Vanishing Into the Mist

The last thing we saw before Moshe ascended to Sinai, was a person being shrouded in mist, into the unknown, and the scary fiery mountain. Since this is my Bar Mitzvah parasha, this subject is close to hear, and I was playing with this idea in my 2014 Barkai Parasha Drawing series.

Shuli Rand’s song ערפל – mist – comes to mind. Moshe went into the mist, for there was the Lord.

וַיַּעֲמֹד הָעָם מֵרָחֹק וּמֹשֶׁה נִגַּשׁ אֶל־הָעֲרָפֶל אֲשֶׁר־שָׁם הָאֱלקים שמות כ, יח

So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. (Shemot 20:28)

Moshe going vanishing into the mist, ascending Sinai

And then I wanted to see what it would look like in a smoky, gray scale palette.

וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה אֶל־הָהָר וַיְכַס הֶעָנָן אֶת־הָהָר׃ וַיִּשְׁכֹּן כְּבוֹד־ה׳ עַל־הַר סִינַי וַיְכַסֵּהוּ הֶעָנָן שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים וַיִּקְרָא אֶל־מֹשֶׁה בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִתּוֹךְ הֶעָנָן׃ וּמַרְאֵה כְּבוֹד ה׳ כְּאֵשׁ אֹכֶלֶת בְּרֹאשׁ הָהָר לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה בְּתוֹךְ הֶעָנָן וַיַּעַל אֶל־הָהָר וַיְהִי מֹשֶׁה בָּהָר אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה׃

שמות כב:טו-יח

When Moses had ascended the mountain, the cloud covered the mountain. The Presence of the LORD abode on Mount Sinai, and the cloud hid it for six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. Now the Presence of the LORD appeared in the sight of the Israelites as a consuming fire on the top of the mountain. Moses went inside the cloud and ascended the mountain; and Moses remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Shemot 24:15-18

Moshe vanishing – in gray

The Burning Bush

Another two of my parasha pastel drawings for Parashat Shemot, during my 2013-14 year teaching at Barkai Yeshivah.

  1. Pharaoh’s Daughter finds Moshe (my grandfather OBM said that the basket looks like a crockpot)!
  2. The Burning Bush

 

11 בת פרעה ותיבת משה
Pharaoh’s daughter finds the basket with the Hebrew Baby. Pastel on paper, 2014.

 

12 הסנה איננו אוכל
The Burning Bush, with the verse. Pastel on paper. 2014.

Drawings for Parashat Vayeshev

Last year I posted these pictures in the context of “Dreams“, but here I would like to focus specifically on this parasha. I posted Yosef in the pit first, and not his dreams which got him there, because it is more in line with the goal of this series.

In 2013-14, while teaching at Barkai Yeshivah in Flatbush, I would regularly draw a pastel drawing as students were preparing their parasha study sheets. My guiding principal was to find something not stereotypical, if possible. Below this picture is Yosef’s dreams – quite a stereotypical motif – which I must pay homage to. However, this is a unique picture, because it is intended to express despair, being alone and abandoned.

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Parashat Lech-Lecha in Rhymes

Here’s for fun: I made a brief introduction to each Aliya in the Parasha, in rhymes. Enjoy!

It can be read by two people, which is why I made it in two colors (bold and regular)

First Aliya

This is the Story of Avram, Sarah and Co.

From when they left Ur Kasdim, a while ago

God said “Lech-Lecha” – go to the unknown land

And when the time comes, everyone will understand

That you are a blessing for the world,

You’ll be wealthy, and your name shall be heard

In Canaan they arrive,

And to settle they may strive

But hunger struck, oh-no!

So pack up your suitcases, and down to Egypt – we go!

 

Second Aliya

Welcome to Egypt, where we have the Nile and bread!

“Where can we find a good breakfast and bed?”

“Just in case something goes bad-

We really have to think ahead

– say you’re my sister, we have the same dad”

But Pharaoh had a different idea,

And Sarai to his palace, was taken to see-a

Well G-d didn’t like that at all,

And he sent plagues on Pharaoh – household and all

So Sarai and Avram back to Canaan he sent

With gifts and good stuff and lots of money he spent

Third Aliya

Family matters – did we ever mention?

That even back then required attention?

So we’re telling you now, we can say that you’ve heard

That Lot’s shepherds fought over grazing their herds

“Let’s not have a fight, you do not have to stay

You go live in one place, and we’ll go away!”

