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Tag: Mezuzah

Meet the artist Shraga Landesman

Pomegranate Hebrew Seder Plate by Shraga Landesman

When you visit the Website of artist Shraga Landesman you’ll see this quote:

“My spiritual sources are the Bible and the ancient cultures that lived in the region. A disappearing world that I miss which does not exist anymore. I confront this world my way, trying to decode familiar cultural codes from those magic objects that these cultures left behind”.

Shraga Landesman was born in Israel where he studied sculpture and painting at the Oranim College of Art and Tel-Hai College. There was seemingly no limit to the borders of Landesman’s creative output. In 1982 he won first prize in a documentary photograph competition in Israel. His photographs were widely exhibited in Haifa.

At this successful juncture in Shraga’s career, he traveled through Europe where he was exposed to the origins of Western culture, hints of which were left there by the ruins of ancient civilizations such as that of Greece and Rome. Inspired by this, he enrolled at Haifa University, concentrating on small scale sculptures. A constant itch for creative expression led him to the designing and creation of ceremonial Judaica – this is what he is best known for, and this has been the focus of his artistic output since 1996. Shraga Landesman’s creations in functional Judaica are even featured at several museums, galleries and fine craft-stores throughout Israel, Europe and the United States.

Shraga’s Judaica comes in the form of mezuzot, Hanukkah menorahs, pesach items, candle holders, serving items, havdallah sets, Kiddush sets, and more. Currently his photography focuses on Birds of Israel.

Kissing a Mezuza Risks Swine Flu? Doctors Say Yes

swine flu virusIn a country where it’s a nearly ubiquitous custom to kiss a Mezuzah upon entering and exiting a building, at a time when said country is all up in arms about Swine Flu, is probably a bad combination. But the question has already been asked. Can kissing a Mezuzah contribute to the spread of the disease?

What’s the need for the question? Of course yes. Flu is extremely contagious, and it stands to reason that an object that collects bits of saliva from passersby can function like a hub for H1N1. But the Rabbis were asked anyway. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar had this to say on the subject, “If a specific order is given in the matter, the mezuzah must be kissed from the air, to ensure that the custom is not forgotten.” That’s a pretty fair compromise, but why must an order be given? We all know that the flu spreads from salivary contact. Do we need an order to tell us so?

Dr Ilan YoungsterMeanwhile, six out of seven doctors interviewed on the subject declined to comment about Mezuzahs in particular, for fear of getting in trouble with the Rabbis. No comment. There was only one doctor brave enough to tell the truth. Kissing Mezuzahs (sans Rabbi Amar’s air-kissing technique) increases the spread of Swine Flu, is dangerous, and people should refrain from doing it. His name is Ilan Youngster, and he based his warning on research he presented a year and a half ago sampling 70 Mezuzahs, which all turned out to contain many dangerous bacteria.

“Perhaps,” he continued, “because of the fact that the mezuzah is a religious object, people are afraid to sterilize it.”

Rabbi Amar responded to Youngster’s recommendation with ambivalence. On the one hand, he didn’t want the Health Ministry to issue an advisory against the practice, however, he recommended that anyone who wants to follow Youngster’s advice, “…put his hand near the mezuzah and kiss it, so as not to miss out on this good and important custom.”

I would ask Rabbi Amar about the commandment of “shmor et nafsheha” which is a Biblical obligation that a Jew watch over his health and well being, which I’m guessing should override a mere custom, but Amar wasn’t available for comment. I also didn’t call him for one either, for fear of getting in trouble with the Rabbis.

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