Liver Series #5: “Through Those Gates, Openings For Soul”

2/21/05, 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!

Notes on texts that inspired my imagery for Liver Series #5:

Zohar, Annotated & Explained, Daniel C. Matt, traslator & annotator, (VT, SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2002), p. 27.

the heads on the gates:

“But indeed, Her husband is known in the gates–the blessed Holy One,

who is known and grasped

to the degree that each one opens the gates of imagination,

according to the capacity to attain the spirit of wisdom.

As one fathoms in the mind, so He is known in his mind.

So He is known in those gates.

But that He be known accurately?

No one has ever been aable to grasp and know Him.

Rabbi Shim’on said,

Her husband is known in the gates.

Who are the gates?

As is said: Lift up your heads, O gates!

Be lifted up, openings of eternity! (Psalm 24:7).

Through these gates, supernal rungs,

the blessed Holy One becomes known,

otherwise no one could grasp.

‘Footnotes’: Line 1: –the blessed Holy One. (But indeed, Her husband is known . . .: The passage from Proverbs describing the “woman of valor” is understood to be a hymn to Shekhinah, who is married to Tif’eret, the blessed Holy one, a more transcendent Sefira. (p. 26)

“Gates of imagination: Imagination enables the human mind to fathom God, though, as Rabbi Yehudah goes on to say, all imaginative representations fall short of true divine being.”, (p. 26)

“Through these gates, supernal rungs . . .: Through the sefirot, the Unknown becomes known


“Rabbi Shim’on openied,

“King Solomon made himself a pavilion from the trees of Lebanon

(Song of Songs 3:9).

We have already estaablished the meaning of this verse,

but the pavilion is the palace below

resembling the palace on high.”

1.73 (explanation)

“We have already established the meaning of this verse: The verse from Song of Songs is cited in the Midrash as an account of the construction of the mishkan and the Temple in Jerusalem.

“The palace below, resembling the palace on high: Shekhinah, last of the sefirot, is the palace below. She resembles Her mother, Binah, the palace on high. So for the Zohar, the Dwelling constructed in the desert symbolizes an highter Dwelling, Shekhinah, who is sustained by the highest Dwelling, Binah.