Seasons of the Moon
By Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Brooklyn, New York, 2008
Reviewed by Judy Belsky
Readers familiar with Rabbi Yaakov Sinclair’s Torah essays will be delighted to discover Seasons of the Moon, a collection of essays, poems and stunning photography.
Artist and author Rabbi Sinclair has created a beautiful book of stark, spare poems, richly wrought Torah essays and beautiful photographs. Although the subject matter is not woven around any particular theme, there is a synergy working in the book. Every photograph or sentence seems to take us to a form of hallel, praise. The work of the author/artist brings us to a place of wonder. Rabbi Sinclair’s acute level of observation makes one look at the photographs again and again. The images are so magical and compelling, they allow us to see the scenes in Israel (spring flowers growing in Sanhedrin’s Tomb or the texture of stone at the Tomb of Samuel) expanded through Rabbi Sinclair’s eyes.
To the author, however, the highest goal is not art for art’s sake but that the “Torah empowers me to turn this world into art. To make the physical work speak the language of the spirit.”
Rabbi Sinclair, whose work has been published in the British Journal of Photography, also had a thriving career in the music industry before settling in Jerusalem to immerse himself in the study of Torah.
Chock full of Torah thoughts and visual richness, Seasons of the Moon also serves as a working model of quiet inner contemplation. Rabbi Sinclair is still long enough to notice the beauty around him. He describes his effort to clear away the noise and hear the music of the Divine. He describes the spiritual struggle to break away from the stone that seems to encapsulate us and reach for the true living self that thrives on hope.
Slowing down to appreciate the subtleties of this magnificent book puts the reader in a contemplative mood. There is so much in today’s world that tampers with the precious, fragile building of the self. There is too much multi-tasking, too many demands. There is, to quote from Rabbi Sinclair’s introduction, too much immediacy. The social self is often built without the firm inner foundation, the spiritual foundation. Our young people are fortunate in many ways, but may well be impoverished of the opportunity to engage in the building of themselves. This requires quiet, solitude and a mentor such as Rabbi Sinclair. Without a well-developed, maturing inner dimension, we are at risk. When events challenge us, faith is challenged. We have no inner place to retreat to, to reaffirm our belief at the core of our relationship to Hashem.
Seasons of the Moon is a tool for spirit making because it beckons the reader to look and look again: first at the work itself and then at the working model of how a Jew draws his understanding of the world through the lens of Torah. That the book summons us to look through a new lens is a tribute to the layers of work, subtlety, talent and faith of the author.
Judy Belsky, PhD, is a psychologist living in Israel specializing in trauma. She directs M.A.S.K Jerusalem, a support network for parents of kids at risk. She is a poet, writer and a visual artist (www.israelart.me).