The annual cycle of reading the Torah in synagogues worldwide begins on Shabbat, October 29th, with “In the beginning.” We read the first portion of Genesis, the story of the creation of the universe.
My wife Miriam and I were married on the night after Simchat Torah, the holiday when the Torah scroll is rewound to the beginning. We began our life together as Genesis was read from the Torah. To celebrate our 52nd year of marriage, we created the “Torah Tweets” blogart project. We studied the Torah portion and documented our life together for 52 weeks with six digital photographs and a text written in the form of 140 character tweets. Below is the text for the Genesis post. To view all the photographs and text for Genesis and the weekly posts for the entire year see: http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com.
SEEING THE CREATION OF THE WORLD AT YOUR DOORSTEP
God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. It was evening and morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)
A cactus sit in the ledge on our porch. Red-leafed plants grow in front of our house. A cat hides in the leaves between our door and a pet shop selling goldfish.
Our dog Snowball sits under our kitchen table.
Miriam frequently reads Perek Shira with its 85 “songs” of God’s creations that together create the great symphony of biodiversity.
The climax of Perek Shira is the song of the dog (KeLeV – KoL LeV – all heart). We learn gratitude to The Creator from a dog’s loyalty.
Haim Vital’s eulogy for the great kabbalist HaAri caps his vast achievements with his ability to converse with birds.
The mysteries of Creation are best revealed through dialogue with other species. Snowball teaches us daily about these mysteries.
God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for it was on this day that God ceased for all the work of Creation for us to continue. (Genesis 2:3)
Miriam recycled one mitzva for another. She pressed cloves into our Sukkot etrog (citron) for a sweet smell to mark the end of Shabbat.
(This photograph showing human hands continuing the process of creation by combining God’s creations (etrog and cloves) into a new creation. It is the photo an the cover of my book, Photograph God.)
There is no seventh image in the blog posts since Shabbat is a Non-Art Day that precludes photography.
BIBLE BLOG YOUR LIFE BY LINKING TWO NARRATIVES
The success of our “Torah Tweets” blogart project gave birth to my book PHOTOGRAPH GOD: CREATE A SPIRITUAL BLOG OF YOUR LIFE. See the book’s blog at http://photographgod.com. The book links smartphone photography, social media, and Judaism by developing tools for creatively photographing God as Divine light reflected from every facet of life. It shows how to weave these photos into a blog that draws on the wisdom of kabbalah in a networked world to create a vibrant dialogue between your story and the Torah narrative.
My book is an instruction manual on how to Bible blog your life by linking your story to the Bible’s story. Bible blogging invites you to discover creative ways that your narrative relates to the biblical narrative. It presents opportunities to use your imagination for discovering how the biblical narrative provides fresh insights for seeing the spiritual dimensions of your story-line.
Seeing your life as a narrative gives meaning to it. A blog is a web log that can help you discern the significance of events in your life by joining them together in a narrative sequence. You can make spiritual sense of your life by creating a blog that tells your story through sequences of photographs in dialogue with creative texts inspired by biblical verses.
The biblical narrative is a rich and multidimensional look at an ancient world that is amazingly accessible to the contemporary reader. It brings to life fascinating people and their complex interactions that have been the source of enchantment for readers from generation to generation for thousands of years.
Although the Bible focuses on a particular family, nation, time, and place, it tells stories that resonate in the minds and hearts of people from diverse cultures through translations from the original Hebrew into hundreds of languages. But it is more than a storybook. It uses its stories to help each of us come to see humanity in its multifaceted relationships to God, spirituality, and morality. To Bible blog your life, you need to turn biblical stories into mirrors in which you can see yourself.
