Lamed Vav: Thirty-Six: A Series by Peter Leventhal

Location: Hartzmark Center

Dates: February 3-May 15, 2017

An old Jewish story tells of the Lamed Vav: The Thirty Six

There are 36 righteous individuals alive in every generation and because of their merit, the world continues to exist. Were there to be fewer, the world would collapse. These people are known as the “lamed vav tzadikkim,” the 36 righteous individuals, known also colloquially as the “lamedvavnicks.” The sum of the numerical value of the two Hebrew letters, lamed and vav, is 36. What about these people? They are anonymous…neither we nor they themselves know who they are. They could be anyone…your relative, your neighbor, your friend, even you! We need to cherish them. But since we don’t know who they are, we need to cherish, to respect every individual! They keep the world going for us. And so the legend of the “lamedvavnicks” is a powerful way of saying that all individuals have dignity and value, even that person who might seem to us to have very little of either. Who knows, that very person might be a “lamed vav” whose hidden merit keeps the world going.

Artist Peter Leventhal heard this tale from his grandfather as a young boy. Years later, when this story crept back into his consciousness, he put paint to canvas to capture the unknowable Thirty Six. This exhibit features the paintings of eight precious “lamedvavnicks” and is on loan from New York City’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum. Born in New York City, in 1939, Peter Leventhal lives and paints in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His love of painting began as a child when he visited the Metropolitan Museum and The New York Public Library print and drawing collection. About his work he says, “I was always interested in figuration. And even more in narrative figuration, that is to say paintings that sort of told a story, even if the story wasn’t quite obvious. There was an underlying narrative to the painting.”