God, Goats, and Pickup Trucks
Maurice Schmidt’s Visions of Texas
Torah Procession – Bar Mitzvah
1986, Oil on Linen
“This painting depicts a pinnacle moment of my son Joshua’s Bar Mitzvah service. Joshua can be seen at the front of the procession, with Cantor Bernard Kane and Rabbi Leo Heim following. If one looks closely at the scroll my son is carrying, one can see an image of a Rabbinical face, possibly reflected in the cloth. You can almost imagine this man’s arms and hands coming down, wrapping around the Torah and carrying it forward. I don’t consciously remember painting this face or even intending to paint it onto the Torah, but somehow subliminally this man’s face emerged. I can’t explain it, and yet I would not paint over it.
The Torah scrolls are painted at an exaggerated length to express their authority, reverence and significance. The Torah scrolls project upward on high, with the handwritten letters of the commandments contained within possessing a sacred, living quality. The finials emerge from the top of the scrolls, typically ornamental and covered in tiny silver bells. In this painting they almost appear as vegetation to symbolize growth and life. When a Torah scroll is considered worn and no longer usable, it is given a proper burial as if it is a human being. In this central part of the ceremony, the people of the congregation gather around for the removal of the Torahs from the Ark space. The Torahs are taken around the congregation in procession while prayers are sung. It is brief, only about 15 seconds, but sacred. The procession symbolically represents the movement between past, present and future generations. It is always a moving point of the ceremony, especially when witnessing my own son’s entrance into adulthood.”