Welcome to Photograph God: Kabbalah Through a Creative Lens.
To understand the aims of the project, read these posts first:
Seeing God / Where to Look for God / Photographing a Verb / Invitation to Participate
Photograph God
reveals these six divine attributes in everyday life:
Hesed: Compassion / Largess / Loving All
Gevurah: Strength / Judgment / Setting Limits
Tifert: Beauty / Aesthetic Balance / Inner Elegance
Netzakh: Success / Orchestration / Eternity
Hod: Splendor / Gracefulness / Magnificence
Yesod: Foundation / Integrating All/ Gateway to Action

25 February 2013

Photographing God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life

Mel Alexenberg's new book Photographing God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life teaches how to draw on the wisdom of kabbalah in a networked world to creatively link your story to the biblical narrative

Abraham rushed to the tent to Sarah and said, “Hurry!  Take three measures of the finest flour!  Kneed it and make rolls!”  Abraham ran to the cattle to choose a tender and choice calf.  (Genesis 18:6,7)
Abraham ran after a calf that ran away from him into a cave that was the burial place of Adam and Eve. 
At the far end of the cave, he saw intense light emanating from an opening.
When he came close to the opening, he found himself standing at the entrance to the Garden of Eden. 
About to enter the pristine garden, he remembered that his wife and three guests were waiting for lunch back at the tent.
What should he do?  Should he trade Paradise for a barbeque?
The Bible tells us that he chose to return to the tent and join his wife in making a meal for their three guests.
Abraham realized that Paradise is what we create with our spouse at home. 
Other visions of Paradise are either mirages or lies.

Enjoy life with the wife you love through all the days of your life. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)
My wife, Miriam, and I worked together to create paradise in our vegetarian kitchen.
Adam and Eve had a vegetarian kitchen.
Spirituality emerged from our collaboration making a potato casserole for our guests.
We bought potatoes and scallions in Avi’s vegetable store and cottage cheese and grated yellow cheese in Bella’s grocery.    
We baked the potatoes in the microwave, sliced them into the baking pan and covered them with the cheeses. 
Miriam washed the scallions, cut them up, and sprinkled them over layers of cheese-covered potatoes.
After the casserole was baked, we served it to our guests. 
 

Photograph God in Your Kitchen 

This biblical narrative linked to revealing God in a contemporary kitchen is a posting from the “Torah Tweets” blog http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com that presents the core concept of this book that we can photograph God in all that happens in our everyday life.    Although its ideas are derived from the Hebrew Bible and kabbalah, its message speaks to people of all religions and spiritual traditions.   

The book begins by teaching you how to make an invisible God become visible through your creative lens.  It draws on the ancient wisdom of kabbalah to help you recognize that you have been looking at God all the time and often missed the action.  It helps you develop conceptual and practical tools for photographing God as divine light reflected from every facet of your life.

Just as a prism breaks up white light into the colors of the spectrum, kabbalah reveals a spectrum of divine light based upon the biblical passage “You God are the compassion, the strength, the beauty, the success, the splendor, and the [foundation] of everything in heaven and on earth” (Chronicles 1:29).   You will learn that photographing God is to creatively photograph these six divine attributes as they flow down into your life.
The second part of this book invites you to connect your personal narrative to the biblical narrative.  It guides you in creating your own blog to document how your everyday experiences reflect biblical messages.   It teaches how to find fresh meaning in your life story by relating it to the biblical story.      

Having learned how to focus your lens on God wherever you look will help you create blog narratives gleaned from your reading the Bible creatively.   

You will be encouraged to explore imaginative ways for blogging photographic sequences that link two stories – the story of your life as it unfolds and the enduring biblical story.  You will learn creative ways to write accompanying tweet texts to disseminate worldwide through Twitter and other social media. 52 postings from the “Torah Tweets” blogart project that my wife, the artist Miriam Benjamin, and I created offers a model for your Bible blogging.

