Religion fascinated Chagall throughout his life; just as his Russian heritage defined him, so did his Jewish background. The subject of this painting is a rabbi wearing traditional dress appropriate for praying. As the title implies, the rabbi is holding a torah scroll, which is the most important text in the Jewish religion. Chagall's painting from 1914, The Praying Jew, exhibits a nearly identical figure in the same pose. In this gouache, however, a snow covered scene of a Russian village emerges in the background. Also, in contrast to the earlier work, Chagall uses a more naturalistic approach here, digressing from his earlier cubist tendencies. He applies a sombre pallet, as opposed to his earlier, more brightly coloured paintings.