Bar and Bat Mitzvah Gifts;
Paintings of the Sedrahs
Among the 613 Jewish Mitzvos (commandments) that are recognized for Jews to observe is one particular Mitzvah that we can be fairly certain that very few Jews will ever accomplish, and that is to write a Safer Torah (a copy of the Five books of Moses). There are those who might participate in the writing of a Torah Scroll by sponsoring the writing of one or by contributing to the support of someone who is writing one, or even by directly assisting the person who is writing one by writing a letter or two or even; a part of a letter will do to my understanding. But, somehow, that would just not do it for Drew Kopf.
With that Mitzvah in the back of his mind, Mr. Kopf, 62, who lives in Plainview, New York, has been creating a kind of painting since 2001, which has become his custom to give to newly minted Bar and Bat Mitzvah youngsters. Mr. Kopf reads the Sedrah (the section of the Five Books of Moses) and the Haftorah (the shorter section from the Writings or from the Prophets) and creates a watercolor montage encompassing the elements, symbols, personages and the overarching message to hopefully capture in one look the feeling of the biblical readings connected with that Bar Mitzvah youngster's special day.
He has been painting these Bar and Bar Mitzvah pieces for close friends and relatives and to date has completed nine of them. He says, “Each one was a labor of love from which I got a tremendous amount of personal pleasure both while preparing to make the painting because it allowed me to study Torah, which I truly enjoy doing, but which I rarely if ever allow myself the time to do, and then again while rendering the various paintings when I was challenged as to how to represent what I had been studying”.
So, as Mr. Kopf points out, if he never gets to write a Safer Torah, perhaps, as he continues producing these paintings, he will one day complete his now self-appointed task to "paint" a copy of the Torah. He admits that painting the entirety of the Torah may or may not make me “mekahyam” (in compliance with) the Mitzvah to write one, but it should be a quest that will take me well into my later years if I am ever able to complete it at all.
When Mr. Kopf completes each painting, he also includes a Devar Torah (a written presentation about a Torah-centric subject) that he prepares as a way to explain why he rendered the painting as he did and to hopefully bring another perspective to the subject that might challenge the youngster so as to help him or her get a little extra from the overall experience of the process that they are completing. Drew says, “I usually paste a copy of the Devar Torah on the back of the framed piece that I present to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah”.
Kids seem to like the paintings as do their families. However, there was man of advanced years who, having seen one of Mr. Kopf’s paintings and recognizing it immediately as being the very Sedrah he had studied and chanted for his own Bar Mitzvah more than 74 years prior, was so sincerely moved that his wife is in the process of having a Giclee copy made for her husband.
Mr. Kopf, who is a graduate of both Yeshiva University for Boys of Manhattan and of Yeshiva University and holds a Master of Fin Arts in Directing from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, said that he believes he is on to something for both himself and maybe for others who come to enjoy his work combining his love of studying the Torah and of painting meaningful pictures.
His recent works have been treated differently than the ones that preceded them. During a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, he was fortunate to have met the accomplished painter John Carroll Doyle, who is renowned for his paintings depicting his home town area of South Carolina. Mr. Doyle encouraged Mr. Kopf to follow his passions regarding these Biblically based paintings by offering them as Giclee copies to families who might see the wisdom and joy in having such a special work as these for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah’s personal art collection.
Giclee reproductions, which is a process that captures a piece of art as completely as possible and then renders it in archival, i.e. Museum quality, inks, and prints them on either heavy duty acid free watercolor paper in the case of the current paintings or on canvas if an oil painting was being copied. Giclee copies are affordable and match he vibrancy of the original stroke-for-stroke and hue-for-hue.
The three Sedrahs currently available as Giclee copies are, Terumah, Shoteem and Vaishlach. It can take Mr. Kopf up to 6 weeks to complete one of his Torah depictions so those interested in commissioning ones should take that into account. There are web pages dedicated to these paintings and they can be most easily found by searching in Google for Echelon Art Gallery and the word Drew.
Mr. Kopf squeezes in his painting amongt his various other interests; running his business, The Mat King located in Levittown, NY and his hobbies of Golf and basketball and volunterr work for The American Kidney Fund. He also ocassionally writes for this publication.