Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
Panim el Panim: Facing Genesis, Visual Midrash
By Debra Linesch and Evelyn Stettin
2008, 38 pages, $14.95
What do you get when you mix a Jesuit publishing company, a Reform Jewish scholar, an Orthodox Jewish painter, and a thesis on human-divine encounters?
In Panim el Panim: Facing Genesis, Visual Midrash, the product is a surprisingly coherent collaboration of image and text, which not only examines the book of Genesis, but also seeks to uncover real-world lessons and advice from the biblical passages that are accessible to all sorts of readers.
The title refers to the biblical Hebrew phrase for “face to face,” which is complicated by the other biblical and rabbinic notion that G-d has no face. Still, men engaged the divine on several occasions in the Bible. Jacob, after his pyrrhic wrestling victory that cost him a leg, called the battleground P’niel (literally “I saw G-d”), for his self-declared panim-el-panim encounter with G-d. Exodus reveals that Moses spoke with G-d panim-el-panim, “as a man would address his friend,” and Deuteronomy reiterates: “And no other prophet has risen from the Jews like Moses, whom G-d knew panim-el-panim.” Gideon, meanwhile, had a panim-el-panim encounter with an angel, and when Moses reminded the Israelites in Deuteronomy about the revelation at Sinai, he was careful to say “panim-b’phanim” (perhaps “face in face”) rather than “panim-el-panim.”
The notion of G-d’s face, or portrait, ought to be an aesthetic as well as a theological question. Theology can tells us that the Bible deals in metaphors and that references to the strong arm of G-d are just that − metaphors rather than literalisms. But whatever encounters Moses, Jacob, Gideon, and the Israelites had with G-d or G-d’s entourage, there does seem to have been a visual encounter of some sort.
So what does a person see when she or he encounters G-d? This is a provocative question, evidenced by the secrecy that has surrounded Kabbalistic interpretations to biblical episodes like Ezekiel’s vision. But interpreting the question with a brush, a quill, or chisel is far more dangerous, for an image of G-d seems to be necessarily a violation of the Second Commandment.
The different authorial encounters that went into Panim el Panim – the second book in Marymount Institute Press’s series, Robert B. Lawton S. J. Studies in Faith, Culture, and the Arts – mirror the human-divine encounters in the Bible. (The first book in the series presented commentary on a 14th century Christian poem, which, in part, praises Jews.) Linesch, a Reform Jew, is an art therapist and chair of the Graduate Department of Marital and Family Therapy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Stettin, an Orthodox Jew, is an abstract painter whose works often have spiritual and psychological themes. The two view their collaboration − Stettin’s images and Linesch’s words − as creating what they call “visual midrash.”
“The core value on which Panim el Panim rests is that there are many pathways to Torah,” said Stettin in an interview, perhaps echoing the rabbinic concept that there are 70 faces (“panim“) to the Torah. “My paintings evoke a pinpoint of the whole, as does any single commentary.” Stettin believes that G-d engages every person in a relationship, but “‘facing’ is making a decision to engage with it.”
But the image with its yellow barricade seems to suggest division rather than wholeness. The yellow circle appears to be blocked off from the red rectangle, as perhaps Jacob was from his own son. It must have been a confusing time for the elderly father to balance his joy that his favorite son was still alive with the pain in realizing that same son had chosen to wait so long to inform him he was still alive. Perhaps this is why, when Jacob introduces himself to Pharaoh he says, “few and bad were the days of the years, and they did not keep pace with the days of the years of my ancestors;” a pessimistic speech for which the rabbis say Jacob was punished.
The Midrash is an ambiguous body of writings that, one is said to be foolish to believe entirely, yet at the same time, it is heretical to completely deny it. “Enveloped,” which illustrates the biblical tale of the Tower of Babel, is a visual mapping of this idea. The image, with its scratch marks on the bottom, perhaps conveys the confusion and lack of common language that was the punishment of the tower builders, but it remains an abstract image that is up to viewers to decipher. Through her abstract paintings like “Enveloped,“ Stettin interprets the biblical stories with an equally open-ended eye. Linesch’s commentaries do not seek to explain the paintings – which work far better as paintings than they would, if forced to become texts – but the two working in concert, function much like the Midrash does: illuminating the text, personalizing it, and adding a moral charge to readers and viewers to incorporate it into their lives.
Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.
About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at email@example.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
No tweets found.
Today is day six without a phone.
Besides for feeling slightly isolated, it’s not too bad.
I’ve been doing things that I know I would not be doing if my phone was sitting next to me, shiny screen beckoning.
Is anyone else alarmed by the way extended warranties are sold on just about anything and everything? It means one of two things – either someone has found a great way of getting consumers to part with more of their hard earned dollars or manufacturers have no faith in their own products. Neither of those options is particularly heartwarming.
As I described Gaon in a review in June 2001 (“In Search of Ancestors, Sculpture by Simon Gaon” at Yeshiva University Museum), his Bukharian Jewish roots are deeply embedded on both sides of his family, echoed in his early yeshiva education.
Let me begin by congratulating my dear machatunim, Soraya and Jay Nimaroff, on being the recipients of the Community Service Award at the Sderot Hesder Institutions 18th annual anniversary dinner.
Think of your issues this way: due to those different backgrounds, you have a “shovel” to deal with difficulties while he has a “spoon”.
Do you remember the good old days when kids were kids and there was never anything to worry about? Those days never really existed, but today there are issues kids worry about that weren’t issues for some adults. They include fear of bullying, natural disasters, divorce, and violence.
In Part I talked about celebrating 30 years of Regesh Family and Child Services providing services to children, teens and families. I shared the agency’s origin and the many lessons I have learned through this journey. As I mentioned, it is my hope that my experiences will add to your toolbox of life skills.
Unfortunately, a map of the Middle East with no mention of Israel is nothing new… It is surprising however, that the world’s largest publisher of children’s literature, Scholastic Books, has joined in this trend.
About six months ago my parents and I started discussing ideas for a mitzvah project in honor of my bat mitzvah. I wanted to do something unique that would be meaningful to me and also do something that my friends could participate in. Immediately I thought of an organization called Sharsheret.
“I’m disappointed that the agreement reached with Iran leaves our unfulfilled our ultimate objective: a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program and related activities.
Southern NCSY will be holding a leadership training Shabbaton at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour December 6 and December 7. Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, will be the special guest speaker.
Is there a beginning and an end to the universe? What role can medical breakthroughs play in conception or genetic engineering? Can science help us pinpoint the end of human life? Does the soul emanate from the brain or vice-versa?
Last month’s column sketched the myriad of social programs in which the Orthodox American communal worker and leader Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) was involved. Adolphus married Rachel Seixas Phillips (1828-1881), a descendant of colonial patriot families and together they had eight daughters and a son.
It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.
One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)
Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.
It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.
Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.
The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?
Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.
Red By John Logan; directed by Robert Falls; starring Edward Gero and Patrick Andrews Jan. 20 – March 11, 2012 Arena Stage, 1101 6th Street, SW, Washington, D.C. http://www.arenastage.org One morning, Ken, Mark Rothko’s studio assistant, comes into the studio to fulfill his daily duties of stretching and priming his employer’s canvases. When he […]
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/a-confrontation-between-image-and-text/2008/07/23/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: