Posts Tagged ‘pomegranate’

A Spiritual Blueprint

February 20, 2012

Sometimes, life seems so complex and inscrutable that we forget the intent of its basic philosophic and moral codes found in Parashah Mishpatim(Exodus/Shemot), the Torah reading for this past Sabbath. That intent was imparted to Moses in a form that defied understanding in those times, requiring him to render it comprehensible to his people and by extension, to all of us. Not a simple task by any means, but somehow, we were given a ‘recipe’, if you will, for living and developing our spiritual potential. Over time, much scholarly interpretation attempted to clarify these ideas and have indeed shed much light on them, but have also often resulted in obfuscation. To be fair, I admit that re-interpreting any classical text runs this risk, but perhaps that is part of our own task in pursuing our intellectual and spiritual growth process. I accepted this risk when I wrote and illustrated Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) For those of you whose inclination is towards literal Torah interpretation, you may find it objectionable on some levels, but be assured no insult was intended. Rather, the book is the result of my own artistic and spiritual journey which I wanted to share with those whose questions and ideas might parallel my own. Though we cannot begin to compare to Moses and his special status, I think that any attempt to preserve and disseminate his message may serve to keep us in perpetual pursuit of answers through the questions we were created to ask. From the AfterImages portion of Between Heaven & Earth, here are my interpretations for the images posted this week:

A Torah Tableaux (above) illustrates passage 24:3 from Parashah Mishpatim, which relates how, just prior to writing the Torah; Moses came and repeated God’s commandments to the people. They responded with ‘one voice’, promising to comply with all that the commandments required. I have taken this idea a step further in suggesting that whoever will maintain their dedication to God and to becoming ‘one with His Torah’ will continue to earn His Divine Protection. Following the spectacular event at Mt. Sinai, here is Moses the Scribe (Moshe Ha-Sofer)  in an intimate conversation with an ethereal mask, a visual metaphor of the God Whom we may not look upon. He has written the word ‘Amalek’ on a surface that is separate from the actual Torah scroll and crossed it out three times; the traditional first step a Torah scribe takes when beginning to write a new scroll. With this requirement, the Torah teaches us to understand our history; to do good and not evil.  The unique four-pronged letter shin is emblazoned on the forehead of the mask. It is called ‘The Letter’ or ‘Ha-Ot’ and with the standard shin of the alefbet reminds us that the Torah was given to us in two media; on stone and on parchment. When God instructed Moses to write a Torah scroll with ink on gewil, the special portion of a kosher animal’s skin, or parchment, it was written with the ‘normal’ three-pronged shin. But when the letters were engraved on stone tablets, they appeared from a negative space, which can be seen only by the outline in the remaining stone. The four-pronged shin represents the outline of the shin engraved on the tablets and is only one of two appearances of this special letter. The other place it can be seen is on the head tefillin or phylacteries used for daily prayer. The Ha-Ot is there to inform us that if we will learn Torah with its three-pronged shin, we will be granted the understanding to comprehend the true value of this holy gift.


Un-Literal Alphabet No.3: Abundance

February 8, 2012

Today, in celebration of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year of Trees, here is a little poster incorporating a few letters of my new alphabet/alefbet called ‘Abundance’. It is available as a gicleé print in two sizes. To order and see other letters in the alphabet, please visit: http://www.magiceyegallery.com in Alchymy of Alphabets gallery under the pull-down menu. A detailed explanation of the symbolism in this poster is included with your order.

The Mystery of Faith And Fortitude

August 18, 2011

This week’s Torah reading, Parashah Eikev addresses the dramatic destruction of Canaanite pagan culture while symbolizing the spiritual fortitude required to do so. It stresses the importance of strengthening and maintaining our faith so that we may partake of the abundant gifts of the Promised Land. Today’s illustration,  A Partnership of Faith‘, is a detail from Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary.  Here, a mezuzah amulet, similar to the one in Parashah Va’Etchannan reappears, now as a symbol of protection for settlement in Israel while presenting examples of the seven species of produce that will be found there.  Blessing this process is a vision of the Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of God. The bird perched on her elaborate crown of pomegranates is a hoopoe. In addition to it being selected as the national bird of Israel on the country’s 60th birthday in 2008, the hoopoe was chosen to compliment her presence because of its legendary filial devotion and gratitude, caring for its parents as they age. This relationship is the metaphor of our partnership with each other and with God. The Hebrew quotation below her from Parashah Eikev, Ch. 8, v.7 translates as: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill…” This image is my response to the essential dual dynamic of hearing and being heard, that in turn validate each other.  Once, long ago, I received a large conch shell as a gift. Holding it to my ear, I heard the expected rush of an ocean tide, but my imagination overlaid that sound with the notion of a mysterious communication originating from somewhere deep beyond the interior spirals of the shell. To this day, that communication remains a mystery, but the experience inspired the images in this image of a grandfather and granddaughter sharing a moment of mystery and faith that is older than memory. The timeless  message in Parashah Eikev seems especially relevant now, drawing our attention to the dangers in our media driven culture and political climate that are characterized by those who only wish to speak while forgetting to listen.

This excerpt is from my book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) which can be purchased directly from the publisher, http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html or from Amazon,  amzn.to/gZSp5j where you will find several reviews.

