Portrait of Rabbis

I spend much time reading Biblical and other Jewish texts. Judaism is a huge treasure of wisdom, widely undiscovered by Europeans until today. Jewish thought has proved to be a motus continuus throughout human history. But the knowledge of Judaism, Jewish history, Sinai law, Biblical and Talmudic literature was not only unusual among European scholars, it was neglected, even despised throughout the Christian dominated era. The problem starts with the question whether it is considered an independent “universal concept” or belittled as a particularistic, retarded, reactionary thinking, bound to the Ghetto, doomed to disappear in the overwhelming absolute truth of – respectively – Christian theology, Greek-Roman philosophy or modern rationalism.

In neglecting Jewish wisdom, Western societies have deprived themselves of one of the most brilliant, universal concepts of thinking. As Jewish thought was in disregard, so were its symbolic figures, the Rabbis. In their teachings and discussions, however, a lot of inspiration can be found, especially today, in the days of spiritual crisis and atrophy of Christian Europe. For the sake of spiritual survival it is the obligation of the “initiates” to open the long blocked gates and let Jewish wisdom flow.

For me, as an artist trained to read and discern the message of human faces, the study of old paintings picturing famous Rabbis became fascinating. I found most of these faces exceptional and impressing and have tried to re-tell the stories I found in them, stories of lives mostly spent in dark circumstances, even persecution, and yet full of wisdom, vitality and uplifted spirit. (Sabine Kahane, 2003)

Click here to watch the portraits.

©2008 Benny Kahane, Beer Sheva, Israel