TorahTweets: A Postdigital Biblical Commentary as a Blogart Narrative   
Miriam and I developed the “Torah Tweets” Bible blog to celebrate our 52nd year of marriage.  During each of the 52 weeks of our 52nd year, we posted photographs reflecting our life together with a text of tweets that relates the weekly Torah reading to our lives.  The Torah, the first five biblical books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), is divided up into weekly portions.  

This book invites other couples who find the Bible an inspiration to celebrate their relationship by creating their own Bible Blog.  Bible blogging can also be a meaningful way for individuals and families to reveal spirituality in their lives.

Our “Torah Tweets” blog is a dialogue between images and text.   The images are photographs of God as the moving force in our lives.  The text is composed of tweets, sentences of not more than 140 characters required by the Twitter social networking website.  Limiting the number of words in the "Torah Tweets" blog posts is a creative challenge that imitates the Torah itself which does not waste words.  Torah tweets are like bursts of bird song that sometimes gain a haiku-like poetic flavor.  140 is the numerical value (gematria) of the Hebrew word hakel, which means to gather people together to share a Torah learning experience as in Leviticus 8:3 and Deuteronomy 4:10.

Our year-long blogart project is a narrative art form that reveals a paradigm shift from the Greek to the Hebraic roots of Western Culture.   The conceptual background for the "Torah Tweets" blog is offered in my book The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press).   It explores new art forms emerging from the postdigital age that address the humanization of digital technologies.  My discussion of blogart reveals the contrast between static, moderate, passive Hellenistic consciousness revived in the Renaissance and dynamic, open-ended, action-centered Hebraic consciousness at the core of postmodern art.
A blog is a web log, an active diary of a living process in a networked world, rather than still life contained by a golden frame.   The “Torah Tweets” blog transforms the mundane into the spiritual, the ordinary into the extraordinary, and experiences of daily living into expressions of biblical values.  The blog begins with quotations that all present this idea from alternative viewpoints.

Postdigital Narrative on Spiritual Dimensions of Everyday Life

"For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp." (Deuteronomy 23:15)

"Judaism does not direct its gaze upward but downward ... does not aspire to a heavenly transcendence, nor does it seek to soar upon the wings of some abstract, mysterious spirituality. It fixes its gaze upon concrete, empirical reality permeating every nook and cranny of life. The marketplace, the factory, the street, the house, the mall, the banquet hall, all constitute the backdrop of religious life." (R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik) 

"It is not enough for the Jew to rest content with his own spiritual ascent, the elevation of his soul in closeness to G-d, he must strive to draw spirituality down into the world and into every part of it - the world of his work and his social life - until not only do they not distract him from his pursuit of G-d, but they become a full part of it." (R. Menachem M. Schneerson)

"If there is a religious agency in our lives, it has to appear in the manner of our times. Not from on high, but a revelation that hides itself in our culture, it will be ground-level, on the street, it'll be coming down the avenue in the traffic, hard to tell apart from anything else." (E. L. Doctorow)

"The first message that Moses chose to teach the Jewish people as they were about to enter the Land of Israel was to fuse heaven to earth, to enable the mundane to rise up and touch the Divine, the spiritual to vitalize the physical, not only as individuals but as an entire nation." (R. Abraham Y. Kook)
Our networked world provides unprecedented creative opportunities for integrating experiences of the spiritual in the mundane with biblical commentary and kabalistic insights through digital photographs, a narrative blog form, and the Internet’s social media.

Engaging the Bible in a Playful Spirit
Throughout this book, I playfully engage the Holy Scriptures and Kabbalah and invite you to do the same.  Kabbalah, the down-to-earth mystical tradition of Judaism, provides a symbolic language and a metaphorical way of thinking for playfully exploring how divine energies are drawn down into our everyday world.

Lest you view my playing with sacred and spiritual texts as irreverent and sacrilegious, we can learn how the Bible itself teaches us to approach it in a playful spirit.
In Psalm 119:174, we read: “Your Torah is my plaything (sha’ashua).” The Hebrew word sha’ashua is a toy to engage children in play. In Proverbs 8:30, 31, King Solomon speaks in the voice of the Torah: “I [the Torah] was the artist’s plan. I was His [God’s] delight every day, playing before Him at all times, playing in the inhabited areas of His earth, my delights are with human beings.” This translation from the Hebrew original is based on the wisdom on the first page of the ancient biblical commentary Midrash Rabba 

God as the master artist played creatively with the Torah, His plan for creating the universe. In human emulation of God’s delight, we are invited to play with the Torah as we create new worlds of thought and action.

