brothers sell him into slavery. I believe Joseph ultimately wanted to protect his family, but he misinterpreted the symbolism in his dreams - what he saw as the power to protect he interpreted as the power to dominate. In this image, Joseph is shown in a position of dominance that could also be interpreted as protective.
VayigashThe word keshurah is Hebrew for "bound" or "tied", as a knot. It is used in this Torah portion in reference to Jacob's affection for his son Benjamin, who, along with Joseph, is the son of Jacob's beloved late wife, Rachel. Judah states to Joseph that he cannot return from Egypt without Benjamin, because Jacob's "own life is so bound up in [Benjamin's]" and Jacob will die of sorrow. The bond between Jacob and Benjamin is so tight that their lives are seemingly inextricable from one another.
VayechiJoseph's words at the moment his brothers beg for mercy are poignant: "Do not be afraid. Am I instead of God?" The anonymous writer Rabbi Ben A. relates the meaning behind these words well: "Not only did [Joseph] have no desire for revenge....Joseph completely dismisses any grounds for feeling ill will." This image shows the brothers in a free-fall state, released from the resentment with which Joseph had the power to bind them all but chose not to.
BOOK of EXODUS (click to enlarge)
ShemotThis week's Torah portion, the first in the Book of Exodus, includes the famous imagery of the bush that burns but is not consumed. Here is the quote that inspired this piece: "A tiny people, [Jews] have suffered the attacks of every major Western and Middle Eastern power.... Yet, like the burning bush we were not consumed....Despite our lack of numbers, we have cast a healing beam of light...." (Rabbi Bradley Artson, The Bedside Torah, p. 95)
Va-EiraIn the liberation from Egypt, why does God "harden Pharoah's heart?" Rabbi Naftali Silberberg points to Medieval scholar Nachmanides' suggestion that rendering Pharoah insensitive worked in God's favor. God "hardened his heart so that he would have enough strength and ability to freely choose his course of action....Thus Pharoah rightfully earned divine retribution...." I aimed to depict the separation between Pharoah's logical human brain and sympathetic human soul.
BoEven though the Hebrews are physically free from slavery, are they fully liberated in other senses of the word? They must also escape the mental and spiritual oppression that has bound them for so long — their full liberation will occur in phases. This Torah portion also includes God’s commandment for the Israelites to begin their own calendar with the new moon. As the moon has its phases, so do the Israelites face the challenge of unlearning how to be an enslaved people, step by step.
BeshalachWith this Torah portion come several miraculous feats, including the parting of the Red Sea. As breathtaking as outwardly brilliant miracles are, though, sometimes we develop and grow best through inwardly focused, introspective and progressive ways of learning. In this image, I wanted to contrast the ways in which we, as humans, can be altered by both bold, shocking external forces and by a slower, quieter inner evolution.
Yitro"A Judaism that does not make time for Shabbat is a mere religion. A Judaism centered around Shabbat, consecrated for quiet, meditation, celebration, study, and play, is one that can outlast the ages." (Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, The Bedside Torah) This piece shows the quiet of Shabbat, surrounded by the controlled chaos of the other days of the week. If you look closely, you will see the word "sheva" in Hebrew in the center, which means "seven," as in Shabbat being the 7th day of the week.
MishpatimI just wanted to create a whimsical piece, without much explanation beyond that. Then I found this quote from Dr. Tali Loewenthal about the dietary laws, and the existential questions they stir in us: "'Is it kosher?' is the question one asks before taking a mouthful. Of, course, the effect of such a law is far broader than simply our attitude to food. We gradually learn to ask about everything in life: "Is it kosher?'" We become more observant, more critical, more inquisitive.
TerumahThis Torah portion contains instructions on how the Israelites are to build the portable sanctuary that was to be carried with them throughout their journeys in the desert. The sanctuary was meant to serve as a place where God could dwell among the people, a sacred space that was the spiritual center of the Israelite community. This image captures the protected, mystical space of the sanctuary, surrounded by the many fine materials that the Israelites were instructed to use to build it.
TetzavehThe Hebrew reads, "I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel and I will be their God." In this image, I aimed to show the relationship between God and humankind as being reciprocal, that God needs us as much as we need God, even today. The abstracted shapes that appear to be in the night sky are actually made by several pieces of ribbon I tied into a knot, with one color of ribbon appearing to come from below (Earth) and the other from above (the divine realm).
