The Book of Life



The Book of Life is the first painting in my new calendar, The Jewish Eye Calendar of Art.  I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of this mythical book.  Last year on Yom Kippur, this image came to me during the long amidah (standing prayer) of the high holiday service.

I never feel so alone, and yet so together with others, as I do on Yom Kippur.  The polarity of individual versus communal experience is heightened on this day.  The High Holiday liturgy brings us face to face with our deepest selves: the weaknesses and regrets, aspirations and sorrows which each person must come to terms with.  Yet we do this in a group setting, with the largest turnout of the year gathered under the tent.  Surrounded by others, we meditate in solitude, everyone flawed, everyone hungry, everyone striving to return to their true intentions.  Many people, including myself, are in the grip of personal concerns.  This individual accounting is unknown to those around you, yet never more vivid as the text of the machzor (high holiday prayer book) brings us back to face it again and again.

Especially moving to me is the Unetanah Tokef, the ancient liturgical poem that reminds us of our mortality and the many paths our fate may take.  I decided to incorporate some of these verses into this painting of the Book of Life, woven into a colorful patchwork of people standing together in prayer, each person alone within togetherness.  How shall each of us be inscribed for the coming year?

To be inscribed at all carried a different meaning in ancient times, for writing was rare and privileged,  an act that etched into reality a name, a transaction, a declaration or an edict.  The mythic Sefer Chayim (“Book of the Living”) is imagined as a place where our destiny is first inscribed and then sealed. We begin the new year humble in the face of the unknown.

The Jewish Eye 5778 / 2018 Calendar of Art  is on sale in the new Jewish section of my website:  $16 until the end of Sukkot, including shipping within the continental U.S.  $18 on Amazon.

The Jewish Eye Calendar of Art makes a thoughtful and inspiring gift.

A good week to all!

D Yael Bernhard
Author / Illustrator of
THE JEWISH EYE 2018 / 5778 Calendar of ArtNew!!
LOVE IS – a unique crossover book for all ages
THE LIFE OF AN OLIVEExplore the life of a 2000-year-old olive tree
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
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