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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weiner

The Traditional Priestly Blessing

On 31st May, I received the incredible news that my submission had been selected for the Summer Exhibition 2024 and would be hung on the prestigious walls of the Royal Academy of Arts. Every year since 1769, the RA has showcased a diverse selection of contemporary artworks hung side-by-side with Royal Academicians. This is the world’s largest submission exhibition - now with 16,500 entries annually.

This year's call to #artists by @annchristopher.sculptor challenged entrants to explore the idea of #makingspace - giving space, taking space, and any interpretation in between.

My picture is a personal one. ‘The Traditional Priestly Blessing’ is created with spiritual space in mind. The space between ‘man’ and ‘G-d’. The power and humility of man. I’ve hinted at the space inside - under the prayer shawl - and the physical space these humbled beings inhabit - quietly, exposed as they pray at the side of the page.

My father practised this duty weekly as a #kohen (a priest) himself. A direct blood-line, passed down through patrilineal generations. Dad took this duty very seriously. He proudly upheld his responsibility to bless the congregation on Shabbat (Sabbath) and festivals.

If I close my eyes I can hear his clear voice calling out the blessing; his hands held high; his exposed socks shuffling and his #tallis (prayer shawl) quietly swaying - a fragile, striped, canopy, protecting the person beneath.

When my father died we buried him (in the Jewish tradition) with his prayer shawl. The very same he’d conducted all those blessings for his people, most weeks, for over forty years.

As a British Jew, living in a time where Jewish spiritual, religious and peaceful space is being disregarded and demeaned through politics and hate, I feel an even stronger sense of pride to be selected.

Tradition lives on, faith endures, pride persists.

In memory of Roger Douek

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Printmaker and Textile Artist

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