Ki-TissaThis was the first D’rash Design I ever completed. The image depicts the smashing and re-inscribing of the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The overall feeling I wanted to communicate was that of forgiveness and mercy, as stated in the line of text I chose to add to the image: “Lord, Lord, benevolent God, Who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth....”
VayakhelThe Hebrew reads: "And every wise-hearted person among you shall come and make everything that the Lord has commanded...." The Israelites bring gold, silver, wool, etc. to aid in building the Tabernacle. People contribute in such abundance that Moses instructs them to refrain. This image shows the energy and joy invested into the Mishkan. The cloud-like shape represents God's presence. (I borrowed the cloud the portion Pekudei, which with which Vayakhel is often joined as a dual Torah portion.)
PekudeiRabbi Elana Zaiman likens completing the mishkan to a birthing process rather than an endpoint: “I see the construction of the mishkan not just as a building project, but as a birthing process. As a building project, it comes to an end. As a birthing process, it continues throughout the generations.” (Women’s Torah Commentary). I appreciate her line of thinking, as I believe it illuminates a spiritual aspect to this portion.
Vayakhel-PekudeiSaid in regards to Bezalel, one of the craftsman hand-picked by God to construct the tabernacle: “[God] has imbued him with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with insight, and with knowledge, and with talent for all manner of craftsmanship...” I like that the passage links Bezalel’s abilities as a craftsman to wisdom and insight. In other words, his technical and artisanal skills were ingrained within his spiritual and intellectual self rather than being disconnected.
BOOK of LEVITICUS (click to enlarge)
VayikraSacrifice (particularly animal sacrifice) is a polarizing part of Jewish history, and one warranting plenty of speculation and reflection as we try to reconcile this seemingly brutal part of our past with our present values system. Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson spins the concept of animal sacrifice in an interesting manner: “It’s bloody, it’s barbaric.... Our ancestors turned to animal sacrifice because they saw in it a way to express deep rage, feelings of inadequacy, and guilt.”
TzavMuch of the Torah portion Tzav is dedicated to rituals that make Aaron and his sons prepared for their duties as priests. A notably peculiar part of the elaborate and particular steps towards making them prepared to perform priestly duties on behalf of the people was Moses smearing sacrificial blood on each man’s right ear, right thumb and right big toe. The significance is much debated, and it stirs the reader to ask him or herself the question, “Why these specific parts of the body?”
SheminiWe read about the first celebration of sacrifice after the seven days of ordination (the first time a sacrifice is performed on behalf of the people on the altar). Aaron and his sons perform the rites exactly as commanded by God. Aaron’s sons later offer up an “alien” sacrifice, and the sons are consumed by flame and perish. Aaron’s silence following the sudden death of his sons is fascinating, and I chose to depict this moment in the illustration.
Shemini (Haftarah)This image features Michal, wife of King David and daughter of King Saul. In this portion, she sees King David dancing jubilantly and "loathed him in her heart," as he does not show the stately, dignified manners of her father.
Michal is often described in relation to either her father or husband, but she is strong and independent. As Rabbi Julie Wolkoff notes in The Women's Haftarah Commentary, "We see a woman who is not confined by people's expectations but rather self-defined."
Tazria (Haftarah)Twice in this haftarah are there servants who unwittingly take leadership roles in relation to their master, Naaman. Their leadership is spiritual in nature as they advise Naaman to entrust his health to prophet Elisha (and thus, the Israelite God). Naaman, seeking a cure for his leprosy, expects exuberant miracles and is frustrated when his expectations fall flat. His servants teach him to live by faith rather than glamour. Naaman, rather than his servants, was imprisoned.
Metzora (Haftarah)Four men are quarantined outside of Israel, which is in the midst of terrible famine, on account of a disease. They discover an abandoned encampment and alert the Israelites to its contents, including abundant food. Rather than succumb to their isolation and illness, they seek out a new and better future. "These men remind us...to triumph over societal labels and limitations and to defy the ways in which we are defined." (Rabbi Rochelle Robins, Women's Haftarah Commentary)
Tazria-MetzoraThis illustration depicts the offering for ritual atonement that a woman is to bring to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting after childbirth. This standard offering is actually a dove and a sheep in its first year, but if the woman cannot afford a sheep she is allowed to bring two doves. I wanted to use an abstract style with sweeping lines and spring-like colors to represent the renewal that came with atonement in that time.
