Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shabbat: a Gift of Love

The beautiful still photography featured in the video is by Yocheved Amrami Sidof.
Yocheved’s path to photography was anything but typical.  With a degree in psychology, she set out to help people, working with families struggling over custody issues and kids with “issues.”  Serendipity led her to volunteer with a group bringing arts to children, where she fell in love with combining Torah with creativity.

For Yocheved, psychology and photography are a natural match.  “It’s all about people.  I went into psychology to help people, to understand them.  I’m fascinated by people. I want to know, What’s their story?  What makes them tick?   I connect with people and uncover their magic in photography, too.”

The candle-lighting photo shoot really resonated with Yocheved.  Her daughter had just turned three, and Yocheved and her husband Yosef decided to celebrate the moment with palpable ceremony.  “I wanted her to feel real joy at doing the mitzvah for the first time.”  They invited about thirty people to witness this milestone and Yocheved brought out her camera to capture it.  “There’s a tension – on the one hand it’s a celebration, yet it’s a personal private moment.  It’s you and the candles and G-d.  That’s the ultimate message.”  In the video Yocheved takes you into this private moment behind the hands, as the light seeps through the fingers and shadows fall across the face.

As a photographer, Yocheved enters into the sacred space of people’s most personal moments: wedding, brit milah, bat-mitzvah.  But recently her most powerful experience was filming the funeral of a Torah scroll.  The basement of a Chabad House had flooded and many of the Torah scrolls were damaged beyond repair.  As with the burial of a person, the Torah was wrapped in shrouds, carried to its grave with love and reverence, kaddish was said.  It made clear that a Torah scroll is so much more than a mere physical object.

Yocheved and her husband Yosef host an average of twenty people every Shabbat.  They come, they bring their friends and their friends’ friends.  For Yocheved it’s another opportunity to meet people and to express her creativity – this time, in the kitchen.  “It’s a selfish pleasure – and my kids love it.”

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