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The Lion of Judah Protects and is Protected

My Hebrew name is Yehudah (Judah), and the tribe of Yehudah is symbolized in the Book of Genesis by the lion. The lion in this piece, taken from an image on a gravestone in the old Jewish cemetery of Prague, appeals to me because of its wings, which represent the flight of imagination and a soaring towards freedom.

The bloodshed by the lion symbolizes centuries of Jewish persecution: enslavement in Egypt, exiles by the Babylonians and Romans, the massacres during the Crusades, the Inquisition in Spain, pogroms in Russia, and the Holocaust in Europe. The hook, hanging closely by, is a reminder of threats that may yet come.

Bamboo wrapped in animal skin frame the lion and represent the Torah, while the fringes on the bottom are reminiscent of a tallit, in which we wrap ourselves in prayer.

Thus, the Lion of Judah protects and is protected. As the scrolls and fringes encompass the lion, so, too, our people is kept alive, despite our hardships, by our devotion to Torah and to prayer. And, in turn, our people and practices are watched over and protected by our totemic symbol, the lion.

Charcoal/pastel on leather pelt, animal skin, bamboo, varied strings and threads, other mixed media
33 x 40 x 3 in.

[Hover over the image to magnify it]