Acharei-Mot (Haftarah)This haftarah deals with the concept of 'bringing on your day' - getting what you deserve. In this portion, not following the rules leads to disastrous outcomes. Yet Rabbi Nina Mandel cautions against throwing in the towel on 'bad behavior' so soon: "...despite the pressure in the Jewish tradition for boundaries...most of the women who are given names, whose stories are exalted in the Torah, are women who dared to step outside the norm...in ways that challenged established authority."
Kedoshim (Haftarah)This haftarah portion opens with a few verses that obliterate the notion that the Israelites are any more special than any other group. As Rabbi Rona Shapiro states, "The Torah portion of Kedoshim reflects our infancy, when God took us out of Egypt...and we believed that we were God's one and only. The haftarah of Kedoshim compels us to grow up, and to revise that self-image." Rather than hope for a status of superiority, we do best to commit ourselves to a self-image rooted in equality.
Acharei Mot-KedoshimThis Torah portion includes instructions on how the Israelites can expiate their sins using a goat - the “scapegoat.” Aaron confesses the people’s transgressions over the animal and then a designated man sends the goat off into the wilderness, thus ridding the people of their wrongdoings. Depicted here is the goat saddled with a menacingly burdensome load, set against the deep blue space of wilderness.
Emor (Haftarah)In Hebrew, the root of the word 'holy' means 'separation'– set apart from the mundane. I like the idea of holiness referring to a simple separation as opposed to an other-worldly state of spirituality inherent in the modern day-to-day understanding of the word 'holy.' The concept of 'holy' as 'separate' infers that we can achieve a sense of holiness–we can make a moment, a meal or a conversation holy–simply by finding a way to draw a boundary between it and the rest of the noise of our lives.
Behar (Haftarah)The prophet Jeremiah, while in prison, buys a piece of land belonging to his family, thus redeeming the land for himself and his descendants. The purchase signals Jeremiah's faith that the future of the Israelites will one day be bright, even after destruction descends upon them. This reminded me of a plants I see sprouting up from tiny holes in cement, grass coming up from beneath asphalt, flowers growing through sidewalk cracks - life pushing up through resistance.
Behukotai (Haftarah)Water and its life-giving abilities are recurring themes in this haftarah. Jeremiah invokes imagery of a tree living at water's edge–which can thrive through heat & drought–as a comparison to one who "trusts in the Lord." Jeremiah again uses the image of water in stating: "...and they who turn away from [the Lord] ... have forsaken the source of living waters...." (17:13) I wanted to capture the stoicism and vibrancy of life planted near its source of vitality — a flowing stream of water.
BOOK of NUMBERS (click to enlarge)
Bamidbar (Haftarah)Hosea uses the metaphor of Israel as idolatrous spouse to God. In doing so, Hosea confronts the notion of God as omnipotent master and alludes to God as lover–vulnerable and in need of intimacy. In the words of Rabbi Rachel Leila Miller, "For some, it may be fulfilling to submit to the command of an omniscient, transcendent Being. For others, it may be difficult to feel any sort of connection to a God of this type. Hosea challenges us to open our hearts to a more passionate experience of God."
NasoContinuing on in the book of Numbers, the portion Naso includes the infamous story of the sota, or the "wayward wife" whose husband suspects her of having committed adultery. The husband must bring his allegedly adultering wife to the kohen, who gives the woman a vessel of "bitter water" containing earth and remnants of scroll with curses written on it. Supposedly, if the woman is in fact guilty, her "belly will distend" and her "thigh will drop."
ShlachGod instructs the Israelites to "affix a thread of sky blue wool on the fringe of each corner [of your garment]" to remind them of God's commandments. The threads are a visual reminder to avoid certain influences and temptations that might lead one astray, away from the path that God has set out before him/her. This image illustrates the elusive connection between humans and God — an invisible tie that can keep us from wandering off onto a darker, less promising reality.
