CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Jerusalem | PeopleMarch 11, 2010

Once Upon a Time

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"Its pillars he made of silver, its couch of gold, its curtain of purple, its interior inlaid with love, from the daughters of Jerusalem."

Shir-Ha-Hashrim -- Song of Songs Chapter 3

Once upon a time a young Jewish boy who lived in a modest neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina with four sisters, four brothers and his parents  had a great dream.

At only seven years of age, in his nightly prayers Moshe Mizrahi -- that was his name -- only had one wish... to one day be offered the opportunity to "make beautiful things".

He had no idea what these beautiful things would be, but he knew for a fact that they would be one of a kind in the whole world.

At the age  18 he flies to New York and attends a Yeshiva school in Brooklyn.

As a good scholar Moshe learns in depth the religious teachings of his ancestors, the Hebrew alphabet and calligraphy , the scriptures in which valuable Jewish laws and ancient traditions have been meticulously kept and perpetuated throughout generations since the Old Testament times.

After the Yeshiva studies in Brooklyn, the scholar's first trip to the promised land offers a promising future and a promised wife who wisely invites the young graduate, now her fiancee, to "stay"  a while longer in Jerusalem and study some more Torah.

And it's near the traditional neighborhood of Mea Shearim in the heart of the old city that Moshe's  prolonged stay makes of him a great husband as well as one of the most renowned scribes in all Israel, and one of only an estimated 300 worldwide.

The day becomes busy as early as 6 AM, and like Moses the first scribe, with impeccable precision Moshe scribes sacred texts on Torahs, Tefillins, Mezuzahs, Haggadas and Megillahs, attends Shul three times a day and in the evening enjoys being a father to his three young children.

His responsibilities grow with age as it is important to acknowledge that Jewish law dictates every Torah, the holiest of all Jewish books, should be meticulously written out by hand rather than mechanically reproduced.

He understands that the writing of a single Torah can take up to one year and cost a synagogue very high sums. This is because, as with everything in Judaism, it must be created according to strict rules.

Moshe knows that a scribe can make no mistakes in a Torah or in any other holy scripture as they are carefully proofread after completion. Considered a living document, the Torah and other important scriptures must be made entirely of natural materials.

That means using kosher ink, made from the crushed outer bark of a wasp’s nest, a quill made from a turkey or goose feather, and cloth made from a calf killed for food.

With the years, slowly Moshe gets acquainted with those precious rules, along with writing letters out by hand in a calligraphic style identified as Spanish, sometimes a painstakingly long process. He also learns how to meticulously select individual parchment sheets by color,  density, texture and size for his different works.

He then cuts , collects and separates the sheets in groups depending on the  different manuscripts,  wears white gloves while working so that the oils of his skin don't get on the parchment, and finally seals the completed and carefully revised work with  perfumed natural Israeli beeswax.

During the time of apprenticeship of the secular techniques, several Jewish artists who immigrated to Israel from different countries approach our scribe with beautiful illustrations and art works to be incorporated as per their suggestion into his sacred manuscripts.

Moshe agrees with the new experience proposal and after about 6 months, the first prototype comes out.  The content, very precious in Jewish faith, is called in Hebrew Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs) a book of the Hebrew Bible — one of the five Megillot (scrolls) also known as the Song of Solomon, or  Canticles.

The protagonists are a woman and a man, and the poem suggests movement from courtship to consummation. Additionally, the Song includes a chorus, the "Daughters of Jerusalem." With no explicitly religious content, the Song is often interpreted as an allegorical representation of the relationship of God and Israel, as husband and wife.

According to Ashkenazi Jewish tradition, it is read on the Sabbath that falls during the intermediate days of Passover. In the Sephardi community it is recited every Friday night.

We are now in the 1970s, and a wealthy Jewish collector of Judaica calls Moshe on the phone to Jerusalem and flies him over to "check" upon a Torah he recently purchased. Very happy with the result, the collector and Moshe become good friends and apart from selling his first Shir Hashrim he comes back with a list of made-to-order commissions with the Jewish holidays as the theme.

Very quickly, encouraged by the unexpected endorsement from his wealthy new client, Moshe gathers a valuable community of devoted artists around himself in Israel, who anxiously waited for his return from the States.

Some of those were just starting their career; some others were famous, including Yuri Haissman -- an extremely respected painter and sculptor of that time.

A large number of artistic creations are set in production as a result of a collaborative and integrated efforts among those artists and Moshe's creative vision and initial capital.

In a few months,  top of the line Russian silversmiths, engravers from Poland, Armenian jewelers, and Moroccan painters become part of Moshe's daily routine. Some of them live in the North near the Golan, others in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv, others in the Negev desert region.

Moshe is not afraid to enterprise long driving journeys across the stunning Israeli landscape to supervise the different stages of each of his "mission-impossible creations " whose process will take 18 months to sometimes 4 years of devoted and persevering attention to detail.

And  from a distant passion of a young boy's visionary dream in Argentina, a new brand was born in Israel that will reveal masterpieces of art and crafts for more than 40 years to present times, simply signed with three small initials :  MDM.

(To be continued)

Joelle's Tips:

Photo credit Armenian Jewish Silversmith: Chayas. com / and Photo of Mr. Curtis courtesy Society of American Silversmiths

All hand painted illustrations as well as the Judaica objects d' art are from the Jerusalem private collection of MDM.

They can be made to order if not available in stock, price is on demand and can be delivered personally to your home.

MDM: Original Judaica on Parchment and Silver

Contact Info in the US:  Eitan Nissanian  / Tel +1( 718) 544-0180 / cell +1 ( 917) 582 57 51 / (646) 270-0680

Desert photo Copyrights: common rights / Wikipedia. The image has been released into the public domain by its author, Roybb95.

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