Wood Artistry of Tzfat
Every town has educational programs and institutions. And probably every town of any notable size has carpentry shops. But Tzfat's Noah Greenberg has found a way to combine the two.
A Shtender, a stand in Yiddish, is used when praying and studying. It is generally a simple wooden lectern with a top that slants so that a book can lean, facing the reader, to make it easier to read. Synagogues and study halls often have one shtender for each man.
Almost 30 years ago, partners David Moss and Noah Greenberg began to think the Shtender; how it represented two pillars of Jewish life, prayer and study, but seemed to lack the third aspect; physical acts of observance. Their challenge was to unite those various aspects in a comprehensive work of art. Their Shtender would incorporate all the objects that would represent Judaism's major holidays, life-cycle events and religious commandments - each object would nest neatly into the shtender, to be taken out at the appropriate time. These objects include a tefillin box (box for phylacteries), tzedakah (charity) box, etrog (citron) box for the Succoth holiday, Seder plate for Passover, Challah board for the Sabbath bread, Kiddush (sacramental wine) set, and candlesticks for the Sabbath lights. Each object is carved with designs in the motif of the plants and trees of the Land of Israel, including the Seven Species of the Land.
Noah and David worked together to conceptualize the Tree of Life Shtender, and Noah, in his Tzfat workshop, has crafted and carved the pieces. The actual production of the shtender is done outside of Israel, but Noah travels to the workshops frequently to insure the quality of these complicated reproductions. The Shtenders are being produced slowly in a numbered limited edition. Each object in each shtender requires the expertise of different artisans from throughout the world. The Shtenders are purchased by private individuals, synagogues, museums and educational institutions. In the home, most of the Shtenders are in actual use; their owners use the objects in their personal observance of the various traditions. The institutionally owned Shtender are primarily being used for educational and inspirational purposes: the exquisite and carefully researched and designed objects are a springboard to revealing and studying the treasure chest of Judaism and the Torah.
The name of the project, the Tree of Life Shtender, reflects the motif of the Land of Israel's plants and trees in the Shtender's objects' carvings, but also the message which the Shtender is meant to convey - that the Torah is the Tree of Life of the Jewish people, and observance of the mitzvoth, the commandments, of the Torah is what keeps the Jewish people alive.
As the Shtender project became recognized as an important educational tool for Jewish education, Noah became more and more involved in developing educational activities which stress experiential Judaism. He travels around the world teaching and inspiring, using the Shtender catalyze each viewer's journey of Jewish exploration. He has also has developed other educational projects. One is Kesher Tefillin, Tefillin Connection, an exciting workshop where youngsters become familiar with the commandment of Tefillin by actually creating their own set using a unique method that Noah developed. A second new art project teaches the mitzvah (commandment) of Hachnasat Orchim, Welcoming Guests.
Noah continues to create beautiful Judaica in his carpentry workshop, accepting private commissions for wooden art pieces and religious artifacts, which are created by commission for synagogues, museums and private collectors.
Noah Greenberg can be reached at [email protected] or 972-4-697-1111.