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!
The following are rough notes which gave me inspiration for the images used in the painting:
“On the seashore of endless worlds children play.” quoted from R. Tagore, the Indian poet.
Zornberg, Aviva Gottlieb, The Particulars of Rapture, Reflections on Exodus, p. 280, “’If your Torah had not been my plaything, I should have perished in my poverty!’, cried the Psalmist, in a moment of burning vision.’”
“Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forest of the night.”
Zornberg, ibid., p, 280, “The object that the Israelites ‘use’, the transitional phenomenon, that helps them live in the space of loneliness out of which tigers may spring, is the Torah. “
Rabbis Nosson Scherman & Meir Zlotowitz, General Editors, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet, p. 138, “The ‘lamed’ is a majestic letter, towering above the other letters from its position in the center of the Aleph-Beis. Thus it symbolizes the King of Kings . . . And just as the heart sustains the body, so does the heartfelt learning of Torah sustain the spirit.”
Rosenberg, David, Dreams of Being Eaten Alive, The Literary Core of the Kabbalah,
- 100, 102, “Through her, more demons come in to the world and these hover in the air, . . . some of the infants she kills have their spirits taken by pure angels from above.” He quotes from the Zohar 3:76b-77a.
quoted from Proverbs 22:9: “He who has a good eye is blessed”. Also, “They shall place a string of skyblue wool in the corner tzitzit (fringes of the prayer shawl).”
quoted from Numbers 15:37-40. Found in In My Flesh I see God, Avraham Yaakov Finkel, p. 106.