Skip to Content

TIOH Art Tour: Hassid and Hebrew Letters

  • By Saul Rabino 
  • Ink wash drawing. Hassid surrounded by Hebrew letters and flowers. 
  • Signed left to right with Hebrew initials above 

In Hassid and Hebrew Letters, Saul Rabino draws a cacophony of letters bombarding a Torah scholar. According to the Zochar (one of three sections in the mystical Kaballah), the individual letters of the Aleph Bet pleaded with God that each should be the first letter used in the story of the Creation. One by one, each letter gave reasons and, one by one, God disputed each…until God came to Bet. 

God selected Bet as the first worthy letter to be used in the beginning of the Torah: ‘Bereshit’…In the Beginning, the Earth was…” …and so begins the story of the Creation. 

Rabino makes man the center of the story, with the image of a sage and mystic whose vision of dancing letters appear in a garden. A man who sees the mystery of creation in the form of Hebrew letters of grace and subtlety – Letters whose dance reminds us of musical notes. The style of the piece as a whole, and the letters explicitly, exude graceful movement of Hassidic dance, the joy of fulsome faith, and the whim of human frailty and love. 

Rabino was born in Odessa, Russia in 1892; he emigrated to the United States in app. 1920, finally settling in Los Angeles in 1932, where he became deeply connected with the Jewish community. He made lithographs and painted, capturing scholars, theater goers, workers, and chess players. 

His art has been exhibited in museums, community galleries, community centers and schools and is included in many public and private collections. He died in Los Angeles in 1969. 

Back to top