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Art & Torah: ‘Bishvili’
Thus begins parashat Re’eh, which goes on to tell us that true blessing is in hearing the voice of God speaking to us, while the curse is following other gods (the negative voices of fear, hatred and pride). However, in order to hear the whisperings of God’s still, small voice, we must search and aspire.
The verses tell us that when we come to dwell in the Land of Israel, we need first to get rid of the false gods and only then come to “the place which the Lord your God shall choose… to set His Name there; you shall inquire after His dwelling and come there” (Deuteronomy 11:5).
“The place which the Lord will choose” is mentioned at least five times in this week’s Torah portion, enticing us to search for this holy place where God’s presence is revealed. This is a huge part of our story. Our forefather Abraham was told to go to “a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), and later to “one of the mountains which I will tell you” (Genesis 22:2). It is the place we will be shown on our journey to higher self, where we bring the offerings of our hearts and where we rejoice.
In the painting, jewel-like colors descend, exploding over the golden pillars of a numinous sanctuary. To the right, we see a rising moon that sheds a faint enigmatic radiance. Rays of blue and azure light form ethereal pathways rising into this mysterious place, expressing the jubilance of searching for holiness in time and space.
This is reflected in the title of the painting, “Bishvili,” from the Mishnaic statement “The world was created for me (bishvili)” (Sanhedrin 4:5). The Hebrew word shvil also means “path,” so this can also mean: “For my path the world was created.” There are pathways leading each of us to our own dream, our own purpose, on our search for holiness in time and space.
And in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Many peoples shall go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.’ He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths, for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3)
The author is a meditation teacher and writer. She wrote the text for Art of Revelation: A Visual Encounter with the Jewish Bible, which showcases paintings by her husband, Yoram Raanan, that appeared weekly in The Jerusalem Post from 2013-2016. Those paintings were lost in the November
2016 fire that destroyed Raanan’s studio (later rebuilt).