Sarai and Avram – they went down to Hebron

And Lot and his shepherds – went to Sodom

“Now look all around you” said G-d to Avrom

The time will arrive, indeed it shall come

When you many children, this land will call home

 

Fourth Aliya

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Kedorla’omer – or how ever you pronounce it

Has came with his buddies to squash this rebellion

Four kings against five, what a battalion

Lot – he was captured, so Avram has heard,

So in hot pursuit he and his people were spurred

What a chase it was, half the country they ran

But they rescued Lot, and every woman and man

And so with a royal banquet, to put it to rest,

The king of Shalem, Malkitzedeck, did attest:

“Thank you, Avram, G-d bless you – you’re the best”

Sixth Aliya

“I am G-d who took you out of Ur Kasdim,

to inherit this land, that was the scheme”

“But how will I know, that these children, you see,

Will inherit the land, that I cannot foresee?”

Let’s make this a Covenant, A Brit, an Agreement,

For suffer they shall, working hard, with enslavement,

But they’ll make it out, very soon, you will see,

And that’s how you’ll know – because they will be free!

Avram and Sarai had no children, and were old

“So marry my maiden, Hagar” he was told

A child she bore him, his name – Yishma’el

To find out what happen, you must listen well

But one last thing must change: Avram’s designation

From now on it’s “Avraham – the Father of Many Nations”.

Seventh Aliya

Now here’s the deal, G-d said, let’s not wait

When every baby boy turns days eight

You must make a Bris, it’s called circumcision

So Avraham’s household all followed this mission

Now one last thing, said the Lord, k’nain a hora

Your wife’s name, Sarai, from now shall be Sarah

With these two new names, Avraham and Sarah,

You’ll soon have your children, bli ayin ha-ra

Believe it or not,

Do not feel indignation,

So laugh all you want,

But you’ll be a great nation

Pharaoh’s Dream – Outline

Pharaoh dreamed, and behold, he was standing on (or: by) the Nile, (Gen. 41:1)

He fell asleep and dreamed a second time: Seven ears of grain, solid and healthy, grew on a single stalk. But close behind them sprouted seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven solid and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke: it was a dream! (ibid 5-7)

Ok. We know the story. These dreams were foretelling of the seven years of plenty, and then of famine, that were to come. Joseph interprets these dreams, and then rises to power, helping Egypt prepare for the inevitable famine.

What caught my attention was the imagery: Ears of wheat swallowing a stalk of wheat. Wow. How does that happen? I mean, sure, it’s a dream, but still, I couldn’t quite imagine how wheat does that?

And then I had a bizarre idea. In 2014, I was doing a weekly Parasha drawing for my middle school students, as a way to engage them in discussion about the Parasha. I would typically try to draw something which doesn’t often get attention. An example would be Joseph’s dreams – which are very popular, versus Pharaoh’s dreams, which aren’t often illustrated. But how to illustrate this idea? What came to my mind was Disney’s Fantasia. Just imagine – a dreamlike reality in which inanimate things come to life with the right music, and then act in strange ways. If Hippopotami can dance and Brooms can carry water, why can’t ears of wheat be threatening and devouring? So I don’t have music, and I don’t have the means to illustrate this as a video clip (which I would love to, one day!), but I had my pastels, so I got busy!

This was my initial sketch for a future drawing:

08 חלום פרעה והשיבלים הרעות.jpg

It has been three years, and I decided it is time to act. I’ve been spending considerable time studying about ancient Egypt, and was inspired to paint this idea in a Papyrus-like imagery. I even bought papyrus, but by the time the order arrived, I had invested significant time into this sketch, so the Papyrus will have to wait for a future painting.

pharaohs-dream-hieroglyphThis painting will include hieroglyphs which tell the story, and I have posted that on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago. Below are a couple pictures of where the painting is holding as of now. It will be painted in watercolor, and BE”H will be part of a series of Parasha related paintings, which I do hope to exhibit in the future.

In the drawing, I had to tone down the Fantasia style dancing of the ears, to make it resemble a Papyrus painting, while gently stretching the borders of that style. Notice that the ears are hinting at being three dimensional, and Pharaoh is standing on the Nile, as some of commentators take the verse to mean. It is a dream, so why not?

img_20170126_235135

However, after completing this, I feel that it is still not so clear that Pharaoh is on the Nile. To make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt, I added some of the reeds and lotus flowers behind him, adding as well to the natural borders of the painting.

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To be continued…

Dreams

This post is in honor of the current weekly Torah portions, and my favorite Biblical character – Yosef!

(For the general public, I will call him Joseph, henceforth).

My hero, Joseph the Dreamer. Beloved of his father, hated by his brothers, and oh, so romantic. Sold by his brothers – only to rise to the top of Egypt and meet his brothers again – and try to bond with them, once again. Yet this post is not about Joseph the Dreamer, nor the Seeker of Brotherhood, but about dreams per se. Joseph is part of a new saga in the development of the Genesis narrative: The Saga of Dreams.

jacobs-ladder-5774
Jacob’s Ladder. Pastel on paper. 2014

Up to this point in the narrative, Biblical characters are driven by conviction and purpose, perhaps even vision or revelation (which could have occurred in a dream). Seekers and fighters, yes, but not dreamers.

