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)
The words caught me suddenly, taking my breath away. Behold, place is with Me…
Space and time, all is within Me… all exists within Me, within My word that wills it into being.
Hinei makom iti.
I held the brush carefully, spacing the letters in my mind before I touched black to red. Right there, crossing the pink space nestled within encroaching darkness.
The letters came out somewhat slanted. I shrugged. I had known this one wasn’t working anyway. Whatever it would be, it would be. I would have the other canvasses, and hopefully some would come out good.
Time for spray paint. I gathered the paintings due for a metallic treatment, and carried them outside. Silver spray. Gold spray. I already knew exactly how I wanted it. I sprayed, following the pattern traced out in my mind, fading and concentrating the colors according to plan. The wind was strong. I hurriedly finished and carried the canvasses in.
It was only after I had carefully laid them all out to dry that I really got to see them for the first time. The blue one was nice. The purple was rich and reassuring. The red and gold sparkled, and the pink sunset shone. But it was the black and rose-colored canvas that kept my eyes.
A golden aura poured from the words, shooting out to beam through the darkness. Deep within the black swirled the pink of hidden space, someplace safe to hide. There were the words.
Hinei makom iti. Behold, space is within Me… holding you inside.
Then I had to rush, for there were only several hours left until Yom Tov and much to be done.
Soon the sun was setting, and I still hadn’t showered. I grabbed a handful of safety pins, and whichever paintings came to hand, and desperately tacked them to the sukkah’s canvas walls. As late as it was, I focused with a grim determination. This one would go here, and this one here, quick… but this one- I grabbed the rose and black and gold as if my life depended on it- must go here. And I tacked it up on the wall facing the table, covering the yellow canvas with two stabs of the pins.
I dashed inside to ready myself for the coming chag.
I was exhausted. All the pressures, anxieties, fears and sadness of the past days finally dropped upon me. Now I was done, now I could think.
Now the chag was here. Would I be safe? I would only find out inside the sukkah.
I pulled open the canvas door and poked my head inside. The table was there. The tablecloth was spread. The lamp was on. Wow. It really was ready. Hard to believe.
And then I looked up, and there it was, rolling across my horizon. Rich rosy depths, peering from within the craggy blackness of the cave. Molten light pouring forth, searing out from the depths into the open. And the source of the light- the words- living within that space, reaching inside of me.
Hinei makom iti.
Here is a place with Me.
My eyes, exhausted and shaky and so very needy, stared at the words. All intent for deep meaning was gone. All that they saw, in that moment, was the simple statement-
Here, right here, is a place, next to Me.
The dim glow of the table light illuminated the colors with the half-light of cloaked mystery. The words beckoned me, bold and strong from their half-hidden place within. Come, come within… climb through the darkness, into the rosy glow beyond. Here is all that is good, all that is real, all that is safe.
For here… is Me. And with Me, is a place… for you.
The gold seemed to shimmer in rich dimension, shooting out of the cave to conceal and illuminate the truth. The letters danced, motionless, calling their message just by being. Half concealed, half revealed, enticing, yet sure and everlasting.
Here I am… Here, right here, on your wall, encircling this sukkah, holding you within. There is place within Me, place for you, My child, a place that is very safe, where there is no fear, no sadness, and nothing can harm you. Come, My child, and sit in my dwelling, for here…
Here, with Me, is a place for you.
I slowly sat down in the small sukkah and stared at the words in the half-lit glow of the yellow lamplight. They pulled me in and held me, very safe, in a place where there was room, and warmth, and light, and protection.
A place prepared for you… I will hide you there, that you shall not be harmed…
I sat in the sukkah all that night, and ate, and drank, and prayed. But all the time I looked up, and saw, and found that place, reassuring.
It’s alright… there is a place here. With Me. A place just for you.
And then I was safe, held in Space, created just for me.
For I was not alone.
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