By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
The joyous holiday of Sukkot, when we go from our roofed houses outside into the naturally covered Sukka, and when we take the four natural species, has much connection to the themes of joy and nature, central themes in this painting as well. Indeed, these themes are connected for connection to the simplicity of nature awakens the internal joy in man’s spirit, for it is this simplicity that causes man not to take anything for granted and to recognize God’s Mastery over all.
In this painting we see five birds and two butterflies, altogether summing to the special Jewish number of seven. Both birds and butterflies have the gift of flight, a matter that may hint to the uplifting of the soul in the feeling of joy, a primary theme of this painting, as seen by the music-playing hasid and the dancing hasid. According to the Kabbalah the seven lower sefirot are divided into five and two, where the five sefirot of hesed to hod represent the more “heavenly” types of kindness [“hamisha hasadim”], while the two sefirot of yesod and malchut represent the more “earthly” [called “klalut”] aspects. Indeed, the birds have a higher more “heavenly” flight than the butterflies which also even originated as fully earthly creatures in the form of caterpillars.
During the holiday of Sukkot many have the custom of reciting chapter 42 in Tehilim [which makes mention of a Sukka] and begins with the verse, “like a deer upon waters, so shall my soul yearn unto You, O God.” This painting seems to clearly evoke this verse with the deers next to the stream of water seen here. We see here two pairs, a pair of deers, and a pair of men. This seems to suggest also the likening of man to a deer in the verse we just mentioned. The idea of the pairing may represent the union between People seeking the closeness of Hashem just like the deers are paired in yearning upon waters. This is also a primary theme of Sukkot, the Sukka of Peace where all are united in the “embrace” of the Holy Presence. Of course, Hebron is key in this matter. This is the city that connects us all to our common roots in internal peace, reminding us of our integral connection to the Holy Land, Land of the Holy Presence.