Community Blog #Instadrash
On Wednesdays, Hebrew College Rabbinical School student Hayley Goldstein and her partner Lizzie Sivitz ask each other, “What are you thinking for this week?” They aren’t asking about dinner menus or weekend plans. They are discussing Nireh Or (meaning “We will see light”), the Instagram project they started to illuminate the weekly parsha through words and art.
Hayley is the writer. Lizzie, the artist. They met during Hayley’s year-in-Israel program, where Lizzie was working as a graphic designer, and discovered their shared desire to connect to the parsha in creative way. The result is Nireh Or, their weekly Instagram project that couples Hayley’s poetic drash (or commentary) with Lizzie’s original artwork.
“It’s definitely a challenge to keep a weekly project like this going. But we keep each other accountable. It helps to have a parsha buddy!” says Hayley.
Their collaboration starts each Wednesday. After discussing a concept “the words usually come first,” says Hayley. She finishes writing by Thursday mornings, and then Lizzie creates the artwork by hand, using pen and paper, gold foil, watercolor, and other mediums. Because Lizzie also is a soferet or scribe, she often incorporates scribal art into her pieces. By Friday mornings, the pair is ready to share their “instadrash” on Instagram.
“My experience at Hebrew College’s Rabbinical School definitely informed this project,” says Hayley. She says that the pluralistic perspective so central to Hebrew College’s mission and her rabbinic training is the lens she used for developing Nireh Or. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with people across the Jewish spectrum, often people of many different backgrounds in one space. Because of this, it was vital to me that we make something accessible.”
To do this, Hayley says she’s tried to follow the example of her Hebrew College teachers. “Rabbi Art Green does this so well with all of his books. He is a master of taking something complex and making it accessible by extracting a little nugget of wisdom for people to carry in their back pockets. That is exactly what we are striving for with Nireh Or.”
Take B’reishit, the beginning of Genesis, for example, Hayley and Lizzie’s first collaborative post. It’s one of Hayley’s favorites.
To hear Hayley describe the process, you can’t help but be transported: “I was thinking about the text when the sages asked, ‘How did G!d create light on day one, but the sun, moon, and stars weren’t created until day four?’ It’s weird, right? They are describing a different light than the sun. That inspired me to write about where that light is hidden – in Torah – meaning literal Torah or in the people you love, in connection, in joy, and in song. Then Lizzie created this piece, which has seven circles representing the seven days of creation. She captured the light I was writing about by making one of those circles gold. I love how the gold bleeds into the rest of the picture in a subtle way to hold everything together.”
According to Hayley, bringing creativity to Torah is something her Rabbinical School teachers have fostered throughout her education. “My first year, I remember Rachel Adelman supporting my idea to produce a few paintings and poems for my final project in her B’reishit class,” She also recalls Rabbi Ebn Leader encouraging her and her classmates to present on parts of the Zohar in “wildly creative ways.”
“My teachers see how bringing our own creativity to the text helps us find our own Torah,” says Hayley. “This is something so unique and special about Hebrew College, and, honestly, it’s the reason why I chose to study here!”