Liver Series #3: “At the Foot of the Mountain”

2/14/03, 14″ x 11″, acrylic paint on panel.

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 #3 sources of imagery:

The Particulars of Rapture, reflections on Exodus, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg,

Doubleday, New York, 2001, pp. 269-270:

The traumatic effect of God’s voice on creation is the subject of Psalm 29 here God’s voice kindles flames of fire, convulses the wilderness, strips forests bare (v. 7). In view of this prodigious cosmic effect, Jethro’s expectation that his karod will be reconstituted, that he will be compensated in the same coin for his losses, emerges as rather naive. Similarly naive, perhaps, is his confidence that administrative restructurings of society will make it possible for Moses to stand, to withstand the burden that threatens to crush

him. What Jethro experiences with paradigmatic clarity, however, is the ream human anxiety about the erosion of kavod, of a stable, recognizable identity. The experience of the unbearable, of that which tests and stretches the limits of consciousness, is the essential ordeal of Sinai.

A famous midrash makes the point about the ponderous weight of Sinai:

(Quote with the quote) “They took their places at the foot of the mountain” (19:17) . . . This teaches that God suspended the mountain over them, like a barrel, and told them, “If you accept the Torah, all is well; if not, here will be your grave.”

This in turn is footnoted: B. Shabbat 88a.