At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to use it at all.
I had thought the concept was perfect. A rose-colored background, surrounding black encroaching from all sides. It would be a cave of warmth, a hiding place within the darkness.
The black paint had dripped alarmingly, though, spilling off the canvas onto the table. I lifted it, shifted it, repainted and retouched, determined to force those stubborn colors to do as I wished.
At some point I decided I had done my part, at least for this late hour, and decided to let nature and time take their course. I carefully lifted the canvas and whooshed it onto the plastic tablecloth to join its four drying fellows. I closed my eyes and decided to ignore any dripping, touching or fading. Time to move on. An hour later, all six canvases on the floor, paint spills mopped up and the clock proclaiming the arrival of dawn, I dropped into bed.
Now, a few hours later, I knelt on the slippery plastic and examined the canvases.
But the pink and black one? I made a face as I stared. It just looked… washed out. Immature. Totally non-material for anything significant. Well, too bad. You couldn’t get ‘em all.
I left it for last.
I didn’t think it would amount to much, but once it was half done, I might as well give it my best.
I closed my eyes and dropped deep inside myself, envisioning the aura that was there, waiting to be captured.
I knew what the words were.
Last night, sitting in the darkness, knowing that I needed something, something, to help me through this Yom Tov. The anxieties and terrors that pressed down seemed to crush my head and heart. Each day, when I prayed, my helpless lips would turn upwards, not knowing what to say. And they would murmur, Hashem, please help me, Hashem, please help me, Hashem please help me, please…
But sometimes, when all was crashing, crescendo, and it was not enough, something inside me would take a deep breath, and slide in desperation to that place that lets go, when there is nothing left to hold on to. Hashem… You can do anything. Not because You are stronger then everything, but because… because everything comes from You, is You. We are all in Your hands… ata Mikomo shel olam, vi’ein ha’olam Mikomcha. You are the Place of the world, we exist within You, and only within You. Hashem… I am in Your hands… hold me up, please… ein ode milvadecha, there is nothing other than You. I am in Your hands, I am in this place that is You, only You… I am not begging, Hashem, for You are not external to me, or to anything in this world. I am knowing, being, to the exclusion of all…that You are everything, Hashem. Take care of me, Hashem, hold me up… for I am Yours.
All sins, all unworthiness, all fear, and not-knowing, was then simply irrelevant. For I was attached, held in The Place, and there I would be safe.
I needed that safety now.
I sat in the darkness, and tried to form the thought into words. What could I write, what words could capture that Place, and keep me safe in my sukkah?
Ata Mikomo shel olam, vi’ein ha’olam Mikomcha. All encompassing, encircling all existence in a strong, sure, grip. You are the Place of the world, and the world is not Your Place.
I needed to capture that. Restless, I reached for a Chumash and leafed through the pages to find the source of these words. Ah, here it was.
And Hashem said, “Behold, there is a place with Me, and you shall stand on the rock.”
Hashem said to Moshe, here is a place with Me on the mountain… I will hide you there, that you shall not be harmed… and from there you shall see what you shall see.
And the Medrash is… Place is with Me… and not ‘I am in the place.’ For Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the Place of the world… (Rashi)
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