The members of Jewish Artists Collective Chicago write about our stories, struggles, experiences, and musings, and how they inspire us to create contemporary Jewish art.

Kavod v’Chesed Commission for Rabbi Memis-Foler

By Jane Weintraub

Kavod v’Chesed

8” x 8” x 1”

Bronze, gold leaf, copper, board, paint


I was commissioned by Congregation Beth Emet of Evanston, Illinois, to make a gift for our departing Rabbi. This Rabbi displays many wonderful soul traits or middot. High among them are the middot of Kavod or dignity to self and others and Chesed or loving connectedness. Her life as a Rabbi, social activist, teacher, and spiritual guide attests to these qualities.

The images present in this piece: the pomegranate with a goldleaf rimmed crack down the middle of it revealing the Shekinah figure that is the divine feminine aspect of God, the cloud above it, the flame below it and the thirteen Rose of Sharon petals - all symbolic of the soul traits of Chesed, loving connectedness and Kavod, dignity.

In our tradition the pomegranate symbolizes righteousness, knowledge and wisdom because it is said to have 613 seeds each representing one of the 613 mitzvot. The crack in the pomegranate reminds us to accept fully our inner brokenness, so that our own cracks might help us evolve into vessels of blessing, healing and Tikkun Olam. By gently expanding the fractures within ourselves, we invite Chesed or Loving Connection to bubble up from within, revealing in our words and actions our yetzer tov or better instincts. In everything we do, we can find a crack that will reveal divine light. And this particular crack reveals our inner Shekinah.

The cloud above the pomegranate and the fire below it are representative of the cloud that was over the Mishkan by day and the fire burning there at night. This was to remind the Israelites that that the divine is always present and is always protecting us.

Finally the Rose of Sharon petals, 13 in all… The Torah spends time talking about priestly garments as well as our own clothing. The Hasidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev teaches us to aspire to understanding not only our clothes, but also our very being, our essential self, as a “garment” revealing Divine qualities. The middah of Kavod or dignity teaches us that our bodies are merely garments revealing our own divine souls. It is true for all of us, our external and internal selves are clothed by the divine. The 13 petals represent the 13 attributes of Adonai’s compassion flowing over or clothing the pomegranate which is the heart of this piece.