Metro Detroit native makes art in Israel inspired by spiritual learning.
What does the sound of the shofar look like if it were a piece of art?
Metro Detroit native Avraham Loewenthal has been making paintings of the pattern of the shofar sounds for many years. He uses software that analyzes the sound waves of the shofar and then makes art inspired by the resulting images.
Loewenthal grew up in Southfield, attending Akiva and Hillel for grade school and Southfield-Lathrup for high school. His parents were founding members of Young Israel of Southfield, which he attended while growing up. He studied psychology at the University of Michigan and then studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
While at U-M, he became intrigued by Eastern meditation and yoga. “I was thinking of going to an ashram in Ann Arbor and spoke about it with Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, who was the rabbi of Young Israel of Southfield and a family friend,” Loewenthal said. “Rabbi Goldberg recommended I read the book Jewish Meditation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. I had never heard of Jewish meditation and the book was life-changing for me.
“Instead of going deeper into Eastern meditation, my interest to learn more about Jewish meditation was sparked … I began to read other books Rabbi Kaplan wrote about Kabbalah. I didn’t know anything about the inner spiritual wisdom of Judaism and starting to learn about it was exciting.”
At age 25, Loewenthal finished art school in Chicago and went to Israel on a six-month artist program in the south.
“At the end of the program I came to the holy city of Tzfat for Shabbat,” he said. “I, like so many other people, fell in love with this amazing place. I have been blessed to be living here for almost 30 years. “
Loewenthal lives in Tzfat with his wife, Rebecca, who is from Maryland. They met down the block from where they now live in the Old City Artist Quarter. They have three children.
“Since coming to Tzfat, I have been learning Kabbalah and making art inspired by the spiritual learning. Above our home in the Artist Quarter, I have a studio and gallery called Tzfat Gallery of Mystical Art. Many tour groups come to the gallery where I give an introduction to Kabbalah discussing the paintings inspired by these ideas,” Loewenthal said.
Making the Auditory Visual
Loewenthal explains that the Kabbalah describes how the 100 sounds of the shofar we blow on Rosh Hashanah have deep spiritual information encoded in them. “Each progressive sound represents deeper levels of love and spiritual awareness,” he said.
For example, he said, “The whole long sound of tekiah expresses inner joy and thankfulness. The three broken cries of shevarim express brokenness. The teruah, so broken it is whole, is the prayer from the depths of our heart revealing the always-flowing Divine goodness. The final, very long sound of tekiah gedolah represents unconditional love and oneness.”
“The Sages say in a Midrash, ‘Before the coming of the Mashiach, Eliyahu the Prophet will go to the top of a mountain and blow the shofar to announce the coming of the Redemption,’” Loewenthal said.
“People imagine Eliyahu the Prophet standing on the mountain top blowing the shofar. The great Kabbalah master, the Baal HaSulam, explains, however, that the coming of Eliyahu means simply the inner spiritual teachings of Torah, Kabbalah, being revealed to everyone. Kabbalah becoming known in the world is, in coded language, ‘the sound of the shofar.’”
There is an old saying that one must be 40 years or older to study Kabbalah. Not true, Loewenthal said.
“This is a very dangerous misunderstanding that cuts us off from our spirituality. There are aspects of Kabbalah that a person needs to be on a high spiritual level to understand, but there is so much Kabbalah for everyone to learn at any age and there are no prerequisites to learn. We only need a desire to learn — then we can begin. It is important to find a good teacher to guide us.”
Loewenthal studies with one of the top Kabbalah masters today, Rebbe Avraham Mordechai Gottlieb.
“I recently translated three short books of precious spiritual teachings of Rebbe Gottlieb. One of the books, Spiritual Principles, is the most simple practical introduction to Kabbalah I know of,” he said.
“When we begin learning Kabbalah, we see how it is the most important learning for the world today. Kabbalah is how we can spiritually develop toward truly loving one another and experiencing our Divine reality. Our ancient prophets foretold that one day we would be miraculously gathered from all over the world and returned to the land of Israel. They foretold that at the same time the great spiritual light of Kabbalah would become revealed to all humanity and guide us in coming to world peace and ultimate goodness.
“It is happening now!”
Find and purchase Loewenthal’s artwork on www.kabbalahart.com, where you can also download a free PDF of Spiritual Principles by Rebbe Avraham Mordechai Gottlieb.