After many years I renewed this season my subscription at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. An announcement received yesterday inspired me for the theme to pick for this Sukkot holiday. A change in program brings in the first concert of the new season the ‘Ouverture on Hebrew Themes’ by Prokofiev. I searched for it, as I did not know it, and then for some of the pieces of music inspired by the Jewish tradition (and by tradition I mean musical tradition as well) and here are a few of the gems I found.


(video source Raniero Tazzi)


First, here is the piece that triggered my search. Sergei Profofiev’s Ouverture on Hebrew Themes played by the Brodsky Quartet.


(video source goturhjem2)


I also found a splendid piece by Shostakovich which I did not know – the Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67. Here is it’s story as it appears on the youTube page:

Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67, is remarkable for a number of reasons. It was written in 1944, just after his Symphony No. 8, with which it shares its overall structure; it is a lamentation for both Shostakovich’s close friend, musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky, and the victims of the Holocaust, the news of which horror did not reach the U.S.S.R. until the liberation of the camps began; and it is his first work to employ a “Jewish theme,” a musical tribute that used the scales and rhythms of Jewish folk music as Shostakovich knew it.

The interpretation belongs to the Borodin Quartet.


(video source Alexander Rosenblatt)


Pianist and composer Alexander Rosenblatt authored a Fantasia on Theme in Jewish Style for two pianos. Here he is playing it together with Oleg Sinkin.


(video source Wellesz and Co)


In my teens years I had the chance to see Aaron Copland conducting in Bucharest. I now discovered a beautiful piece inspired by the Jewish tradition of Eastern Europe called Vitebsk. This version belongs to the Niew Amsterdam Trio.


(video source Gerard Vecordia)


To end, here is one of the most famous works belonging to this category – Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish symphony. Bernstein conducts this version with the IPO and Montserrat Caballe.





(illustration – Sukkah meal. Amsterdam, 1722 by Bernard Picart)


I hope that you enjoyed these piece of music at least as much as I did.

Hag Sukkot Sameakh! A Happy Sukkot!



Since I started The Catcher in the Sand I use to mark the Jewish holidays with postings that relate one way or another with the occasion. I decided this time to mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year with a posting dedicated to the New Year meal. A joke says that Jews gather on holidays to commemorate the miseries of their past and eat for their remembrance. They may be some truth in the joke, although the New Year does not mark any painful moment in history, excepting the case you believe the Creation was such a moment :-)

I am starting early this year, there is one week left until Rosh Hashanah, but I am going on a vacation starting with tomorrow and I will not have time to deal with the blog, and I need to leave you time to do shopping, learn the recipes, maybe exercise.





Our Rosh Hashanah meal always starts with apples and honey for a sweet new year to come.


(video source JSpace Food)


Rosh Hashanah and Passover are probably the two big eating moments in the festive Jewish calendar. There are a number of shared dishes, but challah (bread for Shabat and other holidays) is certainly not one of them, as it is forbidden during the Passover week. So here is a recipe to prepare round challah.


(video source JJTV888)


On the other hand gefilte fish is the one dish that seems to work well on any Jewish holiday table.  I will not reveal the recipe of Liliana, this is a family secret even I do not know, but the one above may come second best.


(video source Joy Kosher)


What about a Warm Salmon Salad?


(video source joyofkosher)


Chicken and Apples seem a good combination for the the first meaty dish of the evening, combining poultry with the sweet flavors of the holiday. Here is the recipe.


(video source joyofkosher)


Serious meat eaters may have their treat with a treat of ribs.


Wine is part of the pleasure of the Jewish holiday meal. If you want to be on the traditional side and pick a kosher wine try to look at the list of the Top 50 Kosher Wines in the World.


(video source Allie’s Kitchen)


A honey cake seems to me the best way to end the meal. Here is one from Allie’s Kitchen.


I hope that those of you who will use the recipes will find those useful. Use them or not, have a great Rosh HaShanah meal and a great time together with your families.

Shanah Tova! A Happy New Year!


For the Israel Independence Day this year I chose to present a cycle of works who have entered already the thesaurus of the Israeli and Zionist artistic mythology. Many of the visitors of the recent exhibition of the works of Salvador Dali in Haifa were surprised to see that one full wall was occupied by what seemed to be a real declaration of love for Israel and the Jewish people, while in the same room other paintings, statues, objects which looked very much like Judaica art completed the image.




