The standard chart of the ten sefirot is a representation of ten aspects of the Divine essence, starting from the top at the Crown, expressing the Ineffable, and emanating downward as it finally connects with the mundane world in the Divine Presence of the Shechinah. In the world of Kabbalistic mysticism, this is a metaphoric depiction of God’s “body,” itself an inconceivable notion. In Kirschbaum’s depiction it is the fulcrum of the Akedahnarrative – the Divine meeting with Avraham and Yitzchak at the moment of the aborted sacrifice. Blind faith and unquestioning obedience are rewarded by the revelation of the Divine Presence.
The next three paintings are a disintegration, a collapse into frantic, expressive energy, violence and potential chaos. The experience of Divine encounter has been overwhelming, disarming and dangerous. We see in #48 the appearance of another small rectangle at the bottom that quickly evaporates. Finally it appears again in the next to last image, strong and assertive, rising over half the height of the paper with bold black lines and shading to define it. Finally in the last image it has become the portal of an archetypical doorway. The floating ovals have reappeared as if shepherding in this new concept of the encounter with the Divine.
Kirschbaum has taken us along a remarkable road of the Akedah narrative, willfully ignoring the textual details and insisting on the momentous content. What is an encounter with the Divine like? Shattering, terrifying, and yet providing the most complete revelation of the Godhead a human could bear. And its consequences? A doorway, a possibility of another connection that, even if never used, is the reality of a passageway to the supernal. Kirschbaum’s answer to the age-old questions of the Akedah is that the encounter between Avraham, Yitzchak and God has created the possibility of always being able to reach out to God and find a partner in the relationship between Creator and created.
Kirschbaum’s Akedah Series asserts that we do not have the right to interrogate God’s purposes. Whether it is an awesome test of Avraham or our own struggles of faith in the face of personal disaster, God’s decisions are beyond dispute. Additionally, in terms of the biblical narrative, it is immaterial how this affects Avraham and Yitzchak as actual people. No, the artist tells us that something else must be ascertained. The meaning is well beyond such mundane concerns. It is about a portal, a portal to the Divine.
The Akedah encounter provides us with a unique opportunity to approach the doorway to the Divine. The decision of whether to just peer into it in awe or to attempt to enter via some kind of mystical speculation is ours to ponder. Whatever our choice, after the Akedah the door is always there. Kirschbaum’s Akedah Series reveals that awesome portal.