IMAGE OF THE WEEK
In the Jewish tradition, last week marked the beginning of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah, or Hebrew Bible, with the first portion, Genesis (B’reishit). Most of us are familiar with this mythic tale of how the world was created in six days, followed by a seventh day of holy rest known as the Sabbath, or Shabbat. Over the years, I’ve been commissioned to illustrate this story twice.
Genesis is a story of archetypal dualities. Beginning with a state of chaotic formlessness, God creates light. How does an artist show that? I decided to place the primordial darkness at the center of the image, the origin from which all of Creation radiates outward. Other dualities follow, such as earth and sky, land and sea, sun and moon, birds and fish, animals and humans. In B’reishit, humans are firmly placed in a role that is superior to animals, and we are charged with the responsibility that comes with that dominion. Thus, the fields of creation that issue from the central darkness are divided into the domains of earth, sea, and sky creatures – with streams of humans in between all of them. Each stream of humanity is multi-racial and multi-colored. Each domain contains trees and plants, and predators and prey – more dualities. This is my version of the six days of Creation, rearranged like a mandala.
Life divides itself into increasingly delightful intricacies! I felt I did not do justice to all the miraculous variety of species God has created. The plant kingdom alone is so rich, I could barely fit the most basic symbolic representations into the picture: beans and grains, seaweed and grasses, conifers and deciduous trees, vegetables and fruits. Life seems to have created endless dualities for us to appreciate and transcend, realizing the Oneness that permeates it all.
Regardless of our beliefs, we cannot help but marvel at it all. As the best bumper sticker I ever saw put it: I don’t believe in God, but what I do believe in, I call God.
Wishing you a good week,