This piece depicts Jesus struggling with the cup of sorrows. He himself is poured out over a large stone. His hands are holding the cup but not fully. He is struggling over the decision of doing the will of the Father or his own. In deciding to do the will of the Father the cup is full, it is the beginning of the crucifixion.
Panel 1: Father forgive them, they know not what they do
The figure representing Jesus is making a declaration. His head is straight forward and intentional. He, in these words, is creating a covenant of forgiveness. His hands, even though nailed, are open, giving out to all that can and will receive.
The figure representing the Holocaust is turned in toward the stones. In the fountain, the six pillars of stone separating each of the seven panels symbolize the six million who perished during the Holocaust. The figure is leaning into the perished, he struggles with this word of forgiveness. He clutches his chest. If this is a covenant of forgiveness, it means he has to receive but to also give out forgiveness. How could he forgive the perpetrators, the killers of those who died instead of him? He is attached to them, interwoven with them. His greatest fear, if he forgave would the perished be forgotten?
Panel 2: Today you will with me in Paradise
This panel represents the dialogue of Jesus and the two thieves that were crucified on either side of him. Three men are speaking and responding in their last minutes of life. One thief to his left demanding if Jesus is the Messiah King that he save him from this death but the thief’s cry is in the form of a curse. The left hand of Jesus is turned down almost a show of disappointment. The other thief somehow recognizes righteousness in Jesus and is asks to be remembered when Jesus comes into his kingdom. This pulls the heart of the figure crucified towards this prayer that was more like a blessing, he is reaching to give life in the last moments before death.
The figure representing the Holocaust is hearing this conversation, and with a raised hand is drawn to the promise of life seeing himself in the thief that cries out to God in the last minutes of life. But his other hand lowered directed toward the other second thief recognizing that this could also reflect him in the last moments of life cursing God for the death that was swallowing him.
Panel 3: Mother, this is your Son; Son, this is your Mother
The sense on this word is an unnatural relationship being formed out of intense suffering. From the crucifixion it is Jesus speaking these words to the two closest relationships that he had; Mary his mother and John his closest disciple. In a way he is asking John to carry her to bear her now as son.
The figure representing the Holocaust is carrying a heavy cloth that has a very surreal woman’s figure interwoven in the folds of the cloth. Holocaust survivor becomes one of his chief identifications. He carries with him the perished, he is always a part of them, he bears them. This for him is a relationship that is unnatural but because of the Holocaust he carries the dead with him where ever he goes, he is forever connected to the larger family of six million that perished.
Panel 4: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
In the crucifixion, we see the deepest point of pain and abandonment. The Father’s back is turned. He is alone. The head is thrown up in a cry and the fingers on the hands are open and turned upward, looking but not finding.
The Holocaust figure is throwing his arms behind him almost like he is throwing himself through time. The one who perished said these words of God’s abandonment. The same words spoken over sixty years later by the survivor “Where was God?” In this panel the identification between the crucifixion and the Holocaust is so strong that the figure crucified also has his head shaved and his arm numbered.
Panel 5: I thirst
The figure representing the crucifixion is completely drained. The head is hanging down and turned slightly, and the hands and fingers are pulling down. The legs and feet come to a point, almost like the last droplet of water. We see a connection biblically between the rock that was struck by Moses and brought water and Jesus declaring himself as the water of life, now being poured out to the last as a drink offering.
In the concentration camps, it was easier to die from thirst than from starvation. In this panel the Holocaust figure is crouching with one hand cupped searching for the water and with the other hand almost touching the crucifixion in identification with this word. He understands what thirst is.
Panel 6: It is finished
In this panel there is a declaration. The head facing forward is serious and intentional. The hands are covering the nail heads. He has brought to completion his purpose, his work.
The word “complete” for the Jewish people was their complete destruction. Before the war over fifty percent of European Jews lived in Poland. They had known deeply their roots in that geographical space for almost nine hundred years. Six years of war brought their connection to these roots to a complete destruction. It would never be as it had been. In response to this word, the figure representing the Holocaust is covering his face, he is losing his identity. With his other hand he is holding it in the air as if to give direction but there is none. All his past, his present, and his future has been completely taken away.
Panel 7: Into your hands, I commend my Spirit
In the crucifixion death now has come and the figure hangs at its lowest state; everything has been given out. There is nothing left.
The Holocaust has again the figure covering him; the perished are pressing him down. It is almost as if during the years between 1945 and 1948 the dead were buried with the living. It is as though the perished are saying to the survivors, “into your hands we commend our spirits and our memory.
This sculpture was birthed out of a piece of music called Oratorio Terezin. The oratorio was inspired by a book of children’s poetry from the Holocaust titled “I never saw another butterfly.” The child is leaning on the inside of the crematorium door in a fetal position, and is totally abandoned. On the other side you see an exact copy of the oven doors from Auschwitz, the camp that the vast majority of the children from Terezin with killed. Also from this side you see the arm of the child is penetrating the closed door and clutching a small piece of ground just outside of the door. The ground represents the land of Israel. The hand of the child is possessing the land but it becomes the butterfly that the child never sees. The land is covered with olive leaves, symbolizing olive oil that from a biblical understanding brings healing and anointing. This becomes their physical resurrection.
The Empty Cup
This final piece shows the two parts of this dialogue coming together. Both figures that represented the Holocaust and the crucifixion are coming out of the stones that symbolized the perished into a place that they are recognizing each other because they have recognized each other’s suffering. They have come into this fellowship of suffering both now under the shadow of the cup of sorrows that was shown in the beginning in the Gethsemane piece then full, now empty, drunk by both.