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Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 18 Tishrei 5784
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Perfect Art
Baruch Nachshon is a well-known chassidic artist, famous for his charming and mystical paintings which he executes from his hometown of Chevron, Israel. Nachson owes the development of his artistic talent to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. His connection to Chabad began when Baruch was a young boy, over 50 years ago, when he briefly visited the Chabad yeshivah in Lod. In general he did not find the place to his liking; the austere surroundings were not a good fit for his temperament. However, there was something, or rather someone, there who completely captivated Baruch: the mentor of the yeshivah, Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kesselman of blessed memory.
During that visit, the students of the yeshivah prevailed on Baruch to write a letter to the Rebbe. "The Rebbe is like a father. Write to him openly, just like you'd write a letter to your father."
Baruch took their advice and opened up to the Rebbe in a letter, expressing all that was on his mind. The letter was sent and Baruch was fortunate enough to receive a lengthy response from the Rebbe.
Of the entire letter, the sentence that particularly spoke to Baruch was: "Many people have been through a similar situation and overcame it, and were successful in an extraordinary manner." These words of the Rebbe gave Baruch the confidence boost that he needed.
The years passed, and Baruch was drafted into the Israeli army. When he completed his service he decided to return to the Lod yeshivah. He came to the office to enroll, and while waiting for someone to see him, he seated himself in a corner and began to draw. The yeshivah's principal, Rabbi Ephraim Wolf of blessed memory, did not know exactly what to do with the "artist" who had just landed in his office. But Rabbi Shlomo Chaim, who knew Baruch from his past visit to the yeshivah, told Rabbi Wolf, "This young man received a very special letter from the Rebbe."
Baruch was accepted into the Chabad yeshivah, and he studied there for a period of time. At one point he wrote to the Rebbe – openly, as he had been taught – and said that he wanted to become more acquainted with the Rebbe. The Rebbe sent him an official invitation from the central Chabad yeshivah in New York to come and study there, under full scholarship. Baruch also received a student visa from the American consulate which allowed him an extended stay. With everything arranged for him, all Baruch had to do was fly to the United States.
Baruch merited to have a private audience (yechidus) with the Rebbe that lasted for three hours! The Rebbe told him, "Many generations have passed, but the medium of art has still not been perfected for holiness. You will perfect it!"
The Rebbe gave Baruch the name of a chassid, who introduced him to a famous artist named Chaim Gross. Gross immediately recognized Baruch's exceptional talent, and said that he was prepared to grant him three scholarships worth $10 thousand each, to fund Baruch's academic studies in art.
Baruch sensed that this wasn't the perfection of the field of art that the Rebbe had in mind. He rejected the suggestion, and explained why he did not jump at the chance. However, Gross did not accept his explanation. His opinion was, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe is an expert in spiritual matters, but Chaim Gross is an expert in art."
In the end the Rebbe himself funded Baruch’s art studies. Baruch enrolled in art courses at a university in New York, and his talent blossomed. After a year, the Rebbe encouraged him to return to Israel to live.
The years passed, and Baruch married and raised a family with his wife, Sarah. After the Six-Day War, the Nachshons were the first Chabad family to move into the renewed Jewish settlement of Chevron. For many years Baruch produced many wonderful works of art from his home in Chevron, without them being noticed much in the outside world.
His first exhibit was in 1979 in London, England. He was invited by the chassid Rabbi Feivish Vogel, who knew him from way back. The exhibit was successful, and Baruch decided that he would pack up his artwork and take it to New York. He had a strong desire to show the Rebbe two or three of his masterpieces.
When he told the Rebbe of his desire, the Rebbe asked, "Why only two or three?" The Rebbe instructed Baruch to prepare a full exhibit in the Chabad headquarters, and added, "I will be the first visitor."
During that visit, the Rebbe spent 50 minutes viewing Nachshon's paintings. On that occasion the Rebbe told him: "You have done well in expressing the Jewish soul, but a Jew also has a body and the body is holy. You must become more involved in Torah and mitzvot."
The Rebbe also made several comments on the paintings themselves. For example, one featured the palace of King Solomon, and showed the palace guards. The Rebbe mentioned that they were not dressed in Egyptian style. Baruch told the Rebbe that he intended to draw them in Assyrian style.
On that occasion, Baruch met up again with Chaim Gross, fifteen years after their original encounter. Chaim saw how far Baruch had come with the Rebbe's guidance and blessings. He admitted, "There's nothing more to say. It seems that the Rebbe understands art as well..."


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