Thursday, June 30, 2016

Art Beat - A Closing Event

And don't forget our upcoming Art Beat event with readings and performances - the last day to see the Artists' Lab show...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wisdom is...

by Susan Weinberg

"Where do we find wisdom?" asked the Rabbi..."the head, the heart, the hands and in relationship", he replied. 

Tonight we gathered to thank our wonderful guides into wisdom, to share food and company and the meaning of our wisdom piece with the rest of the lab.  The final lab is always one of the most interesting labs, but also one of the most difficult to capture in words.  And no, I am not going to report on the comments of twenty-four individual artists.  You just had to be there.

What I share is a distillation of wisdom  from the perspective of the collective lab.  As I listened to each artist speak, I heard themes emerge, ideas that seemed to weave throughout using many voices.  Here's what they said.  

We have keys to wisdom, pearls of wisdom and words of wisdom.  

Wisdom is in the voices of our people and carried forward through books. It is in art and color and line. It is in poetry and in the process, starting somewhere and arriving somewhere, sometimes unexpected.  Wisdom is layered, veiled.  We find it in unlikely juxtapositions grafted together, forming synergies.  It is reflected, but only found upon searching.  We feel it in our bones and in our blood memory.  We find it in doing things, getting things done.   Wisdom is discovered in experimentation, in letting go, going out and coming in.

Wisdom is ephemeral, hard to grasp, sometimes passed on and sometimes lost.

Animals are metaphors for wisdom, owls and donkeys and snakes shedding skins.  Apples signify wisdom, their growth a maturation into wisdom.  

Wisdom is a gift, made of seeds, patterns, connections, cyclicality, a collection of things, a balance between heart and mind.  It is constantly changing, evolving, renewing.

People can signify wisdom, influencing others, modeling wisdom.  Those of us who witness wisdom honor it and those who carry it.

Wisdom resides in relationship and in nature.  

It is in the spectrum of color, hiding even within the word itself.  Wisdom is the search, the process.   

Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but a lifelong attempt to acquire it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Coming Down the Mountain

June 14, 2016 by Susan Weinberg 

We just concluded Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments. Moses went to the mountain top and came down with his face radiant as he clasp those two tablets to his breast, so radiant in fact that others were afraid to approach him.

 Often we see artwork reflecting Moses with horns, a rather puzzling interpretation. In fact it represents a translation error. Rashbam speaks of the radiance of Moses' face as representing "a brilliant light which gives off rays on every side". The word for rays is "karan" which is similar to the word "keren" which means horns. (see handout-Moses Radiance)

"So what makes someone glow?" asked the rabbi.

"Menopause" injected one of our group in humor.   Feeling a connection, when someone is in their element and passionate about something added others. What else makes us glow? Humor, enthusiasm, love, confidence and assurance were offered up.

"So why was Moses shining?" asked the rabbi.

Here we dug a little deeper. Transmission of energy, infused with the light of Torah. Some focused on Moses as conduit between God and the people, you plug in the socket and it glows. The rabbi suggested that some believe the light was coming from the tablets and was reflected light.

 "So why does the face shine and not some other part of the body?"

Our eyes are the window to the soul offered some.  Our eyes are how we make a connection with another person.  Proverbs 20:27 elaborates on that connection when it says  "the spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord".

"Do we know of anyone who shines?"

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dali Lama were offered as examples.

We then shifted to a few parables.

We considered a story of Rabbi Abbahu who was believed to have found a treasure because his face was glowing.  When questioned by Rabbi Yochanan as to whether he had heard a new interpretation of Torah he referenced an ancient source that he had discovered.  Rabbi Yochanan noted "A man's wisdom makes his face shine". Wisdom can come from both old and new. (handout-Coming Down the Mountain)

From the Hasidic Parable by Aryeh Wineman we discover Sadness in Finding a Treasure.  The story involves a man discovering a treasure too immense to count and he lacks the containers to take the full extent of the treasure.  He is distressed by what he must leave behind.  What does this mean?

There is too much to fill up the small containers that we are.  Take what is essential.  Don't be arrogant, always leave much behind.  David considered whether we needed to view it from a different perspective and shared with us a story from Jean Cocteau who was asked if his house was on fire, what would he carry out of it.  "The fire", he replied.

The rabbi closed with the question, "What are we taking with us and what do we leave behind as we close out this year of the lab? "

 I'm a "top of the stairs responder".  You know, the kind of person who comes up with her response as she is leaving the room and the topic has changed.  It works fine for writing a blog, but less so in the moment.  So after some thought here is what I take and leave.

I take with me the community of friends I have made through the lab, the ideas and discussions that enrich my artwork, my knowledge that has deepened about Judaism and the many things I have learned from others in the group and our wonderful facilitators.  What I leave behind is a little harder.  When I first entered this group, I carried some unease which I now leave behind.  I felt outside of the community and as a more secular Jew, I wondered if this would be a comfortable place for me. I have found it to be a very embracing community and close the year feeling that this is in fact my community and I am very pleased to be a part of it.

A Still Small Voice

In the second part of the lab we were led by Rabbi Debra Rappaport of Shir Tikvah in a discussion about wisdom and silence.  She began by speaking of the relationship of wisdom to Kaballah. Wisdom is one of the Sephirot, the ten attributes of Kaballah.  It is the seed of a thought. By the time we have created an artwork it has gone through many phases. The root of wisdom is in the potentiality.

We shifted to the subject of silence and its relationship to wisdom.  In the Mishnah Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel speaks of silence as beneficial for the body.  Rabbi Akiva describes it as the fence for wisdom.  The Talmud speaks of spending an hour in meditation as a preparation for prayer. (handout-Wisdom-Presence)

In keeping with the subject of silence, Rabbi Rapport asked us to write about what silence was to us.

As one who embraces silence, I loved this topic and wrote:

"Silence is like a warm bath.  It surrounds me, supports me, uplifts me, but doesn't impinge on me.  I float in its embrace.  it calms me and opens me.  Unexpected thoughts and ideas grow within it."

I related the story of how my husband and I deal with silence in different ways.  He enjoys music and often assumes that if I am in a room silently that it is an invitation to turn on music.  I've taken to playing classical music, my fallback to silence,  to let him know the aural space is occupied. For me silence is a presence, not an absence.  Music, particularly with words, is a distraction from my thoughts. Usually I create in silence.

Others who defined themselves as introverts noted their need for silence and spoke of it as a gift.  Still others offered that silence allows time for the creative process to breath.  Silence is the voice of the unspoken.  Not everything is voiced in language. Some noted that they needed silence for certain parts of the creative process and certain types of music for other parts.

As we closed this discussion the rabbi pointed us to Kings 19:4-12 where Elijah waits through wind, earthquake and fire for the Lord to make his presence known.  When all the pyrotechnics have passed there is a still small voice that emerges.