Artist: ‘We are here to repair the world’

Artist: ‘We are here to repair the world’

THE WORK of local artist Eleni Zatz Litt will be showcased at the Jewish Center of Princeton through late October. An opening reception with the artist will be held Sunday, Oct. 6, 2-4 p.m.

Litt, who lives in Princeton Junction and is a Jewish Center member, also serves as assistant provost at the New School and is deeply involved in Jewish study and teaching.

She issued the following statement about her work:

For me making art is simultaneously a form of prayer and a form of study. I engage with the texts of our tradition with the visual language of line, color, and form. Each piece is the product of an experience and a container of ideas and feelings.

Just as the art is a meditation on text, this text is a meditation on the art in the context of the Jewish High Holy Days.

I start with a question God asked Adam: Ayecha? (“Where are you?”), and I reflect on the beginning of the world and the hint of some kind of order emerging out of chaos.

In our liturgy Rosh Hashana is called the birthday of the world (hayom harat olam). As we celebrate the New Year we reflect on Rabbi Isaac Luria’s story of creation. Creation is the result of God contracting God’s self in the great tzimtzum (contraction) to make room for the world. But even as this contraction occurred in order to make room for the birth of the world, the light that was contracted could not be contained in its vessels. And so a great bursting occurred (a big bang!). The bursting broke the vessels that contained God’s light.

And so we find ourselves born into a world of brokenness and shattering and suffering. Our job is clear! We must collect the shards of the broken vessels and put them together so that once again they might hold the light. And so it is that we are here to repair the world.

Our mission is supported by the worlds of letters and language, and so we create narratives and stories. With every encounter with brokenness we commit to repair, even creating beauty and order out of chaos and pain. Along the way we meet Jonah and others. Jacob shows us his ladder in its many forms and we continue to climb. We continue to assert the presence of beauty and order within the brokenness.

The gift of Torah provides guidance and hope, and we are encouraged to trust just as Nachshon did when he dipped his toe into the Red Sea. We experience glimpses of God as the Ein Sof (the one without end) and the source of unlimited abundance (shefa). We learn to trust and to serve with joy even as we ready ourselves for a rigorous accounting of the soul (heshbon hanefesh) on Yom Kippur.

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