13 February 2010

Searching for God Exhibition


Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery Ohio State University - Marion Campus
Ohio State students, visitors to the Searching for God exhibition, and people throughout the world are invited to participate in the Photograph God project by sharing their images and thoughts with others globally. Your photo sequences will be posted on this blog.

Photograph events in your everyday life that reveal the divine attributes of compassion, strength, beauty, success, splendor, integration. Send two photographs that document a process like a comic strip or storyboard sequence with a sentence identifying the place where the event took place and how it expresses one of the six divine attributes. Send your photographs as jpg images (300-400 pixels wide) and your text as a Word document to: melalexenberg@yahoo.com

See How to Photograph God posting below for instructions followed by exemplary submissions.

09 May 2008

How to Photograph God

Kabbalah through a Creative Lens
Focus your camera lens on God and you will see God looking back at you. Seeing God is seeing divine light reflected from every facet of your life. The ancient wisdom of kabbalah will help you recognize that you have been looking at God all the time but missed the action.

You only see light. You have never seen your mother, father, spouse, or children. You only have seen the light reflected from them. You only see light passing through your eye’s lens, stimulating the rods and cones in your retina, and transmitting the forms and colors of those you love to your brain. Just as you enjoy seeing your loved ones from the light they reflect, you can find joy seeing divine light reflected from every place you look. This blog teaches how to see the spectrum of divine light through your camera lens.

Photograph God in Reflections of Reality
God does not exist in reality. God is reality itself. Rabbi David Aaron, who teaches kabbalah in the Old City of Jerusalem, explains in his book, Seeing God, that God is the all-embracing context for everything. In Hebrew, God is called Hamakom, which means “The Place.” God is the place where everything is happening. You do not exist alongside God; you exist within God, within the only one reality that is God. Everything is in God, God is in everything, but God is also beyond everything.

Seeing God is all about getting in touch with reality. If you want to photograph God, focus your lens on Hamakom, The Place, anyplace where you see divine light illuminating reality. Let your camera collect the light reflecting from the reality shaping your everyday life and you will find yourself photographing God in action.

To photograph God as the place where all action takes place, you need to redefine the English word “God,” a Germanic word conjuring up images of some all-powerful being zapping us if we step out of line. This is an alien concept in kabbalah. Names for God in biblical Hebrew are not really names for God at all. They are names linked to divine attributes. Hebrew speakers call God Hashem, literally “The Name.” When you read “God” here, think of the Hebrew word Hashem, The Name of the nameless One encompassing all of reality and beyond.

Photograph God as a Verb
God is a verb. God is no thing – nothing in the process of becoming everything. The great 16th century kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, known as The Ari, calls God Ha’efes Hamukhlat, “The Absolute Nothingness,” as well as Ein Sof, “Endless.” God is One, infinite nothingness and everything in the universe all at once.

You can discern God over time, in the flow, in the action, in the process of something becoming something else. The primary biblical divine name YHVH, usually translated as “God,” should really be translated as “Is-Was-Will Be.” YHVH integrates past, present, and future of the verb “to be.” It is associated with the divine attribute of inner beauty (tiferet). When beauty hidden in the mundane suddenly jumps out at you, catch the action in a series of photographs of Is-Was-Will Be. Don’t freeze the action in a still-life picture, nature morte (dead life in French).

Photograph living processes in a series of images like comic strip or storyboard sequences. Show before and after. Photograph KUZU. KUZU is YHVH in motion. The biblical passage beginning with “Hear, O Israel, YHVH is our God, YHVH is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), is written by a scribe on small parchment scrolls affixed to doorposts in Jewish homes. These mini-Torahs called mezuzot, a word derived from the root zaz, which means to move. Each scroll is rolled up with the biblical text on the inside. On the outside of the scroll at the place on the reverse side of where YHVH is written, the scribe writes KUZU to set God in motion.

