Huge new painting hung at Beyachad - 07/13/2011

Rabbi Silberhaft is dwarfed by the painting

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft is the SA Country Communities Rabbi as well as the Spiritual Leader & CEO of the African Jewish Congress (little wonder he is also known as “The Travelling Rabbi”). Last week he hung a spectacular oil painting in the imposing foyer of the Beyachad Building in Raedene, Joburg, where most secular Jewish organisations are based.

Rabbi Silberhaft tells the story of the magnificent and imposing painting now hanging in the foyer: “The brief history behind its arrival and loan to Beyachad is that on a recent visit to Harare where I met Stella Cohen the artist, she asked me to facilitate its loan to a local congregation where people could ‘enjoy and appreciate’ it,” explains Rabbi Moshe.

Unfortunately, he says, “the congregation however felt it was not really appropriate to hang in the foyer of a Shul. Stella therefore donated it to the African Jewish Congress, to be displayed at Beyachad.”

Stella’s collection, entitled “Blessings for Vera”, reflect “spiritual, personal and collective experiences” and her rich Sephardi ancestry.

Grief on the passing of her sister Vera Hanan inspired Stella’s intensely mystical works of art.

Her works were shown at Yeshiva University Museum in association with the American Sephardi Federation and adorn the walls of her stately home in the suburbs of Harare, and now Beyachad.

The painting featured is titled “Sabbath Bride” – oil on canvas and was donated to the African Jewish Congress, “in memory of Vera Hanan (OBM)”, the lyrical words of ‘Lecha Dodi’ are superimposed on the flowing garments of the Sabbath bride.

In the Stella’s own words:

“For millennia the Sabbath is ushered in with ancient rituals, prayers and blessings. All this is done in preparation for the symbolic coming of the Sabbath bride whose presence personifies the sacred day. Called the Shechinah in the words of “Lecha Dodi” - composed in Safed by Sephardi poet Rabbi Solomon Halevi Alkabez - “Come my beloved to greet the bride; let us welcome the presence of the Sabbath”, it depicts the welcoming of the Sabbath, personified as a bride, still sung in our Sephardic synagogues with the same centuries-old, stirring melody.

“In this painting the bride, with hands uplifted, holds a large glass bowl, a container filled partly with water and topped with a layer of olive oil in which is floated a three-pronged cork with a wick. When I light this, as is the custom in Sephardic homes, the glow illuminates my soul.

“The painting is both a visual prayer and a blessing. The mystical Shechinah reminds me of the redemptive act to repair and heal the gloriously colourful, but fragmented, fabric of our lives. The vivid colours in her bridal gown represent the Sephirot, or energies, within us, each with their own particular potency and purpose. Each hue and tint combines to create a magical alchemy making us whole”.

Didn’t travel well

It seems the painting didn’t travel as well as Rabbi Silberhaft does.

It was damaged in the course of being transported to Johannesburg from Harare. But, fear not, Stella will be shortly visiting Joburg to ‘touch up’ the damage to the paint work.