The memories of his childhood, his Jewish inheritance and his first educational experiences strongly marked the content of all his works. This powerful image of a figure wearing a Torah conveys the artist's constant concern to maintain his double identity, of both Russian and Jewish. This man could be a Rabbi as Chagall often depicted this subject. He wears the traditional Torah, the Sefer Torah or Torah roll, containing the five sacred books of Judaism in the form of a parchment fixed to two wooden handles, which unfolds as it is read. The star of David is placed almost in the centre of the composition. The Sefer Torah is the result of meticulous copying carried out over thousands of years and contains the secret word. It is considered to be one of the community's greatest treasures and is placed in the Synagogue's most sacred place.
This man thus becomes the emblem of an entire community as remembered by Chagall and which is also evoked in the depictions of the village people and wooden houses of Vitebsk in the background. The work includes many other motifs characteristic of Chagall's style – the goat, the multiple eyes, the flying figures – belong to an iconic vision in which the painter's memories are captured in the expressive force of his images and his inimitable style.
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