The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, serves as the beginning of a month of festivities and introspection for Jewish people worldwide. Wishes are offered for a sweet and happy new year, and traditionally Jews gather in synagogues for prayer. During the ten days following Rosh Hashanah, Jews reflect on the past year, noting where to give and ask for forgiveness. This period culminates with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The harvest festivals of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret end these “days of awe and celebration,” concluding joyously with a reading of the Hebrew Bible on Simchat Torah.
Prayer, celebration, and introspection powerfully imbue Ben-Zion’s nature and Jewish-themed artwork. His depictions of men wearing the tallit (prayer shawl), gazing into prayer books, and observing Sukkot with the blessing of a lulav and etrog (palm fronds and citron) show his deep relationship with Jewish tradition. Ben-Zion’s beloved walks in the Carpathian mountains of his youth echoed the footsteps of the Baal Shem Tov, the Jewish mystic, who meditated ecstatically in that same landscape. Ben-Zion’s painterly depictions of the Baal Shem in the forest convey both his own and the mystic’s spiritual communion with nature.
Watercolor and ink on paper, 24 x 19 inches