K-U-Z-U is spelled with each of the four letters that follow Y-H-V-H in the Hebrew alphabet. K follows Y, U follows H, Z follows V, and U follows H. It is if we were to write GOD as HPE, H being the letter following G, P the letter following O, and E the letter following D. In addition to moving each of the letters in YHVH forward, KUZU is written upside-down to invite us to see God in motion from multiple viewpoints. Photograph KUZU.

Photograph God in Every Nook and Cranny of Life
Look for God in every aspect of your life. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, one of the foremost thinkers of the 20th century, teaches that you should not direct your glance upward but downward, not aspire to a heavenly transcendence nor seek to soar upon the wings of some abstract, mysterious spirituality, but to fix your gaze upon concrete reality. He emphasizes that you should not confine your search for God to houses of worship for you can find God penetrating into every nook and cranny of life. Photograph God in the details of empirical reality permeating your daily mundane activities.

Photograph God in Your Work and Social Life
Draw God down into everything you do. The Lubavicher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, the greatest contemporary Hasidic master, emphasizes that it is not enough to rest content with your own spiritual ascent, the elevation of your soul in closeness to God. You must also strive to draw spirituality down into the world and into every part of your involvement with it – your work and your social life – until not only do they not distract you from your pursuit of God, but they become a full part of it. Photograph God in your relationships with others.

Photograph God at Ground Level
In his acclaimed novel, The City of God, E. L. Doctorow echoes these rabbinic thoughts: “If there is a religious agency in our lives, it has to appear in the manner of our times. Not from on high, but a revelation that hides itself in our culture, it will be ground-level, on the street, it’ll be coming down the avenue in the traffic, hard to tell apart from anything else. It will be cryptic, discerned over time, piecemeal, to be communally understood at the end like a law of science.” Photograph God everywhere you go and in everything you do.

Photograph God in the Still Silent Voice
Living for seven years in the Negev desert, I would frequently walk through the desert mountains where a strong silence surrounded me and followed me. The silence grew more intense as I stopped to stoop down to get a close look at a tiny flowering plant emerging from the crevice of a rock. The Hebrew word for “desert” MiDBaR is spelled with the same letters as the word for “speaking” MiDaBeR. The desert speaks softly about delicate forms of life. In the desert, you can see the quiet voice of God. In the Sinai desert, “all the people saw the sounds” (Exodus 20:15) rather than heard them.

Standing on a desert mountain, the prophet Elijah saw a great powerful wind, smashing mountains and breaking rocks. After the wind came an earthquake and after the earthquake was fire and after the fire there was a still silent voice. Elijah saw God in the still silent voice, rather than in the mighty wind, rather than in the rumbling earthquake, rather than in the raging fire. (I Kings 19:11-12). Listen for the still silent voice as you photograph God in the intimate spaces and minute details of your life. Transform your vision of small ordinary events into extraordinary images.

Photograph the Spectrum of Divine LightJust as a prism breaks up white light into the colors of the spectrum, kabbalah reveals a spectrum of divine light derived from the biblical passage “You God are the compassion, the strength, the beauty, the success, the splendor, and everything in heaven and on earth” (Chronicles 1:29). Look for these six attributes of divine light flowing down into your life.

Hesed: Compassion / Largess / Loving All
Gevurah: Strength / Judgment / Setting Limits
Tifert: Beauty / Aesthetic Balance / Inner Elegance
Netzakh: Success / Orchestration / Eternity
Hod: Splendor / Gracefulness / Magnificence
Yesod: Foundation / Everything Integrated / Gateway to Action

Focus on episodes expressing these attributes as you walk through the streets, ride on a bus, shop in the mall, dance at a wedding, hike in the countryside, or come home from work. “God walks in the midst of your camp” (Deuteronomy 23:15). KeReV, the Hebrew word for “midst,” shares the same root as being “close” KaRoV. As you sense the closeness of God walking with you, create six sets of pictures revealing the spectrum of divine light that you see all around you.

