The two illustrations that represent Parashah Sh’lakh L’kha in BaMidbar or The Book of Numbers are entitled Dreams & Nightmares and The Foundation of Faith, shown here this week. It represents the section in which the function and historical aspects of the ritual tallit and tefillin are explored. The tiny Murex Trunculus snail also known as Chilazon, is shown beside the quotation; it is the source of the blue dye known as techeilet from which the corner fringes of the prayer shawl (tallit)are given their color. It was found on the coasts of Northern Israel and ancient Phoenicia. Its secretions were processed at dye works in Tyre. The title of this image refers to the even-ha-shetiyah, the mythical foundation stone upon which the world was created. Diverse legends describe this immense stone and its origins. The eye at its center indicates the presence of G-d in every aspect of Creation. Poised on the stone is man engaged in prayer wearing his prayer shawl (tallit) and phylacteries (tefillin). The tefillin are a set of two small black lacquered boxes, one worn upon the head, the other placed on the left arm near the heart. Each box contains passages of Torah. Suspended above the man’s hands is the Hebrew letter aleph. I was inspired to include this detail by a story from the magic realist writer Jorge Luis Borges: ” In the Kabbala, that letter stands for the Eyn Soph, the pure and boundless G-dhead; it is also said that it takes the shape of a man pointing to both heaven and earth, in order to show that the lower world is a map and mirror of the higher world.”
The full illustrations and complex symbolism on these pages are explained in greater detail in the AfterImages section of Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) on pages 169-170.
The book may be purchased directly from Pomegranate, the publisher by calling: 1-800-227-1428 or visiting http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html
Your questions and comments are welcome!