In this drawing with a pencil on paper, South African–Israeli artist Dion Futerman presents a figure in prayer who stands before a wall with his head bending low. The image does not show his face, but the hunched shoulders compel viewers to recognize the posture of a person in prayer.
The wall is undoubtedly ha-kotel ha-ma‘aravi, the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The location powerfully summons the memory of the fall of Jerusalem commemorated on the day of Tisha b’Av, when the Jewish people reflect upon the repeated disaster in history and other colossal catastrophes that took place elsewhere.
The figure’s two feet are not planted squarely and so suggest tentativeness, perhaps even precariousness. The tallit (his prayer shawl) covers a body that may be mourning. Above him, we can observe a few plants that have managed to find their path to life through the cracks of the stone.
The Hebrew title of the artwork, Ani Ma’amin (‘I Believe’), is derived from the teaching of the famous twelfth-century rabbi Moses Maimonides, who taught the Thirteen Principles of Faith. He began each line of the faith statements with ’ani ma‘amin be-emunah shelemah (‘I believe with full faith’). Principle 12 mandates persistent waiting for the coming of the Messiah, recalling the counsel of God, who said to the prophet, ‘If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay / but the righteous will live by their faith’ (Habakkuk 2:3–4).
During the Holocaust, Ani Ma’amin was sung by ‘pious and obstinate Jews in the ghettos and camps’ (Wiesel 1973: 11). Set to several tunes, the lyric continues to be performed in the commemoration of victims of those horrors. Many also recite it at the end of their morning prayer.
Perhaps, the supplicant in Futerman’s drawing is also at his morning prayer. The shadow cast over him insinuates that the sun rises behind him as he prays. The hour recalls the prophet’s counsel in verse 3b (‘If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay’).
Wiesel, Elie. 1973. Ani maamin: A Song Lost and Found Again; Music for the Cantata Composed by Darius Milhaud, trans. by Marion Wiesel (New York: Random House)
1 The oracle of God which Habakʹkuk the prophet saw.
2O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and thou wilt not hear?
Or cry to thee “Violence!”
and thou wilt not save?
3Why dost thou make me see wrongs
and look upon trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4So the law is slacked
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous,
so justice goes forth perverted.
5Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.
6For lo, I am rousing the Chaldeʹans,
that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth,
to seize habitations not their own.
7Dread and terrible are they;
their justice and dignity proceed from themselves.
8Their horses are swifter than leopards,
more fierce than the evening wolves;
their horsemen press proudly on.
Yea, their horsemen come from afar;
they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
9They all come for violence;
terror of them goes before them.
They gather captives like sand.
10At kings they scoff,
and of rulers they make sport.
They laugh at every fortress,
for they heap up earth and take it.
11Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
guilty men, whose own might is their god!
12Art thou not from everlasting,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O Lord, thou hast ordained them as a judgment;
and thou, O Rock, hast established them for chastisement.
13Thou who art of purer eyes than to behold evil
and canst not look on wrong,
why dost thou look on faithless men,
and art silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he?
14For thou makest men like the fish of the sea,
like crawling things that have no ruler.
15He brings all of them up with a hook,
he drags them out with his net,
he gathers them in his seine;
so he rejoices and exults.
16Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his seine;
for by them he lives in luxury,
and his food is rich.
17Is he then to keep on emptying his net,
and mercilessly slaying nations for ever?
2I will take my stand to watch,
and station myself on the tower,
and look forth to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
2And the Lord answered me:
“Write the vision;
make it plain upon tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
3For still the vision awaits its time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seem slow, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
4Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.
5Moreover, wine is treacherous;
the arrogant man shall not abide.
His greed is as wide as Sheol;
like death he has never enough.
He gathers for himself all nations,
and collects as his own all peoples.”
6Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, in scoffing derision of him, and say,
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
for how long?—
and loads himself with pledges!”
7Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
and those awake who will make you tremble?
Then you will be booty for them.
8Because you have plundered many nations,
all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,
for the blood of men and violence to the earth,
to cities and all who dwell therein.
9Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
to set his nest on high,
to be safe from the reach of harm!
10You have devised shame to your house
by cutting off many peoples;
you have forfeited your life.
11For the stone will cry out from the wall,
and the beam from the woodwork respond.
12Woe to him who builds a town with blood,
and founds a city on iniquity!
13Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts
that peoples labor only for fire,
and nations weary themselves for nought?
14For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea.
15Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink
of the cup of his wrath, and makes them drunk,
to gaze on their shame!
16You will be sated with contempt instead of glory.
Drink, yourself, and stagger!
The cup in the Lord’s right hand
will come around to you,
and shame will come upon your glory!
17The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you;
the destruction of the beasts will terrify you,
18What profit is an idol
when its maker has shaped it,
a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For the workman trusts in his own creation
when he makes dumb idols!
19Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
to a dumb stone, Arise!
Can this give revelation?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
and there is no breath at all in it.
20But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him.