Shlach (Haftarah)Joshua sends two men to scout Jericho. A woman named Rahab conceals them from their enemies, and subsequently helps them escape via a rope. The men vow to protect Rahab's family when the city is siezed–she is to tie a crimson thread to her window to denote that her home is safe. I wanted to show the bond of trust between these men and Rahab, who are essentially strangers, by using the crimson thread as the means of escape. It is a nod to Rahab's courage, kindness & faith.
KorachNot having learned from Miriam's unfortunate bout of leprosy that God dislikes those who speak out against Him or his servants, several Israelites opt to follow Korach, who seeks to overthrow Moses and Aaron. What ensues is, well, how one might define "learning the hard way." The earth opens up and the trangressors fall in, along with all their stuff. I wanted to capture the downfall, chaos and consequences caused by Korach's actions.
Korach (Haftarah)The first Israelite king is crowned. Samuel, the judge, is at odds with the people's desire for a king as he feels their devotions should be exclusively to God. In the throes of change, Samuel is anxious. Per Rabbi Barbara Borts: "The association of one's identity with one's life work and ultimate values is intense...the threat of disruptions to "the way things are" is taken personally." I wanted to show Samuel's anxiety pitted against the glorified monarchy that is displacing him.
ChukatIn Hukkat, the Israelites agitate Moses with their complaints of thirst. God instructs Moses to speak to a rock, which is then supposed to give forth water. Instead, Moses strikes the rock twice in anger. This aggravated action in turn makes God angry with Moses for lacking faith that words alone would have brought forth the water. As Rabbi Bradley Artson states, "The challenge...is to know when anger and force are appropriate responses and when, instead, they are inappropriate and destructive."
Balak“How fair are your tents, oh Jacob, your dwelling places, oh people Israel!” is one of my favorite verses in the Torah. Spoken by a non-Jewish prophet (Bilam) upon seeing the Israelite encampments in the wilderness, this line is unique because Bilam had originally come to curse the Israelites so that the Moabites could defeat them in war. Bilam recites a full poem in praise of the Israelite encampment, which you can read in Numbers 24:5-9.
Balak (Haftarah)Many are familiar with the phrase, "Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." Interestingly, the text on www.chabad.org translated the verse as "walk discreetly with your God." Not much in our world is discreet anymore - we are becoming an increasingly high volume, high frequency, oversharing-inclined culture rather than one centered around thoughtfulness, restraint and self-reflection. I decided that focusing on these words alone would be the most meaningful.
PinhasThe prophet Elijah, exhausted by the task of turning wayward Israelites from idol worship, retreats to Mount Horeb. There, God “passed by, and a great and strong wind split the mountains, and shattered rocks...after the wind, an earthquake, a fire...and after the fire, a still, small voice.” As Rabbi Susan Fendrick states, “Elijah could not see, could not hear... God crying out to him through a voice of stillness.... God is often known in the quietude after the greatness.”
Matot (Haftarah)Haftarah texts are often visually poetic. Consider this verse: "And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: "What do you see, Jeremiah? And I said, 'I see a rod of an almond tree.' And the Lord said to me; You have seen well, for I hasten My word to accomplish it." The vision of almond branch implies rapid vengeance for the Israelites' transgressions (as almond flowers blossom quickly). This image is meant to capture the co-existence of beauty and darkness inspired by the almond branch imagery.
Masei (Haftarah)Although this portion is in the middle of a period of admonition, the imagery of God as "the Source of Living Water" provides a hopeful glimpse towards redemption. Jewish women are familiar with water's life-giving powers through the experience of the ritual bath, or mikveh. As writer Diane Stevens expounds: "Being in a mikveh is a state of suspended animation between past and future. We are asked to trust that the water...offers an opportunity for spiritual regeneration."
BOOK of DEUTERONOMY (click to enlarge)
DevarimMoses stands "on the other side of the Jordan" and begins his final teachings. While it seems a cruel irony that Moses would perish before witnessing the consummation of his efforts, Moses is part of a continuum. Eight, with its overlapping loops, is a metaphor for the concept of infinity. While Moses begins to bid his farewell in Devarim, he accepts his fate and acknowledges his place within the infinite loop of a people continuously growing and struggling to survive.
