Liver Series #2: “Seven Universes and Seven Firmaments”

12/16/03, 11″ x 14″, acrylic paint.

About the Liver Painting Series

In the early 2000’s, I encountered a book called In My Flesh I see God, A Treasury of Rabbinic Insights about the Human Anatomy, by Avraham Yaakov Finkel (London, Jason Aronson, Inc., 1995.) I was intrigued by how odd, fanciful, yet subtly and unexpectedly true some of the phrases about our physical body and its relationship with the unseen–the Divine–were. Almost every sentence I read was inspiring to me–spiritually and visually. I began this series of paintings composed of images and text by using the phrase (from p. 164) “The Life Force Rests in the Liver”, as a seed text. With the exception of the phrase painted into Liver Series #4, all the phrases came from Rabbi Finkel’s book. (The sole exception is in Liver Series #4, “On the seashore of endless worlds, children play.” This is from a poem by Rabindranith Tagore, the Indian poet.

I feel that I have only scratched the surface of this marvelous compendium, and that someday I might return to this series in some form. For example, there’s the phrase on page 5 by the Ba’al Shem Tov (influential 18th century Rabbi, source of Chasidism) as follows: “Whatever action you do down here in this world, evokes a similar action by God, for it says, ‘God is your shadow’ (Psalm 121:5) Your shadow mimics everything you do . . .” What we are just beginning to be aware of–the interrelatedness of everything in our universe–is in actuality very, very old!

Liver#2 rough notes about my sources for imagery:

Adam not created first. Both together. The hermaphrodite.

Rabbi David A. Cooper, God is a Verb, Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism. p. 54. “The first Adam/Eve is called by Kabbalists Adam ha-Rishon, (primeval human consciousness).” The Midrash Rabbah says, “When the Holy One created Adam ha-Rishon], it was androgynous. God created Adam ha-Rishon double-faced, and split him/her so there were two backs, one on this side and one of the other. The idea that Adam and Eve were co-equal at birth is not a kabbalistic secret; it was openly discussed in ancient midrashic literature. Moreover, it was known two thousand years ago that the idea that Eve cam from Adam’s rib was a common misunderstanding. The Torah is unambiguous on this point. It repeats a second time, ‘Male and female It created them,’ and goes on to say, ‘and blessed them, and called their name Adam on the day they were created.”

footnote 54., midrash 8:1, adam ha-Rishon was androgynous, being both male and female, rather than hermaphroditic (bisexual, or suggesting one who has male and fe-male genitals). This statement was challenged in the same midrash, “But is it not written, God took one of Adam’s ribs (tzela)?” And the response was, “The word ‘tzela’ here means side, as it is used in Exodus 26:20, ‘For the second side (tzela) of the tabernacle.’”

  1. Genesis 1:27 and 5:2.