Sholom Rubashkin Painting Portrait and Yated Essay

rubashkin-portrait-detailrubashkin-portraitMy essay on, and painted portrait of, R’ Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka Rubashkin – published in the Yated Magazine this week.

I am so inspired by this man’s faith. Regardless of what you think about the original court case and the proportionality (or lack of) in his sentence, don’t forget that we all have done things we regret.

Put aside agendas and judgement for just a moment and appreciate the extraordinary beauty of this man’s unassailable emunah from the deepest darkness. Buy the book “Inside Out” that records his Torah letter exchanges with a group of cheder students in Detroit and you will understand what I am talking about.

For me, there is something larger here than just this man’s personal spiritual challenge. He has become something larger. There is something ancient in his struggle that has overtones of our larger collective story:

Letters of Light
A moment with Reb Sholom Mordechai ben Rivka Rubashkin

A Yid sits in darkness, holding letters of light.

He sits alone in a prison cell, and holds in his hand a letter of emunah and bitachon from a young child in Detroit – a child he doesn’t know, and who doesn’t know him – and he responds with his own fiery words of faith. Here, juxtaposed against the deepest blackness, is an intense meeting of pure ahavas Hashem and ahavas Yisroel.

There is something here that is ancient yet familiar. Something holy in this convergence of darkness and light, age and youth, constriction and freedom. Something that echoes the future as much as the past.

What has opened in this moment? What am I seeing?

In the natural world we see a symmetry between micro and macro, between part and whole. The ridges and fissures in a small outcrop of rock mirror the valleys and peaks of the mountain range. The ragged outline of a tuft of cloud echoes the outline of the full formation. The waning and waxing of the day reflect the cycles of the seasons, with light, darkness, and light once again.

These same patterns can be found in our personal lives. Youth, adulthood, then old age, followed once more by the sweet babbling of a grandchild on the knee. Birth, death, and rebirth, within us and all around us.

Reflected patterns describe inner truths.

In our inner world, the jagged line delineated by the stories of our forefathers forms a pattern etched into the fiber of our spiritual genes. The trials and tribulations; the birth and rebirth; the endless reaching towards G-d. The pattern manifests in the inner story of our lifecycle, our year, even our day. It undulates beneath the greater story of our people and our own stories as individuals; each historic chapter and individual page are reflections of the original story, and microcosms of the story as a whole.

In this overlapping of layers sometimes we find an alignment; a harmonic note vibrating in such perfect frequency with the original song that the whole of the instrument rings true. Often the moment is so transitory it can easily be missed. Yet, the call is clear: a sweet essence lies here, something pure and true.

Here, in this moment, in this cold prison cell, in this exchange of spontaneous, agenda-less ahavas Yisroel and ahavas Hashem, echo the great stories of our forefathers; of groundbreaking structures of emunah and bitachon; of Yosef Hatzaddik in the pit; of Yidden suffering and holding firm together throughout the centuries; of private struggles and endless faith in geulah.

Here, in this moment, life – the magnificence of creation itself – is reduced to its ultimate, essential truth: A Jew with his God and his Torah, his emunah and his bitachon, his ahavas Yisroel and ahavas Hashem. Nothing else.

We define life – we define ourselves – by the blessings we’ve received: marriage, family, community, vocation and accomplishment. But what happens when life stretches us, shapes us, bends us around new realities? How do we perceive those who haven’t been as visibly blessed?
“Hevel havalim,” writes the wisest of men, “hakol hevel – all is futile.” That is not a cynical dismissal of the blessings around us, but a message of hope: Do not confuse markers of blessing with measures of self-worth. “Es haElokim yera v’es mitzvosav shemor ki zeh kol ha’adam – Fear Hashem and guard His mitzvos, for this is the entire person” (Koheles 12:13). Our inner essence, our ultimate value and joy, can never be taken from us – no matter the circumstance.

May we dance together with R’ Sholom, reunited with his family and his young talmidim, as we greet Moshiach tzidkeinu b’karov mamash.

Ufeduyei Hashem yeshuvun uva’u Tzion b’rinah.

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Yated An Artist’s View Feature



Article in Yated magazine this week featuring the Niagara essay and painting I wrote/painted/posted here a couple weeks ago.

This will be a monthly feature called “An Artist View” featuring an essay and art by yours truly, G-d willing…


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Trump Caesar Coin


My Op-Art for Today:

“First Look at the New Coinage”

If you share this please use the hashtag #TrumpCoin #TrumpCaesar

Please contact me if you want to use this.

©2016 YJStudios LLC All rights reserved


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Stream in a Forest Painting

trees-in-forest-smallProcess video:


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