Gabriella Boros – Amen Institute Artist of the Week

In the Amen Institute’s Fellow Program artists are assigned a portion of the Torah to inspire a visual artwork and they are paired up with a Rabbinic fellow to study this portion with, where together they work through important theological and spiritual questions that come from this biblical text. Eleven Jewish Art Salon members are amongst the selected 20 Fellows.

Piece DescriptionThe monotony and hardship of trudging through the desert has led to petty squabbles, fights, unpleasantness and unrest. In order to gain a modicum of control, Moses exhausts himself adjudicating these internal disputes. Our first panel shows how Yitro must have viewed Moses when he first came upon the encampment. Yitro states plainly that it is not good for you to wear yourself out, “Navol Tibol”. The second panel addresses this Navol Tibol matter from Moses’ point of view. We see Moses contemplating a log being lifted  by five men, while Yitro is looking on from afar.  This is an interpretation of the Mekhilta of Rabbi Yishmael which states that Navol Tibol means “it is beyond your strength, when a beam is moist you need four or five to lift it.” Moses heeds this advise. A lesson to us all, wisdom comes from everywhere. Moses becomes stronger with the support of others. None of us can carry a load by ourselves. Navol Tibol, a simple phrase which resounds in all of our lives.
Discussion Questions:
1. Both of these panels were etched out of a woodblock. Why do you think this medium was chosen to frame our story? The Mechilta of Rabbi Ishmael expands on Yitro’s conversation with Moses by describing a parable about a moist beam being lifted by 5 men. In what ways might the depiction of this addendum enhance our understanding of the name of this piece, Navol Tibol – the withering limb will wither – a term coined by Yitro himself?

2. In the first panel, Moses is in the action while Yitro observes from a distance, while in the second panel the roles are reversed. What subtextual meaning does the composition of these two panels articulate by doing this? What lessons from these teachings can you take into your own life?3. The story of Yitro’s advice precedes the dramatic recounting of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the reception of the 10 commandments. What is the significance of preceding this foundational scene with the story of Yitro’s legal structural counselling. What can we learn about this juxtoposition? In what ways does Gabriella Boros set the scene to establish the magnitude of this moment? And how does the composition of this moment contrast with it?  

4. Gabriella Boros is known as the botanist artist and took a particular interest in the horticultural nature of the phrase, Navol Tibol. What organisms are prominent in this image? It is of particular interest to note that this week was also coincides with Tu Bishvat, the new year for the trees, and we are currently within the 7th year in the Shmitta cycle, the agricultural sabbatical. How do these calendric confluences impact the way you read the portion. What larger conversation can be drawn out of Gabriella’s imagery and our relationship with the environment. 
Artist BioGabriella Boros has shown her prints, paintings and multimedia works nationally and internationally. Currently focusing on woodblock prints, Gabriella also paints, draws and sculpts. Born in Israel, Gabriella immigrated to the US as a child. She has a BFA from the University of Michigan School of Art. Gabriella works in series to develop her themes which are most often Judaic and botanic in nature.

To see more art by Gabriella:
Artist-Teacher Chevrutah Pair
Rabbi Benjamin Greenfield
New York, USA
 Rabbi Bio: Ben Greenfield serves as the rabbi of The Greenpoint Shul in Brooklyn, NY. Previously, he spent two years as the rabbi at Bais Abraham Congregation, in Saint Louis, MO. Originally from Los Angeles, Ben was trained at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshiva University, Oxford, and Johns Hopkins, and was awarded Tikvah Fund and Wexner Graduate fellowships. Ben is a founder of the Upper West Side Moishe House, where he coordinated 200+ Jewish communal events for over 5,000 Manhattan Jews, while also serving at Rikers Island Correctional Facility as the High Holidays and Passover rabbi. His writing was awarded the Whizin Prize in Jewish Ethics and he is the author of a cycle of original liturgy for Shavuot, Purim, and Yom HaShoah. Ben loves squash (the sport), faux-organic cooking, and finger percussion.

Sermon of Rabbi: 
Read his sermon inspired by his studies with Gabriella Boros’ at The Amen Institute’s website