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Mrs. Lipchitz had been advised by Jewish leaders that the phoenix is a non-Jewish symbol. How could it be placed in Jerusalem, no less?

The Phoenix

The Phoenix


It was 22 years ago, when the widow of Jacques Lipchitz, the renowned sculptor, had come for a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shortly after her husband's sudden passing.

In the course of her meeting with the Rebbe, she mentioned that when her husband died, he was nearing completion of a massive sculpture of a phoenix in abstract, a work commissioned by Hadassah Women's Organization for the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus, in Jerusalem.

As an artist and sculptor in her own right, she said that she would have liked to complete her husband's work, but, she told the Rebbe, she had been advised by Jewish leaders that the phoenix is a non-Jewish symbol. How could that be placed, in Jerusalem — no less!

I was standing near the door to the Rebbe's office that night, when he called for me and asked that I bring him the book of Job, from his bookshelf, which I did.

The Rebbe turned to Chapter 29, verse 18, "I shall multiply my days like the Chol."

And then the Rebbe proceeded to explain to Mrs. Lipchitz the Midrashic commentary on this verse which describes the Chol as a bird that lives for a thousand years, then dies, and is later resurrected from its ashes.

Clearly then, a Jewish symbol.

Mrs. Lipchitz was absolutely delighted and the project was completed soon thereafter.

True to his nature, the Rebbe discerned the positive where conventional wisdom saw only negativism.

How fitting, retrospectively, this beautiful metaphor of life returning from the ashes. In his own divinely inspired way, the Rebbe had brought new hope to this broken widow. And in the recurring theme of his life, he did the same for the spirit of the Jewish people, which he raised from the ashes of the Holocaust to new, invigorated life.

Told by Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky shortly after the Rebbe's passing in 1994. Rabbi Krinsky served as a secretary to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for more than 40 years
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Anonymous Stamford,Ct June 9, 2017

Pheonix Painting
Absolutley stunning painting. I have always tried to find the "silver lining" in difficult situations. It is my nature. However, like Job, I do sometimes grow weary of being in a situation of having to find a silver lining, or being a "Pheonix Reply

Graham-Michoel NZ March 1, 2016

Pheonix Painting This is a quite stunning painting - awesome in its beauty - and the story that goes with it is so inspiring. 'New, invigorated life' takes on a whole new meaning for me when I look into this painting and read these words. Reply

David C. Vienna, VA via June 15, 2012

I think you could make the argument for the Phoenix being a symbol of Mashiach. After all, the Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed - burned to the ground, leaving behind rubble and ashes. And in the (hopefully soon) future, it will be reborn from those ashes when Mashiach gives us the knowledge and ability to rebuild it. Reply

Catherine NY, NY July 22, 2011

The Grey Heron/Pheonix One year after my dad died, a 6 foot grey heron perched on my roof, right over my kitchen. My son also saw it on his way into the house after school. It was magnificant and as large as a person. I had never seen anything like it. I went to my computer to research it. My area, Long Island, is not a normal nesting ground for these large birds, even though they do live in many areas around the country. But it also mentioned the Pheonix (the heron family, though mythical) that rises from the ashes, a greek and egyptian symbol. I thought it was very symbolic that one year after my dad died, he was giving me a message that life goes on even after death and we too will rise like the pheonix from its ashes. Very very good message from beyond the grave. I will always remember that he is OK and happy. Reply

feibush April 3, 2009

chol Chol is the hebrew name for the phoenix. Unlike for askenazi who have the Star of David, Sefardic jews from Portugal and Spain have the chol (=phoenix) who build its nest on a palmtree as a symbol of of victory over the inquisition.

The chol is a bird that lives for a 1000 years, then dies and reincarnate from its ashes. So for spanish and portuguese jews it is a symbol of victory.

Besides the word chol also means palmtree. The palmtree and the olivetree have one thing in common. Just like wine is hidden in the grape, so is the oil from the olive and the palmtree hidden in its fruit. Reply

Rivky B. February 16, 2009

i dont get it is phoenix and chol the same thing? Reply

Silvana Origlia Viernna, Austria December 12, 2007

I would like to send this story - don't know exactly for which reason - to my friend who has become, suddenly, a widow.
Thanks for everything! Reply

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