Certainly this is a time to examine the content of what we are reading, writing, seeing and doing. It brings me to question my own mission of The House of Faith N Fashion, where I combine art, culture and fashion with Torah based teachings. Currently, it seems that the arena of creativity in humankind has given way to crisis of human nature. My hopes are still to find meaning in my fusion and hopefully educate and entertain.
The Thursday style section of The New York Times declared the face mask the new fashion symbol of the pandemic 2020. “If there is a symbol of the current confusion and fear, the misinformation and anxiety, generated by the spread of the new coronavirus, it is the surgical face mask.” The article also states, “They have represented safety and protection from disease and pollution; solidarity; protest; racism; a fashion trend; and now, pandemic. They have been, said Christos Lynteris, a medical anthropologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, a sign of “something that hides but also communicates.” It is, he said, “an interesting dialectic, and one very dependent on context.”
As I continuously (these days, obsessively) check my Instagram feed, my dear friend, Eyal Assulin, famed Israeli artist and sculptor, designed a group of face masks. Since, I know that he doesn’t just create out of boredom, I quickly contacted him through WhatsApp to get the message he’s trying to say because with Eyal there is always a deep message.
Tobi: Why do you think that masks are so fashionable?
Eyal: I think masks become so fashionable thanks to the mystery it creates, our ability to visually and physically cover half of our face and stay attractive and intriguing and actually more intriguing than we are fully exposed. There is something about the act of concealment that generates greater curiosity about the person who wears it. Artistically, the mask functions as another layer of that person, that is, the type of facial extension and extension of the persona he represents.
Tobi: Where does G-d fit in with a mask?
Eyal: To me, the mask’s connection to G-d is our ability to cover the organ of speech, our mouth, and to create an inner silence that allows us to listen in. Have you ever heard your breathing out of the mask like an echo coming back from you? The resulting acoustics allow us to listen to the speech and breath more than usual.
Tobi: Is there a meaning to your collection as opposed to the “designer label” ones that high society is wearing?
Eyal: The mask is an accessory and yet very individual, each person will buy a mask according to the person he represents. The masks I make WFH (Corona Virus quarantine) are different and each one is one of its kind. Visually, it functions as a mirror to the contemporary era in which people trade in masks such as stolen diamonds, contemporary post-capitalism crisis.
Without going into the political or capitalistic approach, Eyal touched a big Torah topic in the covering, concealing and limiting the mouth to an internal silence.
“Death and Life lay in the hand of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21), warned King Solomon. Hebrew has two words for “language” - lashon and safah. These two words, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook explained, correspond to two aspects of speech: the inner meaning of our words (inside of the mouth) - the message we intend to communicate - and their external “attire” (the lips) - how our words are interpreted by others. “If we do not express ourselves clearly, our words will fail to convey our true intent.” says Rav Kook. There are two major pitfalls in speech and we pray to Hashem for guidance. The first concerns the inner content of our words. The other is the huge terrain of proper communication to others. If we do not express ourselves clearly, our words will fail to convey our true intent. Then of course there is an entire book written by the great Chofetz Chiam on the topic of Lashon Harah. What comes out of your mouth can destroy worlds! You can explore further with Rabbi Akiva Tatz’s book “Worldmask” which contains the keys to unlock the spiritual world that exists behind the mask of the physical. The relationship of the inner to the outer soul and human to G-d.
We wear masks during Purim time. I often say that when I put on makeup I feel like I’m putting on a Kabuki mask. Kabuki is a form of classical theater in Japan known for its elaborate costumes and dynamic acting. We all put on masks in some form or another. Admitting all that, the mask we wear now is a gravely important one. It’s a form of protection against what’s out there, and a form of protection against what’s in there! Or is it the great balancing tool to get the outside and inside to work together as one? Let’s be cautious with doing what we are told to stop spreading the virus, and be as determined to be safe with what we say to each other, on the internet, social media and even to ourselves because G-d is listening…
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.