Dreams and Nightmares: The Foundation of Faith

June 17, 2011

Parashah Shelakh-Lekha, one of the best-known episodes in the Book of Numbers, concerns the twelve scouts, or spies, sent ahead of the Israelite camp to appraise the nature of the Promised Land. It is often compared to the Golden Calf incident of Exodus, in that both events were tests of the Israelites’ faith and trust in G-d, their leaders and themselves. When the expedition returned, ten of the men dramatically exaggerated what they had seen, in an attempt to discourage the Israelites from accepting their territorial inheritance. “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves and so we must have looked to them.” In the left-hand illustration, the small hybrid grasshopper-man addresses the terror and trepidation the scouts disseminated. Perhaps, they calculated, their negative report would ensure positions of power for themselves among the people instead of encouraging the people to act with faith in G-d and in their own abilities? I have given this creature a tattoo in the shape of the Hebrew letter ‘mem’ whose numerical equivalent is forty because this incident doomed the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years until a new generation arose that would be spiritually prepared to realize its divine inheritance.

The symbols that comprise these illustrations each tell stories of their own that are too lengthy to include here. They can be found on page 169 in the AfterImages portion of my  book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) It can be purchased directly from the publisher, http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html or from Amazon,  amzn.to/gZSp5j where you will find several reviews.

I welcome your comments and questions here at Imaginarius and will do my best to respond. Wishing you a thoughtful Sabbath and weekend…

Famous Last Words: V’Zot Ha-B’Rakhah

September 28, 2010

“V’Zot Ha-B’Rakhah” or ‘this is the blessing’ are the words that begin Moses’ final address to the tribes of Israel preceding his death. It is a poetic rendering of blessings in the tradition of the patriarch Jacob. Both insightful and prophetic, the blessings describe the psychological nature of each tribe while prophesying their future actions in accordance with those characteristics. The tribes have exhibited and witnessed every duality in human nature during their 40 year journey, yet they have also been prepared to understand that they must become a model for humanity when they enter the Promised Land. To be worthy of God’s vision and blessings, they must develop the Land and refine their behavior according to the blueprint (Torah) that is God’s gift to them through Moses.

On Simchat Torah, the closing festival of the Jewish year, the reading of V’Zot HaBrakhah completes the annual Torah cycle. Accordingly, here are my illustrations for this parashah from Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) . To the right of the quotation, a large Hebrew letter ‘bet’ encloses the words, ‘Hazak, Hazak, V’Nithazek’. In a tradition that originated in the late 12th-13th century by Jews in France, Germany and Spain, this phrase is pronounced at the completion of the Torah cycle. In some Ashkenazic communities, it is pronounced after reading each individual book of the Torah. ‘Hazak…’ is an interpretation of the verse in the Book of Joshua (1:6-8), “Be strong, Joshua, be of good courage…this book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.” The phrase appears within the ‘bet’ as in ‘Beresheit’ and as a reminder that each contains the other in the duality of beginnings and endings just as a question often contains its own answer yet leads to another question.

The Shekhinah figure to the right of Moses supports a shining breastplate that frames twelve gems representing each tribe above a prominent pavilion, ‘the House of Israel’. She wears an ornate crown of golden pomegranate branches that culminate in a large perfect fruit. The Hebrew letter ‘kaph’ which in kabbalah is the highest sefirot of ‘keter’ surmounts her crown while the letter ‘mem’ is the key element at the base, signifying the unification of heaven and earth. Moses, ethereal in pale earth tones heralding his imminent death stands on a windswept Mt. Nebo, his eyes raised in a last conversation with God and His Shekhinah. His state of spiritual completeness in their relationship is evident by the configuration of the Hebrew letters ‘dalet’ and ‘taph’ for the sephirot ‘da’at’ and ‘tiferet’. These merge the qualities of human and divine, revealing the path of return to his origins; for he now understands the fundamental import of his mission and the majestic legacy he has imparted to his people.

At the final appearance of the celestial mask of God in this book, note that it now appears above the Shekhinah where in Genesis (Parashah Beresheit), it was the foremost image in the illustration. I have done this to emphasize that while God and His Shekhinah are two aspects of One, She is His spiritual ambassador whom we greet each Sabbath and through whom we honor the unity that is God.  I must also include some additional comments on the design of these two images. First of all, no disrespect is intended to anyone who abhors any ‘image’ of God. Throughout the Torah, God is described as though He possessed ‘physical’ human features. Perhaps the common translations of Genesis stating that we are made in ‘His Image ‘gave rise to its simplistic inverse suggestion that ‘He’ ‘looks’ like us, but inconceivably larger.  Nevertheless, since the central concept of monotheism is that God cannot be ‘seen’, common sense asserts that terms such as ‘the eyes of God’ or the ‘breath of God’ are merely metaphors because the Torah was written for human comprehension. So it is with this mask, intended as a reminder that to seek God’s wisdom and blessings, we must look beyond any ‘masks’ into our own hearts.

With best wishes for a healthy, thoughtful and productive year…

 Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary may be ordered from:

Pomegranate: http://www.pomegranate.com/a166.html  Ph: 1.800.227.1428

Amazon: amzn.to/gZSp5j


Autumn Alchymy

September 23, 2010

Today, I present to you a selection of designs for licensing from The Alchymy Collection: Designs for Eclectic Environments™.  As I wrote in my post of July 16, I am working with Sally Heflin of PaperRoad Art Licensing, developing portfolios of illustrative designs that can be applied to many different products and venues. These designs may be adapted to clothing, fashion accessories, textiles and wallpapers for personal, domestic  and corporate applications. A diverse sampling from my licensing design portfolios may be seen at: http://www.paperroadart.com/en/portfolios/details.asp?navid=2&artistID=67
Since today marks the onset of the autumnal equinox, you might imagine a new look for your home or office that includes wallpapers, table runners and coverings, upholstery fabrics, prints for framing, floorcloths, perhaps even ceramic tiles to brighten up a kitchen or workspace. If you are bored with the often mediocre standards available in big box store catalogs, I promise you that together, we can make your home and/or office more about you than you ever thought possible. To begin, here is an overview of the collection and selected thumbnails for autumn from the Four Seasons Portfolio of The Alchymy Collection for 2010.