There have been multiple discussions and interpretations concerning the history of this cycle of 25 prints published first in an edition of 250 copies in 1968. What was the real attitude of Salvador Dali towards the Jews, taking into account that contrary to many of his fellow artists in the surrealist generation he showed sympathy for Hitler and chose to stay and live in Franco’s Spain? Did he change his political views in time? Was he a descendant of the converted Jews keeping in secret his Jewish ascendance?  The answer is maybe simple, but we should avoid to make it simplistic. It’s a commissioned work, ordered and paid by the  Shorewood Publishing and Israel Bonds in 1968 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the State of Israel. And yet there is more than this, because the exploration of the Jewish theme seems to have extended in Dali’s work well beyond this commission. Yes, the market of the Judaica (Jewish traditional) art may have been a lucrative one among the prosperous collectors, many of Jewish origin. The works in this cycle and beyond have however feeling, sensitivity, and I may say a dose of respect which is somehow unexpected from the extravagant artist who did not hesitate to blow artistic and taste conventions.

Let us walk though a few of these works, and try to explain their meaning from the perspective of the Zionist angle. I have used some of the commentaries written by David Blumentahl at (You can see there also all the drawings in the cycle)




A few of the first drawings in the cycle connect the reality of present Israel to the historical roots of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. One of these is ‘The Wailing Wall’ - the last reminiscent of the walls of the Second Temple, which is drawn by Dali from photos taken before the War of Independence (there is a large plaza today in front of the Wall, and men and women are not allowed to pray together, at least at this moment in time (there is a whole dispute regarding the enforcement of the Orthodox rules in this place raging today).




‘Out of the Depth’ takes its title from a verse in the Psalms “Out of the depths have I called unto you, O Lord.” It’s the name of the cantata by Bach and the phrase was used by Martin Buber for a small book of Psalms translated into German and published in Nazi Germany in 1936. The horror of the Holocaust is in the Zionist narrative the very foundation and the ultimate justification of the existence of the national home of the Jewish people.




‘On the Shores of Freedom’  shows one episode of the illegal immigration which in the years after the end of the second world war and the independence of Israel brought to Israel survivors of the Holocaust despite the blockade imposed by the British rulers over Palestine. The name of the ship can be clearly seen, it’s Elyahu Golomb which dates the episode described in the painting in the year 1946.




‘A Moment in History’ processes a famous photograph in which David Ben-Gurion reads the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, on May 15, 1948. Ben-Gurion wears a tie, it is said it was the only time in his life when he wore such a garment. He also seems to have a Dali mustache?




The exultation of the moment of the proclamation of the independence was immediately followed in the historical narrative by the fire of the War of Independence. This is the moment caught by Dali in ‘The Battle of the Jerusalem Hills’.




Victory and celebration are represented by Hatikvah, a visual representation of the national anthem of Israel. The words were written by the Jewish-Polish poet Naphtali Herz Imber during his stay in the Romanian city of Iasi in 1877, and the music is a transcription by Samuel Cohen of a tune popular in Eastern Europe in the second half of the 19th century. Cohen later recalled that he had heard first the tune in the Romanian variant – Carul cu boi [The Ox Driven Cart] (source The same tune inspired the opening of the very popular symphonic poem Vltava by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana




Commission or not, Salvador Dali created a series of work which are among the best in the Jewish and national Israeli imagery. I will let Blumenthal speak again (source

As for the “Aliyah” series, Blumenthal concludes simply that it was a professionally executed commission, pointing out that some of the greatest artworks in history have been as much — compositions by Mozart and Bach and, this writer would add, paintings by Rafael, Rembrandt and others. “Part of the responsibility of a scholar is to say that this stuff, even if it’s commissioned, is serious,” Blumenthal said. Indeed, when one lets the art of “Aliyah” speak for itself, its bold expressionism and moving imagery answer the question on their own.

Hag Atzmaut Sameah! Happy Independence Day! Happy Birthday, Israel!


For my festive posting on Passover I looked this year at some of the representations of Moses, the great superstar of the event celebrated by the holiday in arts and music.





As with many other Bible subjects the representation of Moses is very popular in the manuscripts that predate the invention of printing. Above you can see ‘Moses and the Ark of the Covenant’ represented in tempera colors and silver paint on parchment in an illuminated German manuscript about 1400 – 1410.





The most famous representation of Moses is probably Michelangelo’s statue on the tomb of pope Julius II the Church of Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) in Rome.