Let God Look Back at You
Photographer Jan Phillips quotes from Rabbi Elimelech as she shares her thoughts about focusing her lens on God in her book on photography and creativity, God is at Eye Level: “Whoever does not see God in every place does not see God in any place…. My eyes find God everywhere, in every living thing, creature, person, in every act of kindness, act of nature, act of grace. Everywhere I look, there God is looking back, looking straight back.”

My students at Ariel University and Emuna College in Jerusalem created most of the photographic sequences posted in this blog. People worldwide are invited to also participate in this project by submitting their photographs to me at melalexenberg@yahoo.com.

20 April 2007

Yesod: 5 Generations

Yesod is five generations of my family. Yesod (foundation) represents the balance between netzakh (success/eternity) and hod (splendor/grace).
The top photograph was taken in 2006, when my great-grandson, Yechiel Eliad, was eight days old.
The bottom photograph was taken one year later when we celebrated Eliadi's first birthday, and the 100th birthday of my mother-in-law, Eliadi's great-great-grandmother, Anna Benjamin, on the 59th anniversary of Israel's independence. Behind them are my wife, Miriam, our granddaughter, Inbal, and our daughter, Iyrit.

31 January 2007

Hesed: Compassionate Intervention


Tal Bilgoray sees compassion in the intervention of a medical team aiding a premature baby.

Gevurah: Strength is Defending Home


Tal Bilgoray sees strength in her brother's preparation for his unit going into action to defend Israel from terrorist attacks.

Tiferet: Beauty is Coming Home


Taya Babenko experiences beauty from suddenly seeing the familiar landscape of Israel as the airplane approaches the coast bringing her home from abroad.

Netzakh: Eternal Cycle of Sky and Sea


Linor Ohayon appreciates the shared amorphous forms of white clouds and white surf moving against blue sky and sea. God orchestrates an eternal cycle as evaporation from the sea forms clouds which, in turn, return water to the sea as rain.

Hod: Splendor as Graceful Flight


Alexander Cruise sees splendor in the graceful movements of a bird in flight.

Yesod: Bread as Foundation of Life


Yulia Yagudin enjoyed the pleasant aroma of fresh baked bread, the foundation of life, while photographing old women lovingly shaping small bagels in a traditional way handed down from generation to generation.

11 July 2006

Splendor/Hod as the Echo of a Kiss



Yael Kenan sees hod as the glorious feeling of young lovers kissing. She photographed the shadow of the event to reveal the link between the Hebrew word hod (splendor) and hed (echo). Yael perceives the shadow as a visual equivalent of an echo in sound.

02 July 2006

Teaching/Learning as Foundation/Yesod


Michal Hadari photographed a father learning Torah with his son. He is building a foundation for successfully transmitting Jewish values from generation to generation assuring a splendid future. The biblical injunction “to diligently teach your children” forms a central part of the daily liturgy. Foundation/yesod integrates the attributes of success/continuity/eternity/netzach with splendor/hod.

Avian Splendor/Hod


Esti Lazarovich Shachaf sees splendor/hod as the metamorphosis of a strange-looking earthbound creature with stubby feathers into a magnificent bird in flight. Scroll down to “Avian Strength/Gevurah” and see the same parrot in the first moments of its life.

Hesed on Her Wedding Day


Sharon Vaserman sees compassion/hesed as the divine loving kindness bestowed upon a bride on her wedding day. Sharon feels hesed saturating the wedding with all the good in the world coming together to forge a bond of love between bride and groom as they become one.

Success from a Lizard's Viewpoint


The multifaceted meanings of the Hebrew word “netzach” are related to success and victory, conducting and orchestration, continuity and eternality. Mor Perry photographed a lizard’s success in catching its lunch.

