This is the speech that I gave that day, and the picture to the right is one small part of the installation in Room 105. If you are in or near Los Angeles, I strongly recommend you come to HUC and see Victor's work; it is transcendant.
What do you get when you combine one teacher of midrash, eleven rabbinical students, and a world-class multimedia artist?
How do you put windows into an HUC classroom without blowing holes in the wall?
The answers to those questions lie behind the copper-clad door of Room 105.
The class studied the 16th Pesikhta of the Pesikhta de Rav Kahana, a 5th c. collection of midrashim. Pesikta #16 is a homily on the haftarah for Shabbat Nachamu, “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami” [Comfort, Comfort My people]. About two weeks into the course, Dr. Barth told us that this was not an ordinary midrash class. Donors Nancy Berman and Alan Bloch had offered HUC the commission of a work of art. Our task was to learn Pesikta #16, and then teach it to an artist named Victor Raphael. He would then create an interpretation of the midrash, a major work of art, for permanent installation at HUC Los Angeles.
This midrash class was an education for all of us. It is our hope that the result of all this work is a worshipful study space, a room that offers comfort and inspiration for both teachers and students. The images are grounded in Jewish texts, and they emerged from a conversation among many different members of the
The title of the work is,
“Nachamu, Nachamu: The Heavens Spread Out Like a Prayer Shawl.”