Dear reader,

I recently returned from the West Coast. On my last day there, the woman who drove me to my destination in Riverside offered to show me around her city. Hiking with Brittney in mid-January along paths littered with towering palm trees and picturesque tropical flowers in sunny California was a huge treat.

Brittney is artistic, so she showed me some great art spots in downtown Riverside where local artists display their creations. Together we marveled at the intricate architecture in the buildings. And then, my awesome host offered to take me to a very unique and unexpected place.

Tio’s Taco is not a kosher restaurant, so don’t go there to eat. But do go there, as many tourists do, to view the incredible outdoor pathways set on an acre of land. I guarantee you that the sculptures and mosaics will leave you spellbound.

What makes the whimsical artwork so incredible is that every sculpture is made out of recycled everyday objects that you’d be more inclined to find in a junkyard. Beer bottles, soda cans, bottle tops, discarded children’s toys and shells are transformed into giant characters. Held together with simple chicken wire, this leftover trash tells a tale of ingenuity and creativity.

As a young child, the owner and artist, Tio Martin Sanchez, migrated with his family to California from a small town in rural Mexico. He describes how people of poor countries marvel at the trash of affluent, privileged countries. Back in Mexico, Tio created his own toys from whatever scraps of refuse he could find. Upon immigrating, he supported himself by selling oranges on the side of the road. Eventually, he worked his way up until he owned his restaurant.

Despite his success, his artwork attests that he never forgot the treasures that lay buried in what others may regard as trash.

The Kabbalists teach that every created thing possesses a “spark” of Divine energy that constitutes its essence and soul. No existence is devoid of a Divine spark; nothing can exist without the pinpoint of G‑dliness that imbues it with being and purpose. When we use something for a G‑dly end, we bring to light this spark, realizing the purpose for which it was created.

Walking through Tio’s Taco, I couldn’t help but think of the many things that we disdainfully discard as useless or purposeless. Even worse, how often do we treat people in the very same manner!

Tio’s Taco reminded me that if trash can be transformed into art, how much more so should we view each of our life experiences as a potential for something great, containing a wealth of learning opportunities.

And, most importantly, no matter at what state or stage, every individual we meet needs to be seen and treasured—as G‑d’s exquisite artwork.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW