This Very Jewish Painting Is Heading to the Moon

Shabbat in space!

Thousands of years before humans first began launching themselves into space, Jews looked toward the sky. At the most fundamental level, everything Jews do, from when we pray to when we work to when we rest on Shabbat, is determined by one entity: the moon. Now, Shabbat is going to the moon. Literally.

In the fall of 2023, Jewish artist Nanette Fluhr’s painting “The Beauty of Shabbat” will be sent to the Lunar South Pole as part of the NASA Viper rover and Astrobotic Griffin mission. The painting, as well as a sketch by Fluhr of her chutzpahnik grandfather, are being included in The Lunar Codex, an archive of creative work from approximately 15,000 artists curated by Canadian physicist and storyteller Dr. Samuel Peralta. The works, which will be transported via a hybrid storage system consisting of alternating layers of nickel shielding/analog storage and digital memory cards, will be contained in sealed receptacles and bolted to the inner structure of the Griffin Lunar Lander.

For Fluhr, the opportunity to have her work on the moon has her, well, over the moon.

“The moon has always been significant to me. One of my earliest memories is of my father waking me up to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon when I was 3 years old,” Nanette told me via email, adding, “as an artist you put your heart and soul into your work; you want it to live longer than you. The Lunar exhibit provides that opportunity for my art to be available for future generations.”

The heightened significance of Jewish art going to the moon is not lost on her.

“The lunar calendar is central to Jewish practice and informs our holidays and traditions,” Nanette explained. “It is very meaningful to me to know that as the moon revolves around the earth marking each month, my art celebrating one of our most sacred traditions will be there.”

Though there is certainly a lot of deserved excitement about “The Beauty of Shabbat” going on a lunar mission, Nanette’s own Shabbat traditions are more reflective and family-oriented. These values are reflected in the painting itself, with details like the candlesticks and kiddush cup being modeled after the actual ritual items she used for blessings when her children were young.

Shabbat is about pausing, reflecting and finding one’s inner peace and beauty. I painted ‘The Beauty of Shabbat’ to celebrate this weekly ritual that reminds us to step back and look at the miracles of daily life with wonder and gratitude,” Nanette noted. “Shabbat is also about light, hope and renewal. The moon’s waxing and waning reminds us that like the moon, we will grow full once more.”

Throughout our email conversation, Nanette’s responses also held another Jewish undertone: l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.

“I’ve specialized in painting portraits for over 25 years and I’m always grateful to tell someone’s story that will be part of their legacy,” she wrote, concluding, “I hope that when future generations, both here and on the moon, see my paintings, they will feel a connection with those who came before.”

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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