Jewish Mysticism Through Art: an Ascent-in-Safed Retreat
July 16, 2012 2:00 PM (as posted on //chabad.org)
most people think of Safed, two things immediately come to mind, aside from the
citys sheer beauty and vistas, perched as it is atop Israels Upper
Galilee region: Jewish mysticism and art. Home to much of the esoteric Torah concepts
known as Kabbalah, theres no shortage of either in Safed, where artistic
creations take their inspiration from Judaisms supernal teachings and works
of art become part of the background of its cobblestone streets.
recently, an intensive program had yet to offer students a way to discover Kabbalistic
wisdom through art. Enter Ascent, a Chabad-Lubavitch institution that is part
hostel and part yeshiva to both local Israelis and foreign tourists. Its new mystical
art retreat begins next week, taking a place alongside a program of tours, lectures,
and inspirational gatherings that has been in development since Ascents
founding in 1983.
There are a lot of artists in Safed and workshops
on art, but no ongoing program where a person can learn how to express themselves
artistically in a mystical way, says Elliott Tucker, a 30-year-old London
filmmaker and Ascents new artist-in-residence, one of the retreats
Tucker and the Ascent staff will host the 10-day art intensive
retreat beginning July 21, entitled, Art and Soul: Re-creation. A
second four-day arts retreat will be held Aug. 26 to 30. The agenda will feature
art workshops and classes, and provide studio time for participants with local
artists. It will culminate in an art fair featuring live music, films and other
works of art produced by the participants.
ART & SOUL: Re-creation Retreats
retreat-ten days: July 21-31
retreat-four days: Aug. 26 to 30.
program, not only geared for artists, will also feature Ascents usual line
up of hikes, spiritually-focused guided tours, two meals a day and lodging, and
classes on Kabbalah and Chasidic thought at its 34,000 square foot facility and
adjoining hotel in Safeds Old City.
Another of the programs
designers, Izzy Greenberg says developing an art-centric curriculum fits into
Ascents long history of creatively engaging people of different backgrounds
People are unique and they connect to Judaism, spirituality
and mysticism in unique ways, he explains. Everyone has a creative
spark within waiting to emerge. The arts focus is an attempt to expand Jewish
spiritual discovery through imagination and creativity, and to explore the avenue
The trend has its beginnings in the ongoing classes led by
an unassuming, yet talented artist and writer on the Ascent staff, Devora Levin,
who doubles as administrative assistant for Ascent executive director Rabbi Shaul
Tucker arrived on the scene in March and began engaging diverse
groups of Ascent guests in workshops focused on producing art based on their visualization
of their highest aspirations for the world. Patrons of the upcoming retreat can
expect similar sessions with Tucker and Levin.
Staff decided on Re-creation
as a subtitle for the program because it fits well with the artistic theme of
creativity and, more importantly, two foundational principles engendered by the
institute and in the teachings of the Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous
memory: The themes of rebuilding the self and the world.
was by no mistake in planning that the retreat is taking place within the three-week
period of the Jewish calendar that precedes the anniversary of the destruction
of both Holy Temples on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, says Tucker.
The Rebbe, he notes, encouraged Jews worldwide to use the seemingly mournful period
as a time to look to the future and focus on rebuilding.
Aligned with the
reconstruction theme, the program will include painting Kabbalistic murals to
spruce up the walls of local synagogues. Also planned is something Tucker calls
upcycling, a version of recycling in which participants sculpt creations
with Jewish themes from discarded items.
At the end of the day,
quips Tucker, its all about the rebuilding of ourselves and the rebuilding
of the world.
[Yehuda Sugar is a former wire service journalist from Chicago
who currently freelances for Chabad.org, AscentOfSafed.com and
other news outlets. He lives in Tsfat with his wife and four children.
artist Yom Tov Blumenthal, whose works include an image of a tree of esoteric
wisdom emanating from a Torah scroll, will run workshops at the Ascent retreat.