Into the Unknown
Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )
“Lech Lecha (2),” 2014, acrylic on canvas, 70 X 50 cm.
The primordial Jewish journey begins with Abram. In the painting, his figure moves forward into the unknown future that awaits him, as his ageless face peers into the darkness surrounding him. He forges forward, staff in hand, behind him a light: he wanders to the land God eventually will show him.
Abram’s journey began with the command “lech lecha,” which literally means “go to yourself,” to “your essence.” The Zohar interprets this mandate allegorically as breaking away from earthly matter, while the midrash says that this essence was in a realm that was above the stars. God brings him to the land – and then lifts him up to the sky − to show him how the Jewish People are beyond the laws of nature. In the painting, Abram’s body has a celestial feeling as he is elevated to this higher sphere.
Yet the painting also has a feeling of darkness, boundaries, and constriction reflecting the many challenges of Abram's spiritual journey. Shortly after he entered the Land of Israel, he was forced by famine to descend to Egypt, which is described as “the nakedness of the earth.” In Egypt, his wife Sarah was forcibly taken to the house of Pharaoh. This episode is hinted at by the suggestions of figures in the painting. And yet even Abram’s descent brought him blessing. He left Egypt “very rich in cattle, in silver, and gold.” Moreover, wealth also came from spiritual effort as Abram elevated some of the sparks of Godliness that were hidden in that country.