AN EXPLORATION OF HAFTARAH THROUGH ART AND HISTORY
About Laya Crust
Laya Crust is a Toronto soferet, visual artist, and lecturer. She studied design and Jewish thought at the University of Manitoba and continued her art studies at OCAD and The Three Schools of Art, in Toronto. She is recognized for her rigorous research into her subject matter, desire for excellence, and detailed imagery.
Among her other artworks, in 2010 Laya was commissioned to scribe and illustrate a kosher Megillat Esther. The scroll, illustrated with 32 paintings in 15th Century Persian court style, has been exhibited internationally, including in The Kelly Library, University of Toronto, and the Wolfson Museum in Jersusalem.
Laya frequently gives dvrei Torah at synagogues and leads workshops integrating craft with Jewish thought and text at schools and organizations.
The Bible, which ranks as the most popular book of all time comes alive in this exciting publication. Artist Laya Crust has interpreted 82 stories from the Bible and created an innovative painting for each one. The chosen stories, called haftarot, are presented as an odyssey through world history as experienced by the Jewish people. The imagery gives stunning insight to a rich cultural heritage. This lavishly illustrated book is a thoroughly enjoyable exploration for students, art fans, and anyone who loves the Bible and its many stories.
"Laya Crust's detailed and studied analyses of the Haftarot come through in her inspired art. Her paintings and words give refreshing and scholarly insights to the readings of the Bible.
Rabbi Philip Scheim
Rabbi Emeritus, Beth David B'nai Israel Beth Am
The haftarah is a Bible reading that follows the Torah reading each Shabbat, and on every major Jewish holiday and fast day. Although Torah and Haftarah sound the same, they are from different Hebrew words. "Torah" is from a word that means to guide or to teach. "Haftarah" comes from the word that means complete or finish, because it is read when the Torah portion is finished.
There are several theories about the origins of reading the haftarah. The most common explanation is that, in 168 BCE, when the Jews were under the rule of the Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, they were forbidden to read the Torah. They read from other books of the Tanach (Jewish Bible) instead. When the Jews were allowed to read the Torah again, they continued reading the haftarah.
The haftarah can be read by the person who chants the Torah portion or by another person who reads only the haftarah. It is traditionally read by the maftir , or the last person to be called up for the Torah reading. The haftarah is sung in an ancient melody which is different in Ashkenazi and in Sephardic traditions. Often Bar and Bat Mitzvah boys and girls read the haftarah at their Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
The haftarah is usually read from a printed book. Some congregations have actual Haftarah Scrolls written on animal parchment with embellishments such as the vowel points and trope (notations for chanting). Many halachic (legal) experts have the opinion that it is preferable to read the haftarah out of a parchment scroll.
Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am of Toronto, Canada commissioned a Haftarah Scroll in 2012. It was scribed in Jerusalem. Then Beth David commissioned artist Laya Crust to create a painting for each haftarah of the year which were then painted into the Beth David’s Haftarah Scroll. What you see here is the result of that exciting undertaking. To our knowledge, Beth David’s illuminated Haftarah Scroll is the only one of its kind in the world.
What Is a Haftarah?
ILLUMINATIONS events are now available to schedule in your community. Taking place in the form of an in-person or virtual Artist-Author In-Residence event, the ILLUMINATIONS Program is an ideal educational and fundraising opportunity for congregations seeking to access the brilliance of Laya Crust to elevate their community. Events are tailored based on the community's desires and can take place over a weekend for an in-person event, or remotely via Zoom at any time. Contact us to request more information.