By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
The Beacon of The Land of Israel
In this painting we see 26 flames [quite clearly indicative of the numerical value of Tetragrammaton -”ner havaya nishmat adam”], seven candles [as in the Menora], and the central candle has eleven “roots” [apparently indicating eleven sefirot – the Divine “lights” if we include keter and da’at together.]
We also see Seven hasidim. One has both arms outstretched to the heavens, a matter that seems indicative of the sefira of hesed associated with the heavenly versus judgment which is associated to the earthly. We see one with a taberinth, a musical instrument, like the music-playing Levites –which are the Kabbalists associate to the sefira of gevura. The third hasid is with a yellow – a color associted to tiferet- trumpet which is on the one hand a musical vessel like the taberinth we associate to gevura, bu on the other hand the trumpet is also associated to the human breath considered a more “heavenly/soul” source as we saw in the “hesed figure” we associated to the heavens. Indeed the tiferet bridges between the hesed and gevura. We see two dancing together – apparently indicating the netzach and hod. It seems that the netzach is having his hand outstretched to heaven like the hesed, since both hesed and netzach belong to the “right side” in the order of the sefirot. One hasid is fully enveloped by the houses and city of Zion, a concept the Kabbalists tie to the sefira of yesod. The Seventh hasid is dressed in black a color associated with malchut. The shofar he blows in is a symbol of repentance called the “returning light” also associated with malchut and King David who, our Sages teach, taught repentance to all. His hand is also outstretched to heaven like the hesed since the Kabbalists call the malchut the “daughter of the hesed.”
The wall of Zion is like the cloak of the Kohen Gadol with seven bells and six pomegranates, hinting to the thirteen “hulyot”, I.e bands of three wrappings of the blue thread of the tzitzit found on the more the common cloak which hints to seven “heavens” and six airs between them according to Hazal. It seems that this is hinting that Zion is a “heavenly” city. Indeed the Arizal makes a parallel between the golden Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol and the tzitzit on the common cloak. The cloak of the Kohen Gadol is also considered atonement for lashon hara, which may be hinted by the black abyss at the bottom. Black can refer to malchut in sanctity but can also refer to evil depending on the context. Here when it is seen at the bottom of the painting as a seeming abyss it seems that the context may be that of evil especially of lashon hara which is atoned for by the cloak. The vine, a symbol of Israel, seen here, grows out of Zion, suggesting the spiritual growth of Israel through Zion. The candles hinting to the Menora-Shechina seem to grow as trees from Zion seeming to indicate that the Holy Presence is raised through Israel’s spiritual work in the Holy Land, as Hashem told Yitzhak “shechon ba’aretz”, which the Midrash interprets “make the Shachina rest in the Land.”
The message and connection of candles to Zion is explicitly mentioned by Hazal who say that “if you keep the candles of Shabbat I shall show you the candles of Zion”. From their prooftext we may also include other mitzva candles such as the candles of Hanuka. Hanuka every year coincides with the parshiot of Yosef, whose name has the same numerical value as Zion, and also our Sages discuss how “everything that happened to Yosef happened to Zion.” According to this we may understand why Yosef is the first to enter exile in Egypt and also a trigger in the leaving of exile in the Exodus, to show that even in exile there should always be the spark of Zion in our hearts to remember to return to Zion. The Arizal actually connects the concept of Zion directly with Hebron. This is not surprising considering the fact that Hebron is the first Jewish city in the Holy Land, the everlasting Beacon of the Land of Israel, reminding us of our deep roots to our People’s true home.