A Man of Valor
A Man of Valor
The central part of the painting shows a scene of peace and prosperity in ancient Israel, representing the Man of Valor both realistically, through "the labour of his hands", and metaphorically, as described in the two Psalms which I chose to represent him. Realistically, we see the fields and fruit orchards of the Man of Valor, which include shiv'at ha'minim, the seven species of Israel, symbolizing the richness and abundance of the land which he tills.
Leaning against the wheat stack are his work implements, among which are a plow and a shovel, alluding to the prophecy of the day of peace when we "shall beat swords into plowshares" (Isaiah 2:4 -- in Hebrew it translates to "shovels"). These tools represent the hard work and the devotion of the Man of Valor to his family and community, recognizing, as in the Woman of Valor, that the work tools of today's Man of Valor are different only in form, not in essence. Metaphorically, the Man of Valor is represented by the olive tree "planted by streams of water". I chose the olive tree because, unlike the fig and the pomegranate, the olive tree's leaves do not wither but stay silvery green all year round. His wife is represented by the "fruitful vine" leaning on the wall on the right side, and their children are represented by the young olive trees "round about the table" which is suggested by the round central text. In the distance looms the city of Jerusalem, whose peace and goodness is described in Psalm 128 as an integral part of his blessing and happiness. The verses on both sides of the picture represent "the Law (Torah) of the Lord", the values of our Jewish heritage in which the Man of Valor delights and meditates, and the rewards which they bring to him -- the respect and appreciation of his community, and the prosperity, love and happiness of his family.
The Story of the Eesh Chayil Idea
The seed of the idea for the Man of Valor came to me from a very special couple in Palo Alto a few years back. First, the husband commissioned A Woman of Valor for his wife. He designed and planned it with me in complete secrecy, and it proved to be a marvelous surprise for her. Then, about a year later, she called me and commissioned, also in secret, a picture for him, which she too would help design. It featured various things which had a special meaning to him, and a psalm and verses from Pirkey Avot which he especially liked. The whole experience was wonderful to be part of. It was such a fun, heart-felt expression of love and appreciation of two people for each other. But many years passed and I was busy with many other things, mostly Ketubot. Last year, though, I got around to making a Woman of Valor to be printed as a limited edition, and when I finished it, I found myself thinking, "Well, this is for the woman of valor, but what about her husband? Or her father? Or her brother, etc.? What about the MAN of valor in the Jewish family?" And that is how I started thinking of making an illuminated text celebrating the MEN in our lives, for us wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers, who want to surprise and celebrate a beloved man in our lives. The texts I chose reflect my own preferences and some ideas I got from past clients, especially the couple from Palo Alto. I would like to thank them here very much for their contribution. Now that the idea of Eesh Chayil has become a reality, I won't be surprised if many new and beautiful Man of Valor pieces will start sprouting in the Jewish art world, and the more there are the better, as it is written (Bava Batra), "competition among scholars increases wisdom". I'm sure that is how the Woman of Valor started, and that's how it became so celebrated in our culture. As a matter of fact, I myself plan to make another Man of Valor soon, with different verses in the side panels, maybe to emphasize other traits in the good Jewish man. Some Yiddish humor, perhaps Ideas are welcome!
On top of the picture, in Hebrew only: KI EESH CHAYIL ATAH ( FOR A MAN OF VALOR THOU ART ,1Kings 1, 42)
In the panels above and below the central picture: Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law does he meditate day and night, and he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither, and in whatsoever he does he shall prosper.
In the center of the picture: Psalm 128 A song of ascents. Happy is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. When thou eatest the labour of thy hands happy shalt thou be and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine in the recesses of thine house, thy children like olive saplings round about thy table. Behold, surely thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless thee out of Zion and see thou the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life, and see the children of thy children, peace be upon Israel.
On top right side of picture: Proverbs, 20, 7: The righteous man walks in his integrity, blessed are his children after him.
On top left side of picture: Ecclesiastes, 9, 9: Live joyfully with the woman whom thou lovest.
On bottom and middle of right side: Sayings of the Fathers (Pirkey Avot), 4, 1:
Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot.
Who is honored? He who honors others.
On bottom and middle of left side:
Ibid: Who is wise? He who learns from every person.
Who is mighty? He who controls his urges.
On bottom center of picture: Proverbs, 21, 21: He who follows righteousness and mercy shall find life, righteousness and honor.