By Ashley Jones
My first year as a camper, I attended the fine-arts unit of OSRUI. In this unit, we spent 3 hours every day focusing on Jewish expression through arts such as dance, painting, and drama. However, we didn’t speak much, if anything, about kabbalah during my time in that unit. I was excited upon arrival to David Freedman’s studio in Tzfat because I knew there was a strong connection between Kabbalah and art. His studio was filled with gorgeous artwork that had Jewish intention. David was able to guide us to a deeper understanding of Kabbalah by taking us through some of his favorite pieces. Upon first look, all the artwork looked very geometric and nice to the eye. We played almost a game with him trying to find the pieces of Kabbalah within the artwork. Some pictures had the webbed chart with 12 points which is very typical in Kabbalist artwork while others had Hebrew letters making up the patterns and people he depicted.
The most striking painting to me was one where he created a circular chart that linked the various aspects of Kabbalah to the astrological chart. He was able to teach us about the influence of the universe onto Kabbalah. For all the different astrological signs, there was a coordinating Kabbalah value that he beautiful drew into a diagram. A lot of what we learned previously about Kabbalah stemmed more so from Judaism rather than other influences, so it was very interesting to see the artistic representation of this connection to the stars.
David Freedman’s artistic representations of Kabbalah made me look at Kabbalah in a new light. Before this Shabbaton, all I knew about Kabbalah was that Madonna was a big believer in it. Now, I can understand why so many people chose to follow Kabbalah and why they use art to express their beliefs. Kabbalah is a deeply artistic belief, and I am thankful we were able to hear from David Freedman and see his work in order to understand this.