Raffaello Santi (1483-1520) was Michelangelo Buonarroti’s contemporary and rival. His elegant version of Moses Saved from the Water can be admired in the galleries of Palazzi Pontifici in Vatican.





One of the Baroque painters I like a lot is Guido Reni (1575-1642), a sophisticated follower of Caravaggio. His Moses with the Tables of the Law can be admired at Villa Borghese.





Another famous representation is of Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law by Rembrandt, which can be admired in Berlin, at the Gemäldegalerie.





Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge – Moses Writing the Book of Genesis is one of the interesting experimental pieces of work of Joseph Mallord William Turner (c.1775–1851). First exposed in 1843,the painting depicts a deluge scene where the natural effects of light and weather (the atmosphere) help Turner not only create almost abstract effects, but also put in colors some of the Goethe’s theory of light and darkness. Moses is only ideally present in the title of the work, as homage to the writer of the Book of Genesis, where the deluge is described.





What about this sensual version of ‘The Finding of Moses’ signed by Frederick Goodall (1822-1904)? Goodall was an Orientalist who actually traveled to Egypt by the time of the construction of the Suez Canal, when the fascinating country came back to the attention of the Europeans.


(video source KukMusic)


Switching to music, here is a fragment from the intense oratorio Moses by Max Bruch, interpreted by the  Russian Chamber Philharmonic of St. Petersburg conducted by Jürgen Budday. This is a concert recording from the Maulbronn Monastery, of the performances on June 19th & 20th 2004.


(video source apcarter)


A real gem is the traditional spiritual sang by The Carter Family in 1930 The Rock Where Moses Stood.


(video source PowePuffCandy)


A fine way to end is the gospel ‘Go Down Moses’ in one of the most famous versions with the line Let My People Go sung by Louis Armstrong.


Hag Sameah! A Happy Passover!


The festive entry today in the blog dedicated to the festival of Purim deals with Queen Esther – one of the beloved characters of the story of Purim and history of Jews. Uncounted Jewish little girls chose her as the character that they mask in for the festival. This may be a rather new tradition however, bu the image of the beautiful and dedicated woman fascinated illustrators of the Bible many centuries back. I browsed the Net for information and reflections of the Biblical character of Queen Esther in art, and first of all in painting. Here are a few findings, I hope that you will find them beautiful and interesting.





Ancient illuminated manuscripts are among the first to provide representation of the Queen Esther image and exploits. Here is a splendid old Jewish manuscript, one of the oldest and finest in the British Museum collection, from The North French Hebrew Miscellany, 1272-98, representing King Ahashverosh holding out his scepter to Queen Esther.





Another beautiful example of illuminated art representing the Purim story is the Megillat Esther, a scroll with the biblical story of Queen Esther, read during the Purim festival, created by the Jews of Ascona (now in Italy) in 1784, which can be found nowadays in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.





The Metropolitan Museum in New York contains in its collections a beautiful study by Claude Lorrain from the beginning of the 17th century representing Queen Esther approaching the palace of the King of Persia. The vast staging allows for an elegant and complex landscape in Baroque style.





Rembrandt’s Haman Begging Esther for Mercy painted in 1655 is one of the power pieces of the collection of the National Art Museum in Bucharest. It is dark in coloring (as many of the masterpieces of Rembrandt) and powerful in the composition which emphasizes the relations between the three characters of the Purim story.





Another version painted by Rembrandt of the Purim heroes can be found in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. It is called Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther and is dated 1660.





This intense version of the portrait of the Queen is called Esther haram, is dated 1878 and belongs to a painter from the Victorian period named Edwin Long who painted many historical and Biblical stories giving them an Orientalist and erotic touch.





Contemporary mosaic artist Lilian Broca is well known for several series inspired by feminine Biblical characters among which the one dedicated to Queen Esther is probably the best known. Her technique adapts some of the Byzantine mosaic techniques and materials, and the results are spectacular.


Chag Purim Sameakh! A Happy Purim!

As we are lighting the first candle of Hanukkah tonight, as the tradition of The Catcher in the Sand requires on any Jewish holiday, let us have a slightly different perspective on the holiday. As the holiday is besides candles and sufganiot (doughnuts) also about the Maccabees here are a few reflections of the holiday in art, music … and laughs.




Appreciation for Jewish military skills is not something as new as I thought. Medieval manuscripts already included scenes from the battles of the Maccabees. Here is a Leiden illuminated manuscript, 1 Maccabees and Flavius Vegetius Renatus – ‘Epitoma rei militaris’ (Book IV) painted at the end of the 12th century. This was actually a Latin treaty of military art which took the deeds of the Maccabees as one of the examples .