01 July 2006

Netzach as Continuity


Merav Razon sees the birth of a child in the modern State of Israel as an expression of netzach. It is a divine event attesting to the continuity of the Jewish People despite millennia of bitter exile. The prophet Isaiah links the words “from generation to generation for all eternity (l’netzach netzachim)” to the joyous return to their homeland “coming to Zion with glad song, with eternal gladness.”

30 June 2006

Success/Netzach from Poland to Israel


Dalia Sharvit sees Success/Netzach as the victory of good over evil and eternal love of the Jewish people for its Torah. As a participant, she photographed the "March of the Living" to Nazi death camps in Poland to never forget the horrible nighmare and unimagineable suffering of millions of Jews murdered there. On her return home to Israel, she photographed strength/gevurah showing her brave peers defending their country against its current enemies seeking to destroy it while beginning their dangerous day in praise of Hashem and in chanting the eternal words of the Torah.

Splendor/Hod Sunset


Sharon Vaseman sees splendor/hod as the graceful flow from daytime to evening as a fisherman contemplates his place in the divine creation watching the setting sun caress the water's surface bringing sky down to earth.

Bovine Beauty/Tifert


Roni Levi photographed the birthing of a calf, an awesome event expressing beauty/tifert as the vital balance between the farmer's compassion/hesed and strength/gevurah in helping to bring new life into the world.

29 June 2006

Foundation/Yesod as Growing Food


Keren Atiya sees earth as the foundation/yesod of all life, the source of our food. A tractor tilling the soil and the lush green results show the integration of technology in the process of growing food crops.

Compassion/Hesed as Love and Food


Keren Atiya sees compassion/hesed as a process that begins with hungry cats, hungry for love and food, surrounding a man who has seen much in his life who chose to respond to their hunger. He pets them, satisfying their hunger for love, and then portions out food for each of them making sure there is enough for all.

27 June 2006

Avian Strength/Gevurah


Esti Lazarovich Shachaf sees strength/gevurah as her parrot chick freeing itself.

23 June 2006

Invitation to Participate in Photograph God Project

People throughout the world are invited to participate in the Photograph God project by sharing their images and thoughts with others globally.

Submitting Photographs
Photograph events in your everyday life that reveal the divine attributes of compassion, strength, beauty, success, splendor, foundation. Send a series of 2 or 3 photographs that document process like a comic strip or storyboard sequence. Write a sentence or two in English identifying the place where the event took place and how it expresses one of the six divine attributes listed above. Send each photograph as a jpg image (328 pixels wide) attachment and a Word document text. E-mail them to: melalexenberg@yahoo.com

Legal Notice
By submitting your photographs, you attest that you are the photographer, and that you grant Mel Alexenberg a perpetual, royalty-fee license to publish them on the Photograph God blog and in all other media both digital and print, to reproduce, exhibit, distribute, select, arrange, modify, edit, and otherwise exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to the images. In exchange, your name will identify you as the photographer when your photographs are used. If you do not wish to grant Mel Alexenberg these rights, do not submit your photographs.

21 June 2006

Photographing a Verb

God is a Verb
God is no thing. God is no thing – nothing in the process of becoming everything. You can discern God over time, in the flow, in the action, in the process of something becoming something else. The primary biblical divine name YHVH should be translated as “Is-Was-Will Be.” It is a verb associated with the attribute of inner beauty (tiferet). When beauty hidden in the mundane suddenly jumps out at you, catch the action in a series of photographs of Is-Was-Will Be. Don’t snap a still-life, nature morte (dead life in French), photograph living processes like comic strip or storyboard sequences.

Photographing KUZU
KUZU is YHVH in motion. The biblical passage beginning with “Hear, O Israel, YHVH is our God, YHVH is One,” is written by a scribe on small parchment scrolls affixed to doorposts in Jewish homes. These mini-Torahs called mezuzot, a word derived from the root zaz, which means to move. Each scroll is rolled up with the biblical text on the inside. On the outside of the scroll at the place on the reverse side of where YHVH is written, the scribe writes KUZU. KUZU moves YHVH one letter forward. It is spelled with each of the letters that follow YHVH in the Hebrew alphabet. It is if we were to write GOD as HPE, H being the letter following G, P the letter following O, and E the letter following D. In addition to moving each of the letters in YHVH forward, KUZU is written upside-down to invite us to see God as a dynamic process from multiple viewpoints. Photograph KUZU.