REVIEWS OF PHOTOGRAPH GOD
“Mel Alexenberg transforms what sounds like blasphemy – ‘capturing’ God in photographs and restricting Him to two-dimensional images – into a mystical exercise as we open our eyes to the Divinity found in our everyday lives. The book’s wonderful synthesis between spirituality and technology, heaven and earth, is exciting and thought-provoking. Photograph God is a practical demonstration of Solomon’s wisdom: ‘Acknowledge God in all your paths.’ Alexenberg’s affirmation of the spiritual potential of the Internet, blogging, photography, new technologies and social media, brings to mind the dictum of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel: ‘The old will be renewed, and the new will be sanctified.’” – Rabbi Chanan Morrison, author of Gold from the Land of Israel: A New Light on the Weekly Torah Portion from the Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook
“The narrative thinks brilliantly outside the box. It synthesizes the realm of the abstruse and transcendent with the realm of the concrete and immanent. It crisscrosses disciplines, from science and technology to philosophy and mysticism to art as both historical and creative phenomena. This is one of those books that other thinkers will wish they had somehow thought about how to write, and to which readers of diverse sorts will simply respond by saying: wow!” – Dr. Ori Z. Soltes, author of Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the 20th Century, professorial lecturer, Georgetown University, former Director, National Jewish Museum, Washington, DC
“Whether we see this book as a book of art – a mystical computer program for spiritual seeing – or a book about art – to actually see it, we must consult the beautiful blog at http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com. Mel Alexenberg is a wonderfully accomplished worker on a great project: to make art a conduit for the Divine.” – Rabbi Dr. Shimon Cowen, Director, Institute for Judaism and Civilization, Australia
“In his sophisticated and highly literate book, Prof. Alexenberg weaves in a playful way the threads between contemporary digital culture and traditional Jewish wisdom. In an original way, he invites us to connect the networked world of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, WhatsApp and Blogspot, with the concept of the unseen God.” – Dr. Yael Eylat Van-Essen, author of Digital Culture: Virtuality, Society and Information, teaches at Tel Aviv University and Holon Institute of Technology, Israel
“One of art’s most complete and compelling integrations of the sacred and profane. It reads like a swift and soulful breeze. Mel Alexenberg shows the way to the divine via digital imagery and heightened perception of its presence in the moving face of every person, place, and thing. It reads like a swift and soulful breeze. I love every “byte” of it.” – Dr. Shaun McNiff, author of Earth Angels: Engaging the Sacred in Everyday Things, University Professor, Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Photograph God strikes a balance between Kabbalah and contemporary culture. It is literate, wise, and easily accessible. Alexenberg offers us an elegant and devout example of an evolved Jewish Weltanschauung.” – Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author of God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning and Kabbalah: A Love Story
“Alexenberg proposes that text and image—something as simple as photos taken with a smartphone, and multiplied in their resonance by the internet—can be used as a consciousness raising tool, at once personal and collective. With such simple means, we can attune ourselves to the sacred dimensions of our lives from moment to moment. In fresh, clear language, he brings his detailed knowledge of Torah texts and what he calls “the down-to-earth mysticism of the kabbalah” to bear on daily life, showing how the annual round of sacred readings from that spiraling scroll provides prompts for deepening our personal and artistic practice.” – Peter Samis, Associate Curator, Interpretation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
“Menahem (Mel) Alexenberg is “tov ro’i,” “goodly of vision.” He sees godliness and goodliness in even the most mundane, and instructs others to behold that vision. We are blessed to have such a wise teacher in our midst.” – Rabbi Bezalel Naor, author of The Limit of Intellectual Freedom: The Letters of Rav Kook, and former head of institutes of higher Jewish learning in United States and Israel
“Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your LIfe gives us an amazing perspective on our own existence, especially in the age of interconnected iPhone culture.” – Prof. Michael Bielicky, Head of Department of Digital Media/Postdigital Narratives, University of Art and Design/ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
“Mel Alexenberg offers a scintillating experiment in creativity. His work is an invitation to deepen your spiritual sensibilities as you extend your imagination.” – Jan Phillips, author of God Is at Eye Level: Photography as a Healing Art
(See additional reviews of my book at http://photographgod.com.)