Here is the 15th century representation of the Battle between the Maccabees and the Bacchides as painted by Jean Fouquet.




Rubens’ The Triumph of Judah Maccabee is one of the most famous pieces of Renaissance art dedicated the story of the Maccabees. Interestingly enough the painting which can be found today in the Museum of Fine Arts in Nantes is the object of a dispute nowadays between France and Belgium, which claims its return more than 200 after it was part of the trophies Napoleon brought to France during the Napoleonic wars.




An 18th century painting by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo represents the scene where The seven Maccabee brothers are condemned to death by Antiochus IV.

(video source Zadlem)


Out of the musical creations Haendel’s Judas Maccabeus Oratorio is one of the most famous – here is the overture.


(video source The Maccabees)


Nowadays the name The Maccabees belongs to an English indie rock band. How did they pick it? Well, they just flipped the Bible and picked a name, and the rest was (kind of) history. Here is a song called Ayla taken from Given To The Wild, an album released this summer.


(video source Uri Westrich)


They are of course not to be confused with The Maccabeats the a capella group originally formed in 2007 as the NYC Yeshiva University’s student vocal group and – yes! – this is a Hanukkah song.


(video source The Jimmy Kimmel Live Channel)


Even our friend (well ..) Mel Gibson became involved with a project of a film about Judah Maccabee. It looks like the project is on hold by now, but Jimmy Kimmel succeeded to obtain the trailer :-)


Hag Hanukkah Sameah! A Happy Hanukkah!



Jews all over the world start celebrating tomorrow evening Simchat Torah, the last of the Jewish holidays in the autumn season. The holiday marks the end of the annual cycle of reading and learning of the Torah, and the joy of beginning a new cycle. Life is meant to be in the Jewish tradition not only a cycle of seasons but also a cycle of learning and living according to a tradition based on the Torah. I collected and I am sharing here a few exceptional images of Torah as it is reflected in art and I hope that you will like them.






I am starting with a couple of reproductions of the Illuminated version of Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah created in Northern Italy between 1457 – 1465. This collection of Maimonide’s rulings and interpretations of the Torah was written by the great rabbi, philosopher and physician in the 12th century during his stay in Egypt. As the art of writing illuminated manuscripts was flourishing during the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance, the Jewish books were no exception, and this is one of the most beautiful examples that survived the centuries.




Marc Chagall was one of the greatest painters of the 20th century who created many works inspired by the Torah and the life in the Jewish villages in Eastern Europe where he was born, a life all but destroyed by the storms of the 20th century and especially the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust. I had last year the chance to visit the exhibition Chagall et la Bible in Paris, at the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme and i wrote about it here. Above is Rabbi with a Torah.




This is one Chagall’s latest works dedicated to the subject – Man with Torah, dated 1975.




From the same area of Eastern Europe as Chagall came Emmanuel Mane Katz, a painter associated with the School of Paris, who traveled to the Palestine under British Mandate and then Israel which he considered as his spiritual home. Much of his work is inspired by Jewish themes, here is ‘A Jewish Man Holding Torah’.




Finally here is “Torah” by the American artist Norman Gorbaty, known among other for his illustration of the Sesame Street books.




I am concluding with an astonishing photograph which I found while researching for this blog entry. It represents a man carrying a Torah being saved from a synagogue in New Orleans devastated in 2005 by hurricane Catrina. A picture which – as a Facebook friend of mine wrote – symbols the essence of the holiday.

Hag Sameakh!


Reading and Learning about the holiday of Sukkot which starts at sunset on Sunday I was reminded that Sukkot is among other the date when the First Temple of Jerusalem was consecrated by King Solomon. My idea for this festive blog entry is to mention a few works of art that represent the image of the Temple, one of the historical buildings that marked the history of the Antiquity and of the modern world, a place of high significance for Judaism and Christianity. While the destruction of the Temple twice in history on the day of 9 Av was largely represented, the images created in history of the Temple do not include only destruction. They also represent the vision of the artists about this place where the stone met the spirit, the building, the inauguration by Kinf Solomon, the re-building after the first time it was destroyed.




The Construction of the Temple was imagined in the 15th century by Jean Fouquet, a master of manuscript illumination, in a book illustrated around 1470-1475 similar to the construction of the Gothic cathedrals that were raised and finished in that part of Europe during his times.


