Parshat Masaei by Shoshana Ruerup

Fine art Archival Print on 256 gsm Paper, museum quality.
Limited Edition of 250 (נר) each. Size - 70X50 cm
Price includes international shipping

Interpreting the Torah portion, parshat Masaei, demanded of me to reread the entire story of Exodus. The many commentaries and midrashim (interpretations) helped me come to a truly geshmak and satisfying visual solution. Without the Exodus from Egypt, no wanderings in the desert would have taken place, and no journey would have been undertaken by the children of Israel.

I asked myself about the importance of human creativity and activity, and about beauty
and desire. I found myself wanting to know why beauty and desire are such central themes throughout the Torah. What are their functions? In parshat Masaei, beauty is directly related to structure. Beauty results in structure. In the parasha, beauty is spoken about as the people journey over the land, with its prescribed geological and social forms and borders. The people’s culture and the conditions under which they live are greatly elaborated upon in this parasha. How can such a society be built?

The Israelite society we encounter here paints a picture of a people building a free society after enduring 400 years of Egyptian slavery. It is a society that must rebuild itself out of a culture enshrined in severity and injustice. It is a society that has wandered forty years through wild and unknown lands. Though newly freed, this people has never experienced “home,” but has lived on-edge, with many new and frightening encounters at every turn. They have been led home, where they hope to find rest, peace, and security – the ultimate beauty. The grotesque chaos of their history of slavery and wandering is transformed into order, into attentiveness, and into care. The Torah’s plan has the people caring for the land, caring for its borders, and caring for the people living in it. Through care, the land will flourish, be fruitful, and will be gain in beauty.

My drawing focuses strongly on the themes of beauty, form, and chaos. The unformed “wild” and amorphous forms serve as symbols for what has passed. In contrast, the orderly and beautifully crafted objects symbolize the desire for a civilized and structured society supported by the fundamental concepts of justice and peace taught in the Torah. Many of the objects in the piece allude to the hidden female presence in the Exodus process: the head coverings, the small mirror, the net, needles to craft the imagined curtains of the Mikdash (The Tabernacle), the German-Jewish wedding ring and the marriage between God and His people at Mount Sinai.

Next to culture, nature persists, formed by G-d in its perfection at Creation. The sand of the desert and the cowry shell in its immaculate beauty have a prominent place in the picture. The dotted line shows the path of the long journey from Egypt to the Holy Land. There is the promise of the beauty and of the just society that we read of in the Torah, just as there is the promise of conclusive Redemption. There is promise – may it be fulfilled speedily in our days.

This work is dedicated to Susi Rosenberg ע''ה from Munich (1959 – 2015), a gifted artist in her own right.

Shoshana Ruerup studied fine arts in Germany and in the Netherlands. Her work is deeply influenced by traditional Jewish texts and Jewish philosophers such as Edmond Jabes and Emanuel Levinas. Shoshana sees her work as a form of Jewish study - connecting the past with the present and the future. Apart from her work in the studio, Shoshana teaches art & craft to children and adults. She is a Jewish educator and community organizer in her Berlin community. Shoshana is a member of a small, vibrant orthodox community in Berlin, former East Germany, where she lives with her family.

Reflections on Being a Jewish Woman Artist

It is a great joy as well as a challenge for me to be able to live in todays world as a Jewess, as a woman and as an artist.

I engage with Jewish texts through my art making with great respect and sometimes also with great uncertainty. There is so much tradition and such sensitivity required. So much to wrestle with, so much to look for and so much to be unearthed both personally and in the texts themselves. Additionally, I am inspired by encounters with everyday life and culture – music, history, science, nature. Or sometimes, simply a story my son is sharing with me after school or while reading a classical text.

But delving into Jewish texts, wrestling with their meanings and looking for their place in today’s world, in my world, is tremendously influential to my art. Learning through making art helps me to engage in the intellectual and emotional debate of our tradition and to find my own voice therein. For me it is sometimes as if I am sitting in a virtual בית מדרשת / House of Study together with my ancestors of past and present who loved and delved into our sacred texts, adding his or her own understanding. By enabling a glance into this world through my art, I hope to inspire others to open the door to these sources of wisdom.

I don’t think I truly see myself as a Jewish woman artist, as a member of a special tribe in the art world. One overriding aspect of art is its universality, its inherent potential to speak to others through a language which can be understood by everyone.

To be a Jewess is a fundamental part of my daily life and practise and I am very happy to be a woman and a mother. For many years now, I have been working as an artist and sometimes this is easier than others. But I never give up. Being Jewish, female and an artist are essential to my identity. And they influence how I see the world.

Still, I am most deeply motivated by what connects us as human beings and less by what divides. Even in these difficult times of political, social and religious crisis in the world community.


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Category: Print

Type: Women of the Book



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