The sages of the Mishna and the Talmud saw in the engagement with nature a discussion that is part of halachic observance. Knowledge of nature serves the general purpose of teaching virtuous behavior between man and place and man and his fellows. Nevertheless, among the sages there is a degree of contemplation and familiarity, wonder and amazement regarding the actions of the Creator. Among birchot ha-nehenin (blessings made over food, drink, pleasant odors, and other pleasurable items) are blessings that relate directly to nature, which benefits the human soul.
A person who goes out in the month of Nissan and sees the trees bloom should recite the blessing “Blessed are You, Lord Our God, King of the Universe, for nothing is lacking in His universe, and He created in it good creatures and good trees, to cause mankind pleasure with them.”
A person who sees good trees and good people says “Blessed are You who created good people in his world.”
The sages also excelled in their well-developed sense of observation and broad knowledge of natural phenomena.
Avital Burg, Birthday Self Portrait, 2019, Oil on Canvas
Avital Burg turns birchot ha-nehenin into a personal custom. Whenever she leaves her studio, her inner world, she observes the outside world with inquiring eyes, examines the flowers, the ways in which they change, and the places where they appear. From this perspective, she chooses the most remote and hidden flowers, those that in nature are pushed aside to secluded corners, and turns them into the center of interest in the studio.
The exhibition will showcase a series of paintings created last winter specifically for the Schechter Gallery and one video installation. In the paintings, which seem to protrude like reliefs from the canvas into the space of the gallery, Burg investigates the forces of nature and time.
As she wanders through the urban space, the artist is drawn toward the abandoned fringe of the neighborhood, where she finds and picks local wildflowers that are often concealed from view. The treatment of space is a dominant element in the paintings, named after the street where the artist picked the flowers that appear in each work. The time spent painting in the studio matches the life expectancy of the slowly withering flowers. Thus, on the one hand, the paintings constitute a kind of diary that documents contemporary events and environment, and, on the other, they relate to the history of art and the living spaces of the artist’s private history.
The box paintings that will be exhibited also carry on the artist’s treatment of the materiality and symbolism of cardboard as a symbol of dwelling places and transience.
Curator: Shira Friedman
 Amotz Cohen, “The Attitude of the Sages to the Natural World.” Mahanayim 57 and http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/mahanaim/kohen-1.htm (Hebrew).