VaetchananThe V'ahavta is a central prayer in Judaism, and it is extracted directly from this Torah portion. This was the first prayer I attempted to memorize when I was converting, and I was charged with leading the congregation in its recitation during my adult bat mitzvah. As it is special to me, I am absolutely certain it is special to many, many others. When I put my personal spin on it, the result was this slightly psychedelic, very modern graphic novel-esque piece.
Vaetchanan (Haftarah)This haftarah is read just after Tisha B'Av, the day of mourning in memory of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Notably, the passage uses a female messenger (m'vaseret, transliterated) to bring consolation. Rabbi Sheryl Nosan-Blank notes: "...she models for us the ability to rise above the distractions and demands that can distance us from our Spiritual Source.... As she overcomes fear and 'raises her voice with power' to spread truths with conviction and passion, so too must we."
EikevOne definition of "faith" is a "firm belief in something for which there is no proof." I felt this embodied a basic notion of faith - that to live fully by one's beliefs, it's necessary to be in the vulnerable position of believing without the comfort of solid evidence. One very literal translation of the verse that inspired this piece actually reads: "You shall circumcise the foreskin of your hearts," but I prefer the more poetic "You shall tear away the hardness of your hearts."
Re'eih (Haftarah)his haftarah portion comes in the period of consolation after the destruction of the Temple and focuses on comforting a broken people. The water-like imagery in the bottom is inspired by the phrasing "storm-tossed" (also translated as "tempestuous") that opens this portion. ("Unhappy, storm-tossed one, uncomforted!") The wording running across the top of the water line is the 1st line in the 2nd half of this portion and is in reference to people turning back towards God for peace and happiness.
ShoftimSimply put, this verse reminds us that justice is something to be actively pursued, not longingly hoped for from afar. I wanted the typography to be front and center of this design, as a reminder not to become complacent but rather to seek out opportunities to bring social justice into our world.
Ki-Tetzei"I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate - it's apathy. It's not giving a damn," so says the late author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia (otherwise known as Dr. Love). While I am pretty sure Dr. Love was not a formal Torah commentator, he pretty much nailed the sentiment behind these Torah verses in my eyes.
Ki-TavoThe "stranger, the fatherless, and the widow"- in Biblical times, these terms referred to those in a particularly heightened condition of vulnerability. When we filter this concept of extreme vulnerability through modernity, we may come up with new or different words that fit this category - impoverished, unemployed, disenfranchised, homeless. Although our vocabulary may shift, the concept remains the same — have we given of ourselves what we can to ameliorate others' vulnerabilities?
NitzavimI adore these verses because they remind us that everything we need to know about Torah is accessible to us - there are no barriers between us and our potential knowledge nor do we need intermediaries to usher us into understanding. Any obstacles we experience that hinder our learning exist because we plant them in our own paths, or, as one of my favorite sayings goes, "we build our own prisons."
Vayelech (Haftarah)"Reimagine our tradition with the face of a female Joshua." (Rabbi Susan Gulack, The Women's Haftarah Commentary)
Nitzavim-Vayelech (Haftarah)This haftarah portion is read the week before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Its sentiment is that of consolation after a period of struggle and turmoil. "This is not an image of a powerful God who can fix what is broken. It is instead an image of a God who suffers with us.... Perhaps the real power this haftarah at this moment in the Jewish year is that it suggests a very specific image of consolation: one of God who is present in our pain." (Rabbi Laura Gellar)
V'Zot HabrarachahI feel that the focus of the portion is not upon the destination Moses did not reach, but rather the beauty of the journey that brought him to the moment of his death. This image reflects that sentiment by showing a wild, vibrant and winding path that leads to what appears to be a distant, disconnected point. The winding path, with all it’s chaos and color, signifies Moses’ tremendous efforts, his invaluable leadership, and his stalwart commitment to the Israelites in both good times and bad.
HOLIDAYS (click to enlarge)
Rosh Hashanah (1)It can be difficult amidst the distractions of the modern world to be fully present and truly reflective. I wanted to focus on the word "Hineini," or "I am here." Why in the Akedah does Abraham declare, "Hineini?" As my husband, Rabbi Marshal Klaven, wrote in one of his sermons: "Hineini is a declarative statement of being present in mind, heart, and soul, in addition to body.... the Bible is filled with moments when our ancestors expressed 'Hineini/Here I am,' as they stood before God."
Yom Kippur (1)"Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future," states writer Paul Boese. There is a sobering air about the days around Yom Kippur, as we are charged with intense self-reflection and the pursuit of atonement. It's a heavy task, but we can look forward into opportunities to improve ourselves. I wanted to focus on that moment when, having trudged through the murk of our humanness for 10 days, we can look to the future and know that we have every chance to be better.
Yom Kippur / Jonah“The text itself is silent as to what exactly Jonah experiences inside the belly as the fish churns in the ocean. Yet the implication is that the fish’s belly is an enclosure for generativity and birth—a womb-like container within which Jonah might be symbolically gestated for a period of time, and born anew.” (Rabbi Myriam Klotz, The Women’s Haftarah Commentary) Jonah is in a fetal position, surrounded, bound up and nurtured by his own fluid spirituality and capacity for introspection.
SukkotThe Hebrew in this image translates to: "the festival of Sukkot, the time of our gladness." I wanted a light, spring-like feel to this piece after the gravity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The bright palette taps into the celebratory nature of Sukkot — spending time outdoors in a sukkah and enjoying the wilderness of our backyards (however tame they may be). Depicted are the etrog (citrus fruit) and lulav (a collection of willow, myrtle and date palm), used in the celebration of Sukkot.
ChanukahAuthor James Ponet: “So the miracle-of-the-oil celebration of Hanukkah that the rabbis later invented covers up a blood-soaked struggle that pitted Jew against Jew.... But really, who can blame them... what nation creates a living monument to a civil war?” The Jewish people had become divided, but I don’t think it detracts from the beauty of Chanukah — rather, it gives the story a layer of richness and complexity, making the holiday that much more remarkable.
Passover (1)I wanted to illustrate the spirit of the Exodus story using the parting of the Red Sea and one of my favorite passages from the Hebrew Bible, when God speaks to Jacob: “Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will bring you down to Egypt, and I Myself will bring you back....” (Genesis 46:3-4).
Passover (2)"Within yourself deliverance must be searched for, because each man makes his own prison," said Sir Edwin Arnold. During Passover, in which we celebrate a mass exodus, it is imperative to also look inside ourselves to determine if we, as individuals, are actively freeing ourselves from the things that chain us down and prevent us from living our fullest lives. Freedom, after all, is not just a physical and legal state but also a spiritual one.
Shavuot“The Ten Commandments are laws of the heart, not laws of the Commonwealth. They lead to fullness of life, not simply to the well-ordered or precisely- directed life. Aristotle says that the perfect life is one where we... focus our life on the best, most worthy things, the things of highest merit. Well, the Ten Commandments tell us what’s worth focusing on in life. They are a new vision of what it means to be a good, healthy, happy, authentic human community.” (Joan Chittister, OSB)
BLESSINGS & MORE (click to enlarge)
Christina Mattison Ebert is a multimedia artist, writer and director with an MFA in Visual Narrative from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. She completed the D'rash Design Project between 2012-2014, shortly after completing her conversion to Judaism, as a way to learn about the Torah.
Each image in the series was created in a limited time span — anywhere between 2 and 8 hours per piece — and were designed to be raw and visceral reactions to the week's Torah portion or its associated texts and commentaries. In its early days, Christina primarily used colored pencil and ink to complete the art, but as the series and her art practice progressed, she expanded into using cut paper, photo-illustration, collage and digital media.
Prints of D'rash Design images ares old in Christina's Etsy shop. Customized life cycle documents such as bat and bar mitzvah certificates can be commissioned upon request. Christina is also available for artist-in-residence opportunities at congregations, with multiple program options for adults and/or children. Contact Christina at email@example.com to learn more.
A portfolio of Christina's visual narrative work can be found at www.christinamattison.com, including a digital short story presenting a modern re-telling of the Book of Ruth. Also, check out her MFA thesis project, a multimedia graphic novel called Landfall, at www.landfall-story.com.
All text and images ©2017 Christina Mattison Ebert, all rights reserved.