The New York Times describes Tzuri Gueta’s jewelry as “blur(ring) the lines between craft, fashion, and art.” In truth, that’s a small statement with a very large translation.
I first met Tzuri during Bijoux at The Norton Museum in Palm Beach. He was a part of AIDA (the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts) that hosted top Israeli jewelry artists to exhibit during the event. Aside from his immediate charm, his collection was so different, whimsical, disturbing yet endearing. One needed to keep exploring what it was and who was this designer. Tzuri Gueta had just completed his collaboration with Chanel on the label’s spring 2012 collection. Every piece he brought was sold immediately. Since 1989, Tzuri has continued to work with the most important fashion houses in Paris, Japan, and around the world such as Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake, and Christian Lacroix.
Tzuri was born and educated in Israel. He graduated from the Shankar School of Design in Israel, which proudly ranks as the top ten fashion schools in the world. He invented a cloth made of silicone and silk. This patented combination allows him to create the most magical jewelry, sculptures, accessories, and furniture.
I actually couldn’t believe my eyes until I visited his Paris salon with my daughter a few years ago. He gave us a tour of the workroom and the process of manufacturing the material he invented, each piece lovingly crafted by hand from inception to completion. We were both mesmerized to be in his world of color, creativity, and imagination. Having grown up in a small beach town in Israel, his inspiration comes from the sea. His designs reflect the memory and vision of the mysterious world that lies beneath the ocean. Honestly, no words can describe the look, feel, and vibrancy of each piece he creates. Every time I wear his jewelry, people ask me “what is that?” with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child!
So I wondered, how would Tzuri Gueta interpret Day 5 of Creation when G-d made the sea and all its wonderful creatures? In particular, the very largest of them all, the tanninim.
Tanninim are Hashem’s sea monsters, also known as Leviathan. They are introduced in Bereishit, sentence 21 during G-d’s weeklong creation of the world. Rashi mentions in the words of the Aggadah (Bava Batra 74b), as it refers to the Leviathan (a particular kind of sea monster) and its mate, that G-d created both male and female. He slew the female and salted her away for the righteous in the future; for if they would multiply they would destroy the world and disrupt its order.
In the Talmud (Bava Batra 75a) it is written that the Leviathan sea creature will be slain. Its flesh or meat will be served as a feast to the righteous in the time of Mashiach. Its skin or hide will be used to cover the tent where the sumptuous banquet will be held. The festival of Sukkot (Holiday of Booths) has a certain prayer that is recited upon leaving the sukkah. “May it be Your will, Lord our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that just as I have fulfilled and dwelt in this sukkah, so may I merit in the coming year to dwell in the sukkah of the skin of Leviathan next year in Jerusalem.”
In Tehillim, chapter 74, King David writes: “The sea with Your might; You shattered the heads of the sea monsters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; You give it as food to the people in companies.” The most thought-provocative interpretation is the one of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, z”l, the first chief rabbi of Israel, Kabbalist, and a renowned Torah scholar. He describes the Leviathan as a singular creature both male and female, “its tail is placed in its mouth” (Zohar) “twisting around and encompassing the entire world” (Rashi on Bava Batra 74b). This translation is a metaphor for the universe’s underlying unity. This unity will only be revealed in the time of Mashiach when the righteous will feast on the Leviathan during the holiday of Sukkot.
Last year I shared the subject or lesson of this article with a table full of friends in a beautiful sukkah during my visit to Miami. It just so happened that I was wearing a pair of earrings that resembled a strange sea creature by the acclaimed designer Tzuri Gheta. Unfortunately, the dvar Torah was quickly dismissed as “too out there” but the earrings were highly discussed. These very encounters fuel me to keep finding, writing, and discussing the fusion of the two worlds, materialism and spirituality. The very core mission of The House Of Faith and Fashion is to bring together these two realms without dismissing one for the other. My goal is to elevate the objects of art, fashion, and culture to a higher ground of understanding as it relates to Hashem. Sometimes it takes a lot of research, yet often it’s quite obvious. It’s a matter of adjusting your antenna to always view things through the lenses of the Torah.
It seems that the very large sea monster has a very large place in our future. May we all merit to dine at the table of unity and welcome the Mashiach as a guest in our very near future with clear vision, awareness, and appreciation to engage all that G-d creates...from pieces of jewelry to hides of ancient creatures.
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.