Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Triptych



In this Blog I present the  text and oil paintings in  for my Tryptich, "A Midrash on Time," which I began in the Summer of 2014 and completed in 2015. The Triptych consists of three large oil paintings and two documents, one in Hebrew and one in English, presenting the midrash and the (completely apocryphal) biblical passages on which it is "based"--as well as apocryphal Talmudic discussion and disputation. 

The midrash grows out of my  wonder and disturbance at the very existence of time—of how the essence of things, which to my mind must be eternal, seems to escape from under us because each moment passes and disappears.  Further, because of time things are destroyed, people die, and the world itself will come to an end. My midrash considers the “null hypothesis” that there is no time at all and draws out the implications of time’s creation.

Genesis Apocrypha 1-6

1 God had formed the firmament, the great lights, the garden,

2 And man and woman, back to back.
3 They were summoned before God to help choose.
4 But Adam and Eve fled from the garden  with the flowers of time,
5 Into a land of ancient olive trees, cliffs and stones,

6 And died, with their image as their share in eternity.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Before The Birth of Time


In pre-history, when only eternal angelic beings consorted with the Holy One in the heavenly court, the elements and media of our world were devised in flashes of creative power that thoroughly dwarf the inventions and discoveries of humankind. After matter, light, and the firmament had been formed, the sun and moon fixed in their place, and Adam and Eve set in an eternal pose, an angelic being was struck by the most profound notion of all, an idea that was destined to have a greater impact upon the cosmos than any other.

For this angelic soul arrived at the notion that the ideas, forms, objects, lights, and creatures that had hitherto been stagnant in an unchanging world, should be filtered through the medium of time! Once informed of this radical notion, the Holy One relegated to his angel the task of forging the template that would set all things and ideas in motion, make them subject to change, and create the foundation for history, biography, and experience. 





Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Flight Into Time

 Having summoned time out of the fabric of the divine spirit, it appeared to this angel but a mere formality to put the idea into action, through the creation of a temporal world. Yet the divine council hesitated, warning of the many unforeseen and unintended consequences of a changeable cosmos.  “With generation there will be decay, with success there will be failure, with music there may well be cacophony,” they warned.  “The creature we call “Adam,” who is now but a beautiful image, will, with time, have the freedom to act upon, alter, and even destroy your magnificent creation!” “In a world of time there will be moments of great pleasure, but untold hours and years of suffering and pain.”
"The Flight Into Time" Oil on Linen, 42" x 48"

"4 But Adam and Eve fled from the garden  with the flowers of time,
5 Into a land of ancient olive trees, cliffs and stones..."



“What’s more,” they said, “‘Death’, who is now only an abstraction, will be unleashed upon the world with such force that even the Holy One, will be powerless to stop it.” “Better,” they declared, “a timeless world, devoid of experience, action, pleasure, love, music, freedom, creativity, hopes and dreams, than one dominated by death.” Other members of the council countered, pointing out that there was no inherent contradiction in a temporal universe in which pain and death were kept in check and humans made immortal.  

And so the divine council was deadlocked, frozen in its inability to decide whether to breathe temporal life into a timeless world.  It was then that the Holy One suggested that they consult Adam and Eve: “For it will be they and not us who will bear the misfortunes of time put to ill use.” While members of the council hesitated to grant the man and the woman even the smallest measure of time necessary for this consultation, it was finally agreed that their input, though by no means decisive, might be of help in the deliberations.


The council determined that the consultation would take place on earth, in the very garden that Adam and his wife, Eve, would inhabit should they be given the time in which to do so. And so Adam and Eve were brought before the divine council, and for this purpose were given flowers, granting them the smallest measure of time in order to add their opinions to the great debate. Yet, at the moment when this time was granted, Adam’s mind flashed and filled with the endless possibilities of actual existence, and upon hearing the prefatory remarks of the council chair, the “whethers” and the “ifs”, ADAM and EVE felt both frightened and free.


Not wanting to surrender the greatest gift that could be bestowed upon a finite creature, the humans fled from the garden, into a land of olive trees, cliffs and stones,  taking with them the small measure of time granted for the consultation, and forsaking the possibility of immortality in a temporal world.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Death of Adam



 "6 And died, with their image as their share in eternity."

At first the Holy One sent emissaries to stop them, but soon thought better. “It is decided,” God declared, “Humans shall remain mortal in a changeable world, ‘their only share in eternity will be their  image.” 


___


"Biblical" Passages (On which the Midrash is based) =


1 God had formed the firmament, the great lights, the garden,

2 And man and woman, back to back.

3 They were summoned before God to help choose.

4 But Adam and Eve fled from the garden  with the flowers of time,

5 Into a land of ancient olive trees, cliffs and stones,

6 And died, with their image as their share in eternity.

 

Commentary

2 back to back: with no relationship

3 to choose: whether to enter time or remain in eternity

4 fled from the garden: with the little time granted to them for the consultation

4 flowers of time: time lasting only so long as the flowers remained alive.

Hillel says: seven days Shammai counters: 70 years, for each day in those times counted as ten years—enough time to make clothes, construct a shelter, raise a family and till the land.

5 ancient olive trees: according to some the “trees of life” as they endure a thousand years.Rabbi Tarphon opined: “To provide the oil for the eternal light (in Solomon’s temple). R. Akiva says: The twists and turns of the olive’s branches mirror our life in time

6 image: some say “artistic image”, others “the image of God within man.”