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Ushpizin Portfolio: Regular Edition


Ushpizin is a folio of 7 etchings pulled by Mordechai Beck, representing the 7 patriarchs in Mordechai’s unique style. The set are contained in a deluxe clam shell box and are a perfect gift or focus for Succot. The regular set are in black ink.


Ushpizin: An Offering for Sukkot

David Moss writes from Jerusalem:

Many of you know of the Maftir Jonah containing the exquisite etchings of Mordechai Beck. It was a collaboration between Mordechai and me and was published by Bet Alpha in 1993. This work was exhibited in a museum show, featured in a half dozen articles and sold out within a few months. Since that time we have been looking for another opportunity to present more of Mordechai’s thoughtful and sensitive Jewish artwork. It is with great pleasure and pride that I’m able to announce this new portfolio of seven of Mordechai’s etchings of the Ushpizin, the traditional guests of Sukkot: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. Each of these prints is an insightful, pensive individual study of each one of these crucial Biblical leaders. The whole set viewed together becomes a powerful, unified artistic statement.

I believe this rich portfolio is a perfect piece to enhance the joy of Sukkot. It elegantly transforms the lovely tradition of inviting Biblical guests to our own Sukkot into a wonderful contemporary work of art.

Mordechai Beck has been a personal friend, collaborator, advisor and helper to me for many years. I originally met him when he edited the commentary to my Haggadah. Since that time I learned that he is not only a writer of fiction and non-fiction, but an artist, teacher and musician as well. Mordechai is English-born and trained, but has been living and working in Jerusalem since 1973.

David Moss, Jerusalem

Ushpizin: Seven original etchings by Mordechai Beck

Size: 11.5” x 14.5”, interleaved with tissue.
Somerset English mold made paper, pure linen, cream colored and acid free.
Etchings hand-pulled by the artist from copper plates, 4” x4.25” image size, in black ink.
An essay by the artist included in the box.
Beautiful folio box covered in cloth with grasscloth inlays, with title on spine in Hebrew.

The edition is limited to 130 numbered and signed copies of which:

  • 100 are standard editions bearing the numbers 1/100 to 100/100.
  • 20 deluxe sets which are hand-colored by the artist and numbered in Hebrew.
  • 10 artist proofs as in the standard edition, each bearing a/p.

Mordechai Beck writes from Jerusalem:

Ushpizin: Holy Guests of the Sukkah

Though the characters involved in this project are well known to anyone with even a basic knowledge of the Bible, the origins of the custom that is based on them is obscure. The practice of inviting Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron or David to our meal table on the Festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) goes back to the 16th century. In the Holy city of Safed there then flourished a community of mystics among whom were Yosef Caro (author of the Shulkhan Arukh), Shlomo Alkabetz (composer of Lekha Dodi) and most outstanding of all, Isaac Luria, the so-called Lion of Safed.  This group not only laid the foundations for modern Jewish mysticism, but used it to introduce many customs into the Jewish calendar, among them that of the Ushpizin.

The idea of inviting guests (ushpez in Talmudic Aramaic means a night’s lodging), is based on an earlier reference in the Sefer Zohar (Book of Splendor) commonly thought to have been composed in 12th century Spain.  In this book (Emor 23), these righteous ancestors are invoked in order to complete the Sukkot celebrations, Abraham himself leading the way as a reward, as it were, for his own selfless acts of hospitality during his own mundane life.

The mystic’s innovation was adopted by the Hassidic movement in the 18th century and from there carried over into many sections of the orthodox community, so that in many prayer books today there is printed the invocation to these seven Biblical characters, which is recited on entering the Sukkah each evening of the festival.

Much has been written about these seven characters, often known collectively as the ‘faithful shepherds’ of Israel, for common to them all was concern for the physical and spiritual welfare of the people of Israel.  It is this that makes them worthy guests in anyone’s Sukkah, even today.

The Ushpizin have already become popular subjects for Sukkah posters. Some modern artists, too, have depicted them as part of Jewish folklore. The present work is my artistic attempt to depict the characters of this mystically inspired custom not as ‘ideal types’ or idealized icons but as imaginative portraits of people who lived in this world but who were touched by another, more ethereal dimension. The portraits are based on a close reading of their lives as constructed for us in the Bible, Talmud and mystical traditions.  They attempt, too, to be psychologically authentic, teasing out certain characteristics that are implied by these ancient texts.

Our sages saw in these figures, people who laid the foundation of Jewish civilization. No less important, they created models for our inner spiritual life: loving kindness, self-discipline, beauty. Collectively, they complement each other and convey a picture of what may be achieved in this world, even by lesser souls. In modern psychological terms, these figures are archetypal ‘kings, warriors, magicians and lovers’. This is what defines what today we might call their masculinity, their inner character from which they drew their strength and with which they inspired others. By recalling these figures, the modern kabbalists were perhaps anticipating the need for such role models in our own ‘emasculating’ culture.

Mordechai Beck,

The quantity of the edition is limited by the hand printing process. Mordechai Beck inspects every print for quality before he signs it, and although we intend to make 130 impressions, we will not know the actual number until the edition is complete, but in any case we will make no more than 130 copies. When the series is sold out, there will be no more available.