From here on, we hear about several dreams: Jacob’s Ladder, and later a bizarre dream relating to the strange goat-sheet breeding episode. Joseph dreams time and again, and then becomes an interpreter of several critical dreams.

On his way northeast, Jacob makes a rest stop in Beit-El (Bethel), and in his slumber he has a defining dream – one which speaks of history (taking for granted Midrashic and Kabbalistic interpretations), the rise and fall of the Great Empires of the world, and his place in the scheme of things. But it is also a dream in which he sees himself from the outside.

He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. 

And G-d was standing beside him and He said, “I am G-d, the Lord of your father Abraham and the Lord of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring. (Gen 28:12-13)

Jacob – dreaming – seeing himself from the outside. Out of body experience?  Freudian analyses, anyone?

This images speak strongly to me of a delving into the experience of consciousness itself, and the matter of the subconscious. Several contemporary ideas come to my mind. One of them is the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder. Not an easy movie to watch, but it has a poignant interpretation of a ladder: Constant, repetitive awakening from a nightmare. Once awake, it was clear that the previous experience was, indeed, a dream. But then he wakes up again, and again, and again.

The main source of inspiration for my drawing (though poorly represented) is Kurt Gödel‘s incompleteness theorems. The ladder could thus represent an infinite climb to higher orders of truth, or reality, from which the lower levels can be better understood. Kabalistically, this would work well with various interpretations of Jacob’s attributes, as well as his connection to Truth and Beauty.

I tried to express, in the least, the idea of a ladder which takes us outside of the confinements of the parochial. A vision which takes us outside of the planet and into the stars.

 

The next drawing is about starts. And the sun, and the moon. And sheathes. Josephs’ two defining dreams, both a premonition of his greatness, and the cause of his alienation from his brothers:

His brothers answered, “Do you mean to reign over us? Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams. (Gen. 37:8)

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All that didn’t end well for Joseph.

Joseph was driven by his dreams. And dreams indeed helped him rise from the depths of despair to the top of the world.

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Joseph in the pit. Pastel on paper. 2014

 

Space and Voice – הקול והמקום

Another parasha-related drawing (with darkened edges added by computer) which I did during a parasha class in Barkai Yeshiva, in 2014. The image depicts the space between the cherubim, from where emanated the Voice which spoke to Moshe (translation from Chabad.org)

שמות כה, כא-כב

וְנָתַתָּ אֶת הַכַּפֹּרֶת עַל הָאָרֹן מִלְמָעְלָה וְאֶל הָאָרֹן תִּתֵּן אֶת הָעֵדֻת אֲשֶׁר אֶתֵּן אֵלֶיךָ: וְנוֹעַדְתִּי לְךָ שָׁם וְדִבַּרְתִּי אִתְּךָ מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים אֲשֶׁר עַל אֲרוֹן הָעֵדֻת אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּה אוֹתְךָ אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

Exodus 23:21-22:

And you shall place the ark cover on the ark from above, and into the ark you shall place the testimony, which I will give you. I will arrange My meetings with you there, and I will speak with you from atop the ark cover from between the two cherubim that are upon the Ark of the Testimony, all that I will command you unto the children of Israel.

במדבר ז, פט

(פט) וּבְבֹא משֶׁה אֶל אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ וַיִּשְׁמַע אֶת הַקּוֹל מִדַּבֵּר אֵלָיו מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת אֲשֶׁר עַל אֲרֹן הָעֵדֻת מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים וַיְדַבֵּר אֵלָיו 

Numbers 7: 89

When Moses would come into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he would hear the voice speaking to him from the two cherubim above the covering which was over the Ark of Testimony, and He spoke to him.

20. הכרובים על הארוןPastel on paper פסטל על נייר

Emor: the blasphemer – ציור לפרשת אמור: המקלל

This is a dark drawing. Solemn.

Those who heard the blasphemer, must put their hands on his head, and then stone him to death.

ציור קודר. אפל.

השומעים את המקלל, סומכים את ידיהם על ראשו. ואחר כך יסקלוהו

הוֹצֵא אֶת הַמְקַלֵּל אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה וְסָמְכוּ כָל הַשֹּׁמְעִים אֶת יְדֵיהֶם עַל רֹאשׁוֹ וְרָגְמוּ אֹתוֹ כָּל הָעֵדָה

ויקרא כד, יד

© Nachliel Selavan 2014
המקלל: גזר הדין
פסטל על נייר
The blasphemer: the verdict
pastel on paper.