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Purification

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Metzora (Leviticus 14-15 )

by Yoram and Meira Raanan

"Purification," 2014, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 120 cm.

To purify the house (the Kohen) shall take two small birds... He shall kill one bird over fresh spring water in a clay bowl. He shall take cedar wood, hyssop and crimson wool and the live bird, dip them in the blood of the slaughtered bird and fresh spring water, and sprinkle it on the house seven times….. He shall then send the live bird outside the city into the open country. (Leviticus 14:49-52)

These verses describe the purification process for a house that is infected with tzaraat, an affliction resembling leprosy caused by lashon hara (slanderous talk). One reason suggested for the use of birds in this ritual is that birds chatter mindlessly.

In the painting, the Kohen stands framed by vertical and horizontal strokes indicating the house. The figure of the Kohen is two-sided: the blue side is spiritual, while the red face symbolizes flesh and blood, and the transformation of physical malady to spiritual purification. The white background symbolizes purity. There is a sense of motion in the painting as the Kohen sprinkles the house using cedar wood (a tall tree, symbolic of arrogance) and hyssop (a shrub that represents humility). One bird hovers above a bowl containing water. This bird is partly red, and red drops appear beneath it, as if turning to blood. The sacrifice of this bird will atone for the idle chatter. At the top of the painting, a white bird is flying free, symbolizing all the good things that could have been said, but were not.

The painting contains the full spectrum of color, reflecting the fact that the house blighted by tzaraat can now become a healthful dwelling.



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