Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Art Is a Computer Angel (Jacob’s Dream and Discovery)

The sixth portion of Genesis, Vayetze/Went away, is read from the Torah scroll on this Shabbat (Nov. 21, 2015).

See how my wife Miriam and I linked this Torah portion to our life with photographs and Torah tweets.
at&t_reportMel Alexenberg sending computer angel on circumglobal flight from AT&T building in New York (photo from AT&T Annual Report)  

Below is one of the 52 posts of the Torah Tweets blogart project that we created to celebrate our 52nd year of marriage. During each of the 52 weeks of our 52nd year, we posted six photographs reflecting our life together with a text of tweets that relates the weekly Torah reading to our lives.  See all the photographs and tweet texts at:

Genesis 7: Art is a Computer Angel

Vayetze/Went away (Genesis 28:10-32:3)

He [Jacob] had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground and its top reached up toward heaven; and behold! Divine angels were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12)

We enjoyed sitting together in the Metropolitan Museum of Art print room holding Rembrandt’s drawings and etchings of angels in our hands.

Mel painted on subway posters and screen printed digitized Rembrandt angels and spiritual messages from underground:

Divine angels ascend and descend. (Genesis 28:12) “They start by going up and afterwards go down” (Rashi) “Have you seen angels ascending from the NYC subways? (Alexenberg)

Art is a computer angel.  The biblical term for art (MeLekHeT MakHSheVeT) is feminine.  The masculine form is computer angel (MaLakH MakHSheV).

The biblical words for angel and food are written with the same four letters to tell us that angels are spiritual messages arising from everyday life.

We chose an image of an ascending angel to digitize and send on a circumglobal flight on 4 October 1989, Rembrandt’s 320th memorial day.

We sent it via satellite from the AT&T building in NY to Amsterdam to Jerusalem to Tokyo to Los Angeles, returning to NY the same afternoon.

The cyberangel not only circled our planet, it flew into tomorrow and back into yesterday, arriving in Tokyo on 5 Oct. and LA on 4 Oct.

In Tokyo, the 28 faxed sheets were assembled in Ueno Park and then rearranged as a ribbon ascending the steps of a Shinto chapel.

As we assembled the cyberangel on its return to NY five hours after it had left, TV news sent it into ten million American homes.

The AP story of our angel flight appeared in 60 newspapers each with a different headline.  AT&T featured it in its Annual Report.

For the full story and more images, see “artworks” at

In addition to ‘Art is a Computer Angel’ above, below are two other sections in my new book Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life that explore Jacob’s dream and his discovery that God (named ‘The Place’ – Hamakom) is everyplace.


“He had a vision in a dream. A ladder was standing on the ground, its top reaching up towards heaven as Divine angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12)

PaRDeS is an acronym for four levels for looking beyond the Torah text.  P’shat is the simple, literal meaning of the biblical words. Remez is a hint of innate significance. Drash is a homiletic interpretation.  And Sod is a mystical, inspirational meaning.

That a ladder is a ladder is P’shat.

That the ladder was spiral, like a spiral staircase, is the Remez.  We arrive at the spiral shape of the ladder by noticing that the numerical value of the Hebrew words for “ladder” and for “spiral” are both 130. Creative play using numerical equivalents of Hebrew letters, a system called gematriah, can lead to fresh insights.

A more contemporary Remez links Jacob’s ladder to the DNA spiral ladder with rungs on which codes for all forms of life are written with four words: A-T, T-A, C-G, G-C.   The SPR root of SPiRal is found in many ancient and modern languages.  The hand-written scroll of the Five Books of Moses is called SePheR Torah.  SPR appears in SPiRitual and inSPiRation, two words most significant in my book.

That the ladder was a metaphor for Mount Sinai reaching up towards heaven from the ground below is Drash.  Jacob’s dream was a prophetic vision of angels ascending the mountain to bring the Torah down to earth. The numerical value of “Sinai” is also 130.

The deepest significance of the ladder as symbolized in Sod  is offered in the Zohar, the major work of kabbalistic thought.  The Zohar teaches that Jacob’s ladder is Jacob’s body with his head in the clouds dreaming of what can be while his feet rest on the ground where dreams are realized.  Every human being has the potential to connect heaven and earth by making spiritual energy flow through him into the everyday world.


One of God’s names is Hamakom.  In Hebrew, Hamakom literally means The Place. “Why do we call God by the name Hamakom?  Because God is the place of the world” (Bereshit Raba).  These words penned almost two millennia ago as a commentary on Genesis teaches us that Hamakom, the Omnipresent, is everyplace. Hamakom is the spacial name for the endless God.

The biblical narrative describes Jacob coming upon a nameless place on his journey from his parent’s home to a distant place that he has never seen.  It was at that place where he stopped to sleep that he had the dream of a ladder linking heaven and earth.

And Jacob left Beersheba and headed toward Haran.  He came upon the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; and he took from the stones of the place which he arranged around his head and lay down in that place (Genesis 28:10-11).

It was in this rocky no-man’s-land that Jacob encountered Hamakom.   If God is in everyplace, how could Jacob have stumbled upon Hamakom in one particular place?  Jacob came upon a new insight rather than finding a new geographical place.  He came to realize that in the finite makom, the place where he happened to stop for the night is where he encountered the infinite Hamakom.  He began to see that God was present wherever he stopped on his life’s journey.  Jacob stumbled upon the understanding that wherever he found himself was the right place at the right time.  When he awoke from his sleep, he said “Surely God is present in this place and I did not know it…. How awesome is this place” (Genesis 28:17-18).  Jacob’s insight teaches us how awe-inspiring it is to discover God’s presence everyplace we happen to find ourselves.

Jewish tradition refers to God as The Place to signify that God is the address of all existence.  God is called Hamakom in the Talmud, the central text of Judaism’s oral tradition. We read, “Hamakom will provide you with all that you are lacking.” When consoling a mourner, we say “May Hamakom comfort you.” The 613 obligations delineated in the Torah are divided into those between person and person and between person and Hamakom.  On the eve of Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year, the congregation gathers in the synagogue. The Ark is opened and two people take from it two Torah scrolls and stand on each side of the cantor.  The three of them begin the evening service chanting the words: “With the acknowledgement of Hamakom and the acknowledgement of the congregation.”  Wikipedia translates Hamakom as “The One Who Is Everywhere.”

If you want to photograph God, focus your lens on Hamakom, The Place, anyplace where you see divine light illuminating reality.  Photograph places in nature that God creates and places that God creates through human creativity.   Let your camera collect the light reflecting from the reality shaping your life and you will find yourself photographing God.

About the Author
Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer, and blogger working at the interface between art, technology, Jewish thought, and living the Zionist miracle in Israel. He is the author of "Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media," "The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness," and "Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Judaism and Contemporary Art" in Hebrew. He was professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel, with his wife artist Miriam Benjamin.