DRAWING THE TALMUD
A t the rate of one page a day, it takes just over seven years to finish learning the entire Talmud.
For the last three and a half years, London-based artist Jacqueline Nicholls not only studied a page of Talmud each day, but also created a drawing in response to what she learned.
As Nicholls notes, “the Talmud seems to contain everything, shifting from lore to law as the text twists and turns.” But even as it includes everything, it does not include everyone. “It is a conversation between male scholars, assuming that the reader is an able-bodied, heterosexual male.”
Nicholls, who is both a visual artist and a Jewish educator, explores traditional Jewish ideas in untraditional ways. She disrupts the Talmud’s male hegemony by injecting many different perspectives. Her drawings, especially regarding Seder Nashim, the sections about women that discuss marriage and divorce, highlight a woman’s vulnerability in the face of male power that decides her fate.
One page of Talmud that discusses the three ways that a woman is “acquired” — through sex, money or a contract — inspired Nicholls to draw a currency with a picture of a woman with a gag around her mouth. “And even though she is willing,” Nicholls writes in a free hand, “there’s not talking, no giving, just silent, and receiving.
Another one of her drawings, this one about the laws of drinking wine on the Sabbath, shows a neighborhood awash in liquor, where even the buildings are in a tipsy state. In yet another, this one about the laws of saying the Shema prayer, someone peeks from behind a covered face. “I want to be open-eyed,” she explains, “and to keep an open mind.”
At just over halfway through the seven-year cycle, Nicholls has produced more than 2,000 drawings. “I don’t want to think about how many I’ve done, or how many to go,” she says. “A page a day, I’ll get there in the end.” ■
For more about Jacqueline Nicholls, visit www.drawyomi.blogspot.com.
|Above: Shekalim 17; Below: Taanit 5; Berachot 2; Kiddushin 5; Sotah 25; back cover: Eruvin 61.|
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