The Art of the Dreamer
It is only fitting that the Sefer Torah dedicated in celebration of Rabbi Riskin should be illustrated with artwork depicting a dreamer’s ladder, expressing the importance of each individual, and bearing the message of a peaceful and loving Torah
In his book, Listening to God, Rabbi Riskin writes that the most important legacy he could leave his descendants is the directive to never stop dreaming. In fact, Rabbi Riskin is one of the few people in the world about whom it can be said that not only have his dreams been realized, but he has managed to incorporate hundreds of thousands of people within his vision and effect monumental, truly historical change.
It is therefore only fitting that the Sefer Torah dedicated in celebration of his life’s achievements should be illustrated with artwork by Batsheva Arad depicting Jacob’s Ladder; a dreamer’s ladder which was “set up on the earth” – steeped in the reality of the world – and yet, whose “top reached to heaven.” (Gen. 28:12).
Arad’s intricate white needlework at the top of the mantle depicts heaven; earth is represented by green at the bottom, and the synthesis between the two through Torah Judaism is emblemized by the centrally placed Magen David. The artwork pays tribute to Rabbi Riskin as our ladder; a leader of foresight and courage who teaches us to connect between heaven and earth and empowers us to sanctify the mundane and bring the spirituality inherent in the Torah to our everyday lives.
The artist’s use of a multiplicity of colors conveys Rabbi Riskin’s philosophy that all Jews – and indeed all peoples – have a vital role to play in living and sharing the ethical and moral values of Judaism. Each person is important in weaving the tapestry; everyone can contribute to tikkun olam. This approach – one of compassion, loving-kindness, acceptance and warmth – is succinctly encapsulated by the verse emblazoned across the top of the mantle’s front: “דרכיה דרכי נעם וכל נתיבותיה שלום,” – the ways of the Torah are pleasant, and its paths peaceful.