web analytics
April 26, 2015 / 7 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Divine Encounter and the Sacred Doorway


McBee-Richard

Returning to the text, one cannot avoid deeply disturbing questions. Why would God ask his beloved servant Avraham to sacrifice the son he had been promised for so many years?  How could Avraham have complied without an argument or objection?  What were the consequences of this test on Avraham and Yitzchak; and finally, how does Avraham’s test affect us today?

Akedah #52 (2008-2009) Mixed media on paper 9” x 8” by Robert Kirschbaum Courtesy the artist.

The merit of Avraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son is no less than the very foundation of the Jewish relationship to God.   While the liberation from Egyptian bondage and the subsequent acceptance of the Law at Mount Sinai are the operative mechanisms of Jewish belief and practice, it is the Binding of Yitzchak that sets the standards and expectations of faith.  In the flowering of Jewish visual arts following the destruction of the Second Temple seen in surviving synagogue mosaics, the Binding of Yitzchak is the only narrative depicted.   As the central motif in the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is the central biblical episode that we celebrate and effectively present to God when we ask Him for forgiveness of our sins.  We confess our failures to properly keep God’s commandments, bemoan our inadequate merits and repeat over and over again that we only ask God to forgive us and grant us blessing in the year to come in the merit of Avraham’s faith and courage in being willing to sacrifice his son.  And even though the sacrifice was halted and never happened, we refer in the liturgy to the “Ashes of Yitzchak;” the willingness was equivalent to the act itself.  The heart of Jewish faith is deeply rooted in the Binding of Yitzchak.

For more than two thousand years religious thinkers have pondered the meaning of the Akedah.  Kirschbaum brilliantly suggests a radically different reading of the episode.  Through a ten-part process he narrates how the encounter with the Divine in the Akedah leads to a revelation, mystical disintegration and finally a possibility of entrance into another realm.

Akedah #39 (2008-2009) Mixed media on paper 9” x 8” by Robert Kirschbaum Courtesy the artist.

Kirschbaum’s Akedah images are sequentially numbered with gaps in the numbering representing images he has chosen not to exhibit.  Akedah #39 begins the narrative showing three ovals floating above the central space as an elemental rectangle emerges from the bottom center of the image.  It is the beginning of the construction of the altar built by Avraham in order to slaughter his son.  In the flurry of dark marks that come together in the center of the image, the first suggestions of encounter appear atop the altar.  In the next painting, #40, the altar is fully formed with a broad base and square top, silhouetted against a brooding sky.  Paradoxically for an abstract image, the altar’s depiction is so realistic that it casts a shadow.   In the next two paintings the altar, here thought of as the paradigmatic place of meeting between Avraham, Yitzchak and God, seems to take over the image. Foreboding traces of red and orange reflects the bloodletting commanded.

Suddenly the fifth painting is radically different, with ten squares appearing in a vaguely familiar regular pattern.  Each square is composed of nine smaller squares, the classic nine square grid.  According to the artist, it expresses a typical division of sacred space reflecting a realization of Yechezkel’s vision of the Third Temple in addition to the ancient expression of the golden rule of balance.  For him each is a self-contained universe.  Not accidentally the entire design of these floating squares depicts the ten sefirot of Kabbalah.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Divine Encounter and the Sacred Doorway”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
USAID recipient Tarek Abbas, son of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud.
Abbas’ Son Loses $10 Million Libel Suit in US Court
Latest Sections Stories
Food-Talk---Eller-logo

“People who never buy cookbooks are getting this one,” said Victoria. “They read it cover to cover and find it so interesting.”

South-Florida-logo

We have recently witnessed how other minorities deal with even perceived danger aimed at their brothers and sisters. They respond in great numbers.

South-Florida-logo

The Hebrew Academy students took part in all categories and used successful and innovative techniques to achieve their goals.

“The objective behind establishing small communities as places for relocation was a remedy for the excessive cost of housing and education in the large New York metropolitan market,” Mr. Savitsky explained.

Jewish Democrats did not entirely trust the son of Joseph Kennedy, a man broadly considered to be both anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.

The teenage years are not about surviving. They are about thriving.

Every moment was a gift. I held each one, savoring.

We arrived in Auschwitz on Thursday, January 30, 2014. My seminary was taking us to see where the prisoners were kept. When we got there, I stepped off the bus in complete and total silence. I was in the back, and when we got to the gate I hesitated and started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t […]

From the moment Israel was declared a Jewish state, it has been the subject of controversy and struggle.

Now that Pesach is over, we return you to your regularly-scheduled pressing questions:   Dear Mordechai, Can I use a nose hair trimmer during Sefirah? Harry Lipman   Dear Harry, Yes, as long as your nose hairs are so bad that they’re affecting your job. Like if you have a desk job, and they interfere […]

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby.

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

The 2-day real estate event will take place in Brooklyn on April 26 and 27.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/divine-encounter-and-the-sacred-doorway-2/2011/10/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: