Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Eruv at Sodom: Community Honoring Individuality

Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

See the “Create a Spiritual Blog of Your Life” blog for all the photographs and Torah Tweets for this week’s Torah portion at http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.co.il/2014/01/numbers-7-community-honoring.html

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Balak son of Tzipor was then king of Moab….  He sent emissaries to Bilaam to summon him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt…come and curse this people for me.” Bilaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes and the divine spirit was upon him….  He declaimed his parable and said: “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel, stretching out like brooks, like gardens by a river, like aloes planted by God, like cedars by water.  Water shall flow from its wells and his seed shall be by abundant waters.”    (Numbers 22:4, 5, 6, 24: 2, 3, 5-7)

What is good and what God requires of you: Only to do justly and love kindness and walk humbly with God.  (Micha 6:8)

When Solomon, descendent of Ruth the Moabite, was king of Israel, his wisdom linking eruv and n’tilat yadayim elicited Divine rejoicing. (Talmud: Eruvin 21b and Shabbat 14b)

An eruv is a boundary integrating private properties into a joint communal domain that makes life more pleasant for Sabbath observers.

N’tilat yadayim is a hand-washing ritual performed each morning to celebrate the wonder of wakefulness and before meals to sanctify life.

An eruv creates community while n’tilat yadayim is a private act of holding up hands to reveal fingerprints that highlight individuality.

Balak is a descendent of Moab, son of Lot who separated from his uncle Abraham to live in Sodom where contempt for human diversity was policy.

We surrounded a hill at the site of the demolished evil Sodom with an eruv constructed from 7 telephone poles connected by rope lintels.

Along the hill’s ridge, 10 different hand-washing vessels created by Miriam’s students reflected the distinctive vision of each student.

Our environmental artwork teaches that the highest good is reached when we create community that honors what is unique in every person.

Creating community that pays tribute to the emergence of individuality and facilitates its free expression invites God’s highest joy.

Rabbi Avi Weiss points out that we have come full circle. Ruth takes heroic strides to embrace Abraham’s family that Lot had left for Sodom.

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.
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