Torah & Texts

Crowns: A Paper Cut Animation about Akiva and Moses from Menachot 29b

By Adina Feigenbaum and Aliza Donath

Talmud, interpreted by emerging artists

This Talmudic story attempts to offer an explanation for why Jewish laws change overtime and addresses why bad things sometimes happen to good people.

Artists’ statement: Crowns is based around the question: why did some of Jewish Law change over time?

Why, if all of these Laws are sacred, did we not receive them all at Mt. Sinai, and keep them as they were? Why let them evolve at all? Some of the Laws, it’s been pointed out, changed so much from the time of the Exodus to the Talmudic era that Moses himself wouldn’t recognize them! This story, found in the Talmud, attempts to offer an explanation, while also addressing that age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people?

How do we explain the injustice of a teacher as great as Rabbi Akiva whose life ended under torture and violence? Of course, we cannot pretend to know G-d’s plan, as this story so poetically presents.

The story’s poignant familiarity and emphasis on these very Jewish questions inspired us to use a medium as deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. We relied on the use of paper-cuts, an art form widely used in Jewish culture to illuminate prayer texts and wedding documents. They appear in this film as folk-craft style puppets, further emphasizing the long tradition behind the Talmud, this story, philosophical questions, and even the evolution of Jewish art from handcrafted cut paper to animated film.

Created in chevruta, or partnership, between a visual artist and a writer as part of a 2012-3 program called Studio G-dcast.

The BimBam Creative Talmud Curriculum

Menahot 29b Source Sheet

Talmud Character Map

The development of this program was made possible in part by funds granted by the Covenant Foundation. The statements made and the views expressed in the individual projects, however, are solely the responsibility of the artists.

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