Visu­al Arts

The Illu­mi­nat­ed Kad­dish: Inter­pre­ta­tions of the Mourn­er’s Prayer

Hyla Shifra Bolsta
  • Review
By – August 3, 2012

One rest­less morn­ing in her stu­dio, Hyla Bol­s­ta paint­ed a pic­ture of two fig­ures and imme­di­ate­ly knew they were she and a dear friend of forty-three years who was extreme­ly ill. By the time Bol­s­ta arrived at her friend’s house with the pic­ture, she learned that her friend had died just as Bol­s­ta had fin­ished the paint­ing.

Her friend hov­ered over Bol­s­ta as she worked on a series of paint­ings that memo­ri­al­ized their rela­tion­ship. Recit­ing the Mourner’s Kad­dish pro­pelled her deep­er into the prayer, and she began study­ing the words and phras­es with a rab­bi to explore their broad­er mean­ings and pos­si­bil­i­ties. The result is Bolsta’s cal­ligraphed Mourner’s Kad­dish, with a paint­ing and derash for the indi­vid­ual words and phras­es of the prayer. The book then expands into inter­pre­tive paint­ings and clos­es with a fine selec­tion of quo­ta­tions from sev­er­al sources, accom­pa­nied by Boltsa’s illus­tra­tions.

The Illu­mi­nat­ed Kad­dish charts Bolsta’s per­son­al and spir­i­tu­al quest. In her inter­pre­ta­tions, both visu­al and ver­bal, Bol­s­ta strives to cap­ture the life-affirm­ing solace of the Mourner’s Kad­dish and its pow­er­ful mes­sage to her of the grandeur of cre­ation. Glos­sary, notes.

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions