Posts Tagged ‘Sefirot’

The Price Of $acrifice

March 4, 2012

The trope of duality, running throughout Creation, seems especially poignant in parashah T’Tzavveh, yesterday’s Sabbath Torah reading. In the detailed instructions for the sacrificial rites to be performed in the Mishkan(Tabernacle) and later in the Temple, I sense a subtle thread of altruism amidst the darkly violent nature of these rites which require the ‘merciful’ slaughter of prescribed animals for the appeasement of God and by extension to our deep-seated animal natures. These rites quite likely reflect the dual nature of the One who, in a terrifying display of otherworldly power, bestowed our code of living from Mt. Sinai. But it might be that light show was simply part of a recipe for extracting the divine elements in each of us. Yet, as in any ‘surgical’ procedure, such spiritual ‘correction’ is not without considerable, perhaps chronic pain. It is this idea that provoked the illustrations of sacrifice, both public and personal, above.

By way of explanation, the kosher animals pictured are examples of those to be sacrificed daily or on specified occasions for a public offering, not as a ‘bribe’ or ‘food’ for God, but in order to come close to Him through the revelation of our divine natures. Above and to the right of the animals is a supplemental grain offering of unleavened bread. The amphora of olive oil must be used by Aaron to anoint the altar in preparation for the sacrificial ritual. Aaron the High Priest and his wife Elisheva (who is never mentioned in the text) appear to the left of the offerings. His fingers are parted in Birkat Kohanim, or Priestly Blessing and the small Hebrew letter  ‘khet’ appears on his palm indicating his corresponding sephira of ‘hod‘. The event shown here will happen in Leviticus, but I’ve brought it forward in the Torah chronology after the elaborate instructions for the design of his garments in T’Tzavveh to stress the importance and demands of Aaron’s responsibility to his people. The time is shortly after the death of Nadav and Abihu, two of their four sons, destroyed by God for ‘bringing strange fire’ to the incense altar. A burning firepan can be seen in front of Elisheva. Though there has been much speculation by rabbis and scholars, it is not clear what exactly caused their untimely deaths. A rabbinic legend in the Babylonian Talmud, speculates that God’s fire destroyed their souls but not their bodies. Presuming they were given proper burials, I have not shown their bodies, but only their special priestly clothing, which their mother Elisheva clutches to herself in grief. Conversely, Aaron, their father is forbidden to mourn in light of their judgmental death and his overarching responsibility as High Priest to the community. Nevertheless, in light of his humanity, I have allowed a quiet tear to escape.

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

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A Covenant Of Fire

February 11, 2012

This week’s Torah reading, Parashat Yitro honors Moses’ father-in-law, a Midianite chieftain and an unusual man whose wisdom and generosity were key in shaping the future of the Israelites under his son-in-law’s care.  Acting on his concern for Moses’ health and the well-being of his family, he advised the establishment of a prototype for the timeless judicial system that has been co-opted globally, if not without controversy, remaining in place for nearly 3,000 years. I’ve envisioned Yitro here for reference, but have chosen to focus visually on the larger part of the parashah that encompasses the revelation of the Ten Commandments to Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai. This covenant of fire would become the core event in Jewish history, unsurpassed for its drama and future ramifications for the cultural development of individuals and entire societies.

When the shofar was sounded at Mt. Sinai to summon the Israelites, the volume and duration of its notes was amplified and extended to emphasize the significance of receiving the Law at Sinai. This thought led me to model the shofar after the mystical ram’s horn that binds heaven and earth, heralding the arrival of the Moshiach (The Messiah) the Alef-Tav: the Beginning and End of Days. The shofar is also a vehicle for the ten sephirot that enclose the Ten Commandments and ascribe multiple levels of meaning to each of these ‘Words’ or ‘Utterances’. In addition, the man is bound to his instrument as Isaac was bound to the altar in the Akedah and as we are bound to our genetic inheritance. By enfolding the ten commandments within their corresponding sephirot they have acquired color values that further illustrate the depth of meaning in each of them. The equivalences according to one source, ‘The Gates of Light‘ by medieval Sephardic kabbalist Rabbi Azriel of Gerona are as follows:

1.  You shall have no other gods besides Me                                       Keter                                 white

2.  You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image…              Chokhmah                        composite/all colors

3.  You shall not swear falsely…                                                           Binah                                 yellow/green

4.  Remember the Sabbath Day…                                                        Chesed                               silver/white

5.  Honor your father and your mother…                                         Gevurah                            red/gold

6.  You shall not murder…                                                                     Tiferet                                yellow/violet

7.  You shall not commit adultery…                                                    Netzach                              pale pink

8.  You shall not steal…                                                                          Hod                                     dark pink

9.  You shall not bear false witness…                                                 Yesod                                  orange

10. You shall not covet…                                                                        Malkhut                             blue   

These are deceptively simple ideas and questions still surface in countless interpretations. With the false confidence bestowed by our sophisticated technology, we may often ignore them, feeling beyond the fear of divine reprisal. Yet on some days, I think the world has not become a better place for it. Look around; has our stewardship of this planet and socio-political condition truly reflected the trajectory envisioned by our ancestors standing at Mount Sinai? Perhaps Conan O’Brien, signing off the Tonight Show, January 22, 2010 said it best: “If you work hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.”

Un-Literal Letters: The Instruments Of Imagination

February 5, 2012

Scroll Alefbet©2012 Ilene Winn-Lederer

Acanthus Alefbet©2012 Ilene Winn-Lederer

In December of 1968, as an illustrator/designer at Pictorum, Inc., a Chicago design firm, I received a Christmas gift from my employer, a devout Catholic, that would prove to be a map to my artistic future. Jewish Art From The Bible To Chagall by Ludwig Gutfeld (Thomas Yoseloff, New York, 1963) is a modest compendium of art, artifacts, architecture and sculpture created to express themes in the history and practices of Judaism.

It awakened my nascent curiosity about my ethnic and religious heritage, suggesting questions I did not know how to ask. As an art student, I had been intimidated by a demanding instructor whose own formidable skills in the lettering arts exposed the limits of my skills in that area. I became discouraged from considering a career in that area, yet, despite being unable to read Hebrew, I was particularly drawn to the examples of medieval manuscripts in this book with their hint of unlimited possibilities in these letterforms.

It was not until the early 70’s, when I became aware of the iconoclastic lettering works of the artists Ben Shahn and Leonard Baskin that I developed the courage to experiment on my own. In later years, with further exploration into their history and levels of meaning, my fascination with Hebrew letterforms grew, becoming incorporated into my illustrations and eventually manifesting into the series of  alphabets, two of which are shown in this post. Within my Magic Eye Gallery site (http://magiceyegallery.com/) under the pull-down menu, you can see the others in the Alchymy of Alphabets gallery. They are available as gicleé prints, sized to order.

According to the Sefer Yetsirah, a core Jewish mystical text, God created the world through the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and ten numbers or sefirot. I would humbly suggest that perhaps we can understand this process on our own micro level, honoring these letters as keys to unlock our imagination…

A Map To The Heart

December 30, 2011


As promised in my post of December 16,  here are the illustrations from Parashah Va-Yiggash which is read tomorrow on the Sabbath. In this concluding chapter of Joseph’s story, the young prodigy and dream master is now a grown man with his own family. As Grand Vizier to Pharaoh, he is the second most powerful player in Egypt now tasked with managing food distribution for the country during a prolonged famine (which he fortunately foresaw). Yet, like all of us at one time or another, he is also faced with an ill and aging parent. Through circumstances of destiny, he has not seen his father Jacob for many years. Nevertheless, his love and childhood memories remain true enough to spur him to dramatic action.

Having learned that his father is dying, Joseph orders his chariot prepared and leaves immediately for what will be a final visit. Below him is a map of Goshen, the land that Joseph has promised for Israelite resettlement in the wake of the famine. The map is in the shape of a hand symbolizing Joseph reaching out to his people. It is also a nod to the illustrated allegorical maps of the Holy Land found in Heinrick Bunting’s Itinerarium Sacra Scripturae, or Travels According to the Scriptures, first published in 1581. Below, Joseph and Jacob are seen in an emotional embrace, the former having cast aside his formal court wig and scepter as evidence of his true identity as a son of Israel. You might notice that Jacob’s foot is twisted as a reminder of his angelic confrontation and dramatic transition from a man named Jacob to that of Israel, the progenitor of the twelves tribes of Israel. The young girl in the foreground is Serakh Bat Asher, the legendary daughter of Jacob’s son Asher. She earned immortality for her kindness to old Jacob who had given up hope of ever seeing his son Joseph after his tragic disappearance long ago. So as not to shock him in his fragile state, she is said to have played her harp embedding the news that Joseph was alive in a song. When we need a complex story like this one to yield an understanding of a basic human value, in this case, of chesed (the fourth of the ten sefirot) or kindness, it may be that we must earn that understanding intellectually before we can manifest it unconditionally and unmotivated in ourselves and towards those we love and cherish.

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

Jacob And Esau: A Divergence Of Destiny

November 28, 2011

Toledot, the Torah portion read this past Sabbath from the Book of Genesis is translated as ‘generations’ or descendants’. It relates the stories of Isaac, son of Abraham, his wife Rebekkah and their twin sons Jacob and Esau, born to the couple in their later years. In the illustrations above, entitled ‘The Beleaguered Blessing’, I have envisioned the adult Jacob and Esau as two halves of a playing card contrasted with their aging parents. Motifs on the card include their assigned sefirot and symbols of their destiny. Jacob is wearing the faux hairy arm deviously fashioned by his mother Rebecca. She meant to trick his visually challenged father Isaac into bestowing Esau’s birthright (paternal inheritance) on her favorite son. Jacob is holding a set of tefillin (phylacteries) to indicate his future patriarchal role as a spiritual leader and a writing quill that symbolizes his scholarly leanings. Esau is shown with bow and arrows holding the bowl of lentil stew that he has unwittingly traded to Jacob for his birthright. He also holds a golden eagle on his arm, signifying the future generations that will become Edom and later the beginning of the Roman Empire.

This parashah appeals to the mother in me who watched two sons grow up, marveling at their unique qualities, yet often wondering how children of the same parents who exhibit similar physical characteristics can evolve so differently from each other in personality and character? If there is an answer to this question, I guess it would be but a piece of the puzzle we are given to understand our lives and where we fit in a universal narrative whose outcome will forever mystify us.

These images are further detailed in the AfterImages section of 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 also find several reviews.

Between Choices And Chosenness

September 15, 2011

Human sentience and survival may be characterized by our ability to perceive choices, act upon them and experience the consequences. This is amply demonstated in Ki Tavo, this weeks’ Torah portion. The image above is comprised of details from the full illustration that accompanies the parashah in my book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate 2009). The AfterImages portion of the book offers my interpretation of these images:

Ki Tavo, meaning ‘when you enter’, instructs the fledgling ‘chosen’ people regarding their physical and moral behavior as they enter and settle the land  that has been divinely promised to them. In doing so, it clearly defines the concepts of good and evil through the mnemonic device of blessings and curses. Here are a man and woman each wearing a prayer shawl (tallit) that can be seen as a mnemonic device for remembering the commandments. Through the use of gematria, the Hebrew system for number interpretation, the medieval French Rabbi, Shlomo Itzhaki (Rashi), suggests that a tallit’s ‘tzitzit’ or fringes descending from its four corners represent the 613 commandments or mitzvot. In this system, the Hebrew letters for the word ‘tzitzit’ (as spelled in the Mishnah) accrue to a value of 600, to which 8 and 5 (representing the strings and knots respectively) are added for a total of 613. Two of the major sefirot are represented on the man’s tallit; black for Gevurah or strength and white for Chesed or lovingkindness. The shadowy wings within the woman’s tallit are meant to symbolize her spiritual connection to the Shekhinah, or the feminine aspect of God. Behind the woman and man stand representatives of each of the twelve tribes who have been instructed to position themselves- six representatives from each, on two facing mountains (Mts. Ebal and Gerizim) separated by a valley. The color of each figure is based on their associated gem set into the choshen (breastplate) of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). From the valley, with Ark of the Covenant in full view, they are able to hear Moses and the priests call out to them, alternating between blessings and curses to reinforce their understanding of good and evil and to ensure that the boundaries between them are never breached. This understanding is a major prerequisite for settlement in the Promised Land.

The two keruvim (cherubim), each holding a tree, hover above this tableaux. Unlike their position on the Ark of the Covenant, they are facing away from each other to emphasize the discord that ensues when good and evil actions become indistinct from one another. The left keruv’s luxuriant tree represents blessings or fertility when the Laws are properly implemented while the right keruv’s barren tree signifies the curses that will come to pass when the Laws are disobeyed. Finally, the word ‘Amen’ is seen above the priests because when we say ‘Amen’ after a blessing, we are binding ourselves in the light of that blessing and strengthening the bridge between the Upper and Lower worlds. The word ‘Amen’, calligraphically depicted in its positive and negative aspects emphasizes the tribes’ clear understanding and acceptance of both blessings and curses.

It is only when we make those choices that are equally cognizant of our faith in God’s beneficence, of our own needs and those of our compatriots that we deserve to be not the ‘chosen people’ per se, but the people who understand how to live with the consequences of each choice.

Reflections In The Mirror Of Heaven And Earth

September 1, 2011

As the Hebrew year turns towards its own renewal and the High Holiday cycle begins, we are given yet another opportunity to reflect on personal and public events that have transpired and on our reactions to them. The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is approaching as our political system and economy continue to decay. Collective tides of anger become chaotic outbursts that loudly and messily continue to replace intelligent discourse and the media is a glutton at this smorgasbord. The environment, like the skin on our bodies tells its own tale of woe as it hosts one natural disaster after another. Our religious liturgies conveniently offer lengthy poetic formulae and intricate acrostics with which we can communally express our feelings, but I often wonder how mouthing these familiar verses composed so long ago relates to who I am now and how I have lived this year? Have my choices largely demonstrated mindfulness, indifference or willfulness? Have I tried to express myself creatively or have I automatically repeated clichéd pleasantries in response to casual encounters? Have I listened well and learned anything? Moreover, is God listening and to what extent are we being observed and judged? Will my name remain listed in that legendary Book of Life? These and other sober concerns lend gravitas to this time of year. Perhaps that is why Parashah Shoftim is read early in the month of Elul, for it gives us some historical, legal and spiritual perspective on who and why we are.

In the calendar, Elul precedes the month of Tishrei when judgment for our deeds of the previous year is rendered. Traditionally, we express our wishes to retain life in good health that we may continue to perform mitzvot or good deeds. Though many powerful ideas are presented in this parashah, I purposely chose the quotation pertaining to justice for this visual interpretation.

‘The Mirror Of Heaven & Earth‘, shown above reflects a commentary in the Talmud and a further interpretation by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812) in the Tanya (the foundational work of Hasidic philosophy) regarding how a negative event can be rendered positive upon consideration. I like to think that as we are partners with God in Creation, so are we empowered to collectively change our world for the better. This drawing features a celestial looking-glass, the metaphor of a window to our world through which God may view the consequences of His/Her Creation and we may imagine glimpsing the duality of justice that exists in both dimensions. This may be the basis for repeating the words, “Justice, Justice”. Although the parashah emphasizes the appointment of authorities to administer the laws and specifies the consequences of disobedience, I am drawn to the philosophical interpretation that applies these laws to our physical bodies as microcosmic versions of Creation and Torah.

In ‘A Balance Of Powers‘, shown below, one of the key players in the process of judgment is the prophet, standing to the right of the Shekhinah, or feminine aspect of God.

He is included because his divinely inspired words are associated with world events, both present and future. He and the artifact shadowed behind him are modeled after the prophet Ezekiel and the mystical vision he experienced during the Babylonian Exile in 593 BCE.

The Kohen Gadol or High Priest standing to the prophet’s right holds a small model of a Levitical city of refuge. These properties were given to the tribe of Levi instead of farmland so that their designated roles as Torah scholars and teachers to the Israelites could be performed without domestic distractions. The Shekhinah is shown with a set of scales that represent the qualities of justice and mercy. The fire in the left pan surrounds the Hebrew letter ‘tzadee’ that begins the word ‘tzedek’ for justice. In the right pan rests the Hebrew letter ‘resh‘ for ‘rachamim’ or mercy with a dove holding a lily. The dove, although it is the familiar symbol of peace also addresses the quietude needed for objective decisions.  The lily was chosen for its association with purity and for its six petals shaped in the form of a six-pointed star. In Hebrew the flower is called ‘shoshan‘, from the root word ‘shesh’ or the number six. And on the sixth day of Creation, we came to be; for better or for worse, but somehow gifted with hope that always shows us the potential of ‘better’.

These images are further detailed in the AfterImages section of 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…

Emor, Omer & Zohar: A Spiritual Evolution

May 6, 2011

This week’s Torah parashah, Emor, is one of insightful contrasts. It emphasizes the observance and performance of good deeds (mitzvot) for the festivals of Passover (Sefirat ha-Omer or Counting of the Omer), Shavuot (Shtei ha-Lechem or Grain Offering), Rosh HaShanah(Yom Teruah or Blowing of the Shofar), Yom Kippur ( Yom Ta’anit or Day of Fasting), Sukkot (Chag Ha Succot or Festival of Booths). My images for this parashah focus on the Counting of the Omer which occurs during the forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot (remembering respectively the exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the Law at Mt. Sinai). Omer  is the Hebrew word for ‘sheaf’, an offering of grain brought to the Temple in hopes of a healthy barley harvest. For seven weeks, one omer is set aside (today, this is done symbolically) and counted each day. The practice commemorates the length of the Israelites journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai.

According to the  Zohar (a collection of classic Jewish mystical treatises), forty-nine days is also a period recognizing the transition from their spiritual impurity to the Israelites’ comprehension of their profound relationship with God upon receiving the Law on Shavuot. The candelabra, beneath a vignette of the night sky with three stars, announces the onset of the Sabbath, considered the most important religious observance throughout the Jewish year. Below the candles a sheaf of barley represents the omer offering and below that is a colorful grid that I designed for counting the omer. Each numbered space in the grid contains two Hebrew letters, one nested within the other. They connect the seven weeks of the omer to the values of seven of the sefirot, or sacred energies: Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malkhut. Through meditation, we can incorporate these values into our lives to facilitate spiritual development. Each letter encloses a second one to illustrate that each day of the omer count encompasses all the other values. Below the omer grid is a blessing recited on the Sabbath and during Festivals. “Blessed are You, O Lord, who sanctifies {the Sabbath and} Israel and the Festivals.”

Besides these images is Shimon Bar Yohai, the revered rabbi, scholar and alleged author of the Zohar. It seemed appropriate to include him on this page because he is said to have died on the thirty-third day of the omer count. Behind him is Psalm 67, traditionally recited on Lag B’Omer. The psalm consists of seven verses with forty-nine words mirroring the count of the omer in appreciation of the earth’s bounty by all who partake of it.

Below this page is a detail from the facing page of the spread for parashah Emor. It is called Of Stars & Seasons and is my interpretation of the ancient Hebrew zodiac, which is based on the Jewish luni-solar calendar. In this system the year corresponds to the solar calendar while the months follow the lunar calendar. Since the twelve months are about eleven days short of 365, a leap month is added to the calendar on its nineteen-year cycle. Accordingly I have merged the sun and moon and surrounded them by the holidays corresponding to the signs of the zodiac. The Shehekhianu blessing for praise and thanks to God is recited at the first candle-lighting for each festival is seen at the core of this celestial calendar.

Additional information from my interpretation for parashah Emor may be found on pages 159-161 in the AfterImages portion of my book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)

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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:

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