Imagine two beautiful Hasids in Toronto on the same day.Difficult to believe but true nevertheless.
Norman Finkelstein the unparalleled documentarian of Israeli apartheid gave a 90 minute speech at the University of Toronto on January 11 and just down the street at the Art Gallery of Ontario there he was the inimitable Marc Chagall, he of the beautiful pan and refined Hasidic sensibilities. Forget the fact that he has been dead for 25 years or so, his work in several art forms still speaks to us of a deep humanism which took flight particularly in his work commemorating the Jewish community of Vitebsk in modern day Belarus.
The Hasidic movement rescued Judaism in eastern Europe from its pedantic and irrelevant posturing. It bought back the joy of the Living God in evert day life, a joy which had been leached from the community by dull rebbes whom had forgotten the holiness of the quotidian. Chagall learned its lessons well and we are all the beneficiaries.
It was Rabb Israel Ben Eliezer (b 1750) or the Baal Shem Tov (the Besht) as he was known who put the colour back into Judaism at a critical juncture in its evolution.It gave new hope to generations living under the cruelty of the czars…and Mark Segal (Chagall) was its most prominent face in the 20th century.
Anybody remotely familiar with Chagall’s work is always rejuvenated.One leaves any gallery with a smile on one’s face.L’chaim indeed!
“Gray is life’s theory, green indeed its living”, wrote Goethe and Chagall reminded his contemporaries of this.
Down the street Norman Finkelstein was doing the same, a Jew whose parents were Holocaust survivors was in deep solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinian people. Here was an unparalled scholar who has dedicated his life to unpacking the immiseration of another Semitic people held forth.
He too brought hope.
Sadly so few people in the Jewish community came out to hear him, the best of the humanistic tribe of Judah, a modern Hasid capable of deep solidarity with a suffering people.