The representation drawn by Jacob Judah Leon was famous in the mid 17th century. Leon was a descendant of Spanish Jews and translated the Psalms from Hebrew for the European audiences of the time. In 1643 this engraved plan as well as a description of the Temple based on the original Bible information was presented to King Charles II of England.




The Dedication of the Temple by King Solomon was imagined by French artist James Jacques Joseph Tissot in this painting dated between 1896 and 1902.




This is the way Neapolitan painter Giuseppe Bonito imagined King Solomon praying in front of the temple around 1750




Gustave Dore was one of the most famous illustrators of the Bible. Here is his vision of the re-building of the Temple at the return from the Babylonian exile.




Mark Podwall is a contemporary textile artist, and this vision of the Temple is a detail from a curtain created for the Altneuschul in Prague.




Here is contemporary Israeli artist Yael Avi-Yonah’s utopian vision of the future city of Jerusalem and of the Third Temple
seen from the Mount of Olives, surrounded by the River of Life. Emerging from its entrance is the Tree of Life represented by a DNA helix molecule.


Hag Sukkot Sameakh!

All [personal] vows we are likely to make, all [personal] oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our [personal] vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths.”

I found the English version of the declaration that opens the service in the synagogue on Yom Kippur at




On the eve of the holiday I looked (again) on some of the beautiful musical works that were inspired by Kol Nidre along the time and some of the special interpretations.


(video source TheCantorsVEVO)


I will start with a synagogue version recorded live in Amsterdam’s historic, 17th Century, Portuguese Synagogue, with three of the world’s greatest cantors.  Performing with a 46 piece orchestra and 16 voice choir are Alberto Mizrahi of the renowned Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago, Naftali Herstik of Great Synagogue Jerusalem and Benzion Miller of Young Israel Beth-El of Borough Park, New York.


(video source cdbpdx)


Here is the version sung by sung in Hebrew by cantor Joseph Rosenblatt in 1912 – 100 years ago. It appears on the flip side of his EL MOLE RACHMIN tribute to the sinking of the Titanic.


(video source israelyeshivaguy)


Rabbi, singer and composer Shlomo Carlebach left this version.


(video source 7654328)


The opening of the Adagio of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131 is inspired by the tune of Kol Nidre as it was sung at the beginning of the 19th century. If it sounds familiar to you despite the fact that Beethoven’s quartet are not that familiar it may be because the theme was used by the ‘Band of Brothers’ TV series.


(video source kidneykutter)


Beethoven may have heard this version put on notes by Ahron Beer in Berlin in 1765, here performed by René Schiffer & Mime Yamahiro-Brinkmann.

(video source Andrey Granko)


Max Bruch’s ‘Kol Nidrei’ for Cello and Orchestra is op. 47 is probably the most famous piece of classical music inspired by the tune. Here is a variant I heard first time this year and especially liked – it belongs to Misch Maisky and was played at one of the concerts at the 300 years anniversary of Sankt Petersburg.


(video source Jew Man Group)


If (Jewish) humor risks to offend you skip this one and please forgive me, it’s Yom Kippur. If not, you are invited to watch the Jew Man Group in a rap “Kosher” remix of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”!


Judaism is alive, and in today’s world it does not belong only to synagogues of one flavor or another, it belongs to all Jews and is expressed in all forms that remind, preserve, enrich and transmit further our tradition.

Gmar Hatima Tova!



5773 years ago the world was created (and it will not end when the Mayans stop counting!). In the tradition of The Catcher in the Sand here are some of the best pieces of music and humor created around or about the holiday that I found recently on the Internet. Enjoy!


(video source Technion)


First comes a dance of the robots created by students and researchers at the Technion in Haifa.


(video source einpratfountainheads)


The Fountainheads in Ein Prat launched a new parody dedicated to the New Year.


(video source Maccabeats Videos)


The Maccabeats sent their holiday card


(video source aslevin)


The cantor Shmuel Levin performs “B’rosh Hashanna Yikatevun” by Eli Yaffe, recorded live on September 6th 2012 at the Adath Israel Congregation, Montreal


(video source shalomsesame)


The Muppets also celebrate Rosh Hashannah…


(video source


… and so do rockers and rappers – here is in reggae style.


(video source Thewhatsupband)


Here is arguably The World’s Greatest Jewish Rock Band; The Shlomones are back with their classic parody “Blow Shofar”.


To all my friends and readers of The Catcher in the Sand - A Good Year, a year of peace, good health, joy and happy events.

Shana Tova!

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