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On-Site: Hewer of Wood

Shlomi Gil

Walking into Shimon Tayar’s workshop is like walking into a wooden wonderland

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

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“Every time my soul tells me a story, I convey it in the form of a wood sculpture. Wood is a wonderful substance; it’s warm and easy to work with. You can bend wood; you can carve it, glue it, and paint it. And the wood seems to like being worked with” (Photos: Menachem Kalish)

Mega-talented woodworker/artisan Shimon Tayar of Rechasim (Kfar Chassidim) might have remained a relatively unknown wood sculptor had he not agreed to fulfill the recent request of the town’s mayor. Rabbi Yitzchak Reich, who heads this city in northern Israel, finally decided to make his dream a reality as the yahrtzeit of Rav Ovadiah Yosef approached on 3 Cheshvan: The municipal council had decided to build a square in his honor — Kikar Maran (Maran Square) — but it wasn’t enough to simply name the small park after Rav Ovadiah. Rabbi Reich wanted to visually commemorate the man who had made such a huge impact on Jews all over Eretz Yisrael and around the world, and knew Tayar was the address for a truly special and unique memorial creation.

And so, in his workshop on the outskirts of the town, Shimon Tayar chiseled, sawed, drilled, sanded, clamped, and varnished until his massive memorial could be transported by crane and installed, piece by piece, in the concrete floor of the square: a larger-than-life replica of Rav Ovadiah’s desk, replete with wooden sculptures of opened and closed seforim alongside Rav Ovadiah’s trademark turban; and four massive ten-foot high seforim inscribed with the titles of Rav Ovadiah’s famous works — Chazon Ovadiah, Yechaveh Daas, Yabia Omer, and Meor Yisrael.

At the dedication ceremony, Tayar stood together with an admiring Rishon L’Tzion Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Rav Ovadiah’s son) and Shas head Rabbi Aryeh Deri. And now, weeks later, residents still approach Tayar and thank him for creating such a fitting tribute to Rav Ovadiah. Tayar is pleased. “Who said there’s no such thing as chareidi art?”

Out of the Woods

At first whiff, walking into Shimon Tayar’s workshop feels like entering one of those dozens of carpentry shops near the Mir yeshivah in Jerusalem — as the smell of fresh sawdust accosts your senses. But after a minute of focus, you’re in a different world: This is a wooden wonderland.

 

From a life-size band of whimsical musicians to mundane items that would be meaningless if not made out of wood — sofas, books, shopping bags, curtains, coats, shoes, tablecloths, and more — Tayar has created a collection with such perfectly detailed precision they seem to move with an energy of their own.

But his work doesn’t only involve novelty creations. Some of the most beautiful aron kodesh structures, bimahs, and other synagoguge furnishings grace shuls around the country.

“Every time my soul tells me a story,” he says, “I convey it in the form of a wood sculpture. Wood is a wonderful substance; it’s warm and easy to work with. You can bend wood; you can carve it, glue it, and paint it. And the wood seems to like being worked with. Plus, it just blends into the environment here — the strong odors, the vibrant shades of green everywhere. And this community, a unique combination of Torah and pastoral serenity, is the perfect backdrop.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 688)

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