18 June 2006

Where to Look for God

In Every Nook and Cranny of Life
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, one of the foremost thinkers of the 20th century, teaches us not direct our glance upward but downward, not aspire to a heavenly transcendence nor seek to soar upon the wings of some abstract, mysterious spirituality, but to fix our gaze upon concrete, empirical reality. Do not confine your search for God to houses of worship for God permeates into every nook and cranny of life. Look for God in the marketplace, the street, the factory, the house, the mall, and the banquet hall. “For God your Lord walks in the midst of your camp.” (Deuteronomy 23:15)

In Our Work and Social Life
The Rebbe of Lubavich, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, emphasizes that it is not enough to rest content with our own spiritual ascent, the elevation of our souls in closeness to God. We must also strive to draw spirituality down into the world and into every part of our involvement with it – our work and our social life – until not only do they not distract us from our pursuit of God, but they become a full part of it.

At Ground Level
In his acclaimed novel, The City of God, E. L. Doctorow echoes these thoughts:

If there is a religious agency in our lives, it has to appear in the manner of our times. Not from on high, but a revelation that hides itself in our culture, it will be ground-level, on the street, it’ll be coming down the avenue in the traffic, hard to tell apart from anything else. It will be cryptic, discerned over time, piecemeal, to be communally understood at the end like a law of science. They’ll put it on a silicon chip.

Everywhere God Looks Back at You
Photographer Jan Phillips writes in her book on photography and creativity, God is at Eye Level, and quotes from Rabbi Elimelech:

My eyes find God everywhere, in every living thing, creature, person, in every act of kindness, act of nature, act of grace. Everywhere I look, there God is looking back, looking straight back…. Whoever does not see God in every place does not see God in any place.

16 June 2006

Seeing God

LightsOROT, Created at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies for Yeshiva University Museum in New York, Mel Alexenberg and Otto Piene

Seeing God through a ViewfinderThe project that I assigned my students at Ariel University and Emuna College of the Arts in Jerusalem was to photograph God – to document processes revealing six divine attributes in their everyday life.
Compassion/Hesed: Largess / Loving AllStrength/Gevurah: Judgment / Setting Limits
Beauty/Tiferet: Aesthetic Balance / Inner EleganceSuccess/Netzach: Orchestration / Eternity
Splendor/Hod: Gracefulness / MagnificenceFoundation/Yesod: Integrating All / Gateway to Action

Seeing God is Getting in Touch with RealityIn his book, Seeing God, Rabbi David Aaron, head of Isralight Institute in Jerusalem, uses kabbalistic insights to illuminate how we can see divine light all around us. He shares my discomfort of using the word “God,” a Germanic word conjuring up images of some all-powerful being zapping us if we step out of line. He calls God Hashem, literally “The Name” in Hebrew, the name of the nameless One encompassing all of reality and beyond. He writes:

Hashem does not exist in reality – Hashem is reality. And we do not exist alongside Hashem, we exist within Hashem, within the reality that is Hashem. Hashem is the place. Indeed, Hashem is the all-embracing context for everything. So there can’t be you and God standing side by side in reality. There is only one reality that is Hashem, and you exist in Hashem…. Everything is in Hashem, Hashem is in everything, but Hashem is beyond everything…. Seeing God is all about getting in touch with reality.
Seeing the Spectrum of Divine Light
Like the spectral colors that make up white light, we can see the spectrum of divine light in our everyday world as the attributes of compassion, strength, beauty, success, splendor, and foundation.

This spectrum revealed in the kingdom of space-time (malkhut) in the world of action (asiyah), is spelled out in the biblical passage: “You Hashem are the greatness of compassion (gedulah/hesed), the strength (gevurah), the beauty (tiferet), the success (netzach), the splendor (hod), and the integral foundation of everything (kol/yesod) in heaven and on earth.” (Chronicles 1:29)