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 Viewfinder
The project that I assigned my students at Ariel University and Emunah College School of the Arts in Jerusalem was to photograph God – to document processes revealing six divine attributes in their everyday life.
Compassion/Hesed: Largess / Loving All Strength/Gevurah: Judgment / Setting Limits
Beauty/Tiferet: Aesthetic Balance / Inner Elegance Success/Netzach: Orchestration / Eternity
Splendor/Hod: Gracefulness / Magnificence Foundation/Yesod: Integrating All / Gateway to Action

Seeing God is Getting in Touch with Reality
In 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)