By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Parshat Kedoshim opens with the words “you shall be holy for I am holy the God that sanctifies you.” This painting seems to express this theme by tying a connection between the holiness of the Temple and the Holy Presence therein and the holiness of Israel. Israel are depicted not only by the dancing hasidim but are also hinted to by the twelve yellow spheres in the horizon and the twelve yellow leaves/flames/birds seeming to emanate from the Temple, and the number twelve corresponds to the twelve tribes. It seems that the idea in this is that Israel raise their spiritual power towards the Temple as depicted by the twelve yellow spheres, and then this power is raised even more by the Holy Presence in the Temple to the heavens hinted by the fire, known to come with the resting of the Holy Presence, seen rising from the Temple from which emerge the twelve flames we just mentioned.
In this painting we see four “heavenly layers”, beginning from the green layer emanating from the Temple, going upwards, and four more “earthly layers” from the blue layer containing drops of water, going downwards. It seems that these layers correspond to the four Kabbalistic worlds in the following way: In the “earthly layers” we have the blue layer containing drops of water, corresponding to Atzilut, associated with kindness, and water is a symbol of kindness according to the Kabbalists. Underneath this layer, corresponding to Briah are the twelve yellow spheres seeming to emanate from the fiery/yellow-reddish basis of this layer, and fire/red is associated to judgment, the attribute of Briah. Underneath this is the more earthly sky as we know it, and the Kabbalists parallel our sky – “shamayim” to the the world of Yetzira/tiferet. Underneath this is the Land, which the Kabbalists parallel to the world of Asia. In the “heavenly layers” we see the green layer emanating from the Temple as if depicting grass on land, representing a heavenly Land, and we already said that “Land” represents the world of Asiah, so this is the “heavenly Asiah.” We should note here that a verse in the Torah bids us not to prostrate on stone in “your Land,” but such prostration is allowed in the Temple, a matter that suggests that the Temple is not “your Land” but rather “heavenly Land.” This matter explains why this heavenly Land seems to emanate from the Temple. Above this layer we see vines as if growing from this Land, and vines in halacha are considered a type of tree that is associated with the sky [this, by the way, explains why “pri haetz” takes preference over “pri ha’adama” in order of blessing, since the sky is on a higher level than the earth] and this seems to express the “sky”, which we paralleled to the world of Yetzira in the earthly layers, here being in the heavenly layers,” I.e representing the Yetzira of the “heavenly layers.” Above these we see seven strings with eight grapes to each side, apparently emanating from the vines below. The grape is a symbol of wine, which is associated by the Kabbalists to Bina/Briah. Also the strings may hint to the instruments of the Levites, also associated with Bina/Briah. Above these is the light emerging from the Temple, and just as the verse says “the light of God is the soul of man,” so too the light here hints to the soul/internal aspect of the Temple, I.e the Holy Presence. Thus, this represents the most internal world, also called by the Kabbalists “the soul of all the worlds,” the world of Atzilut.
The Shin seen here just underneath the Temple is also a symbol of the Holy Presence since the Shin is known to depict the Name of God Shadai, and the Name of God is synonyomus with the Holy Presence as Onkelos translates the word “shmi – my Name” with “my Holy Presence.” The three prongs of the shin seem to correspond with the “three lines/sides” known in Kabbalah, I.e the right, the left and the middle path/line. This theme is also depicted by the hasidim which are divided into three groups, one group to the right, one to the left, and one in the middle. Indeed, according to the Kabbalah it is is known that the seven lower sefirot are divided into two to the right, two to the left and two in the middle, while the seventh sefira – malchut – has a special status. Thus, we also see the seventh hasid to the side blowing a shofar, the instrument of repentance heralding God’s kingship, corresponding to the sefira of malchut- kingship, which also has the nature of “returning light”, similar to repentance – the “return” to God. These hasidim are seen upon the houses of Zion representing how Israel raise the power of the Holy Presence through their dwelling and spiritual work in the Holy Land. Indeed, Hebron is pivotal in illuminating the light of the Holy Land, for Hebron is the very origin of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land from the time of our holy Patriarchs to this day.