Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Making an Invisible God Visible in a Digital Age

The second portion of Exodus, Ve’era/Appeared, is read from the Torah scroll on Shabbat, January 9, 2016.  See how my wife Miriam and I link this Torah portion to our life together through photographs and Torah Tweet texts at

The conceptual background for the blog link above is developed in my book PHOTOGRAPH GOD: CREATING A SPIRITUAL BLOG OF YOUR LIFE  The four sections below – Inner beauty revealed, Shatter popular images of God, See KUZU as YHVH in motion, and Make an invisible God visible in a digital age – are derived from my book.


Va’era/Appeared (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am YHVH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but with My name YHVH I did not make Myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:2, 3)

We celebrated the marriage of Shmuel and Shevi this week at Kibbutz Hafetz Hayim.  Shmuel’s father Steve and Mel are first cousins.

Steve is a professor of earth sciences at Bar-Ilan University.  He earned his Ph.D. at MIT and worked for Harvard and the US Air Force.

Our photos show Steve bringing the groom to his bride and the bride’s parents escorting her to the hupa wedding canopy.

Va'era 060

Under the hupa, Shevi walks around Shmuel and Steve blesses them.  The band greets the newlyweds and the dancing begins.

“It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a compatible helper for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

The beautiful dialogue between husband and wife that draws divine light into every aspect of their lives together is revealed in YHVH.

All the divine names in the Torah are not really names of God, but rather names for levels of divine light drawn down into everyday life.

The name YHVH revealed to Moses, usually translated as “God,” should be translated as “Is-Was-Will Be.”

It integrates past, present, and future of the verb “to be” while revealing the divine attribute of inner beauty (tiferet).

Tiferet is where masculine and feminine divine attributes meet to create the beautiful inner glow shared by a loving couple.

Tiferet is the beautiful integration of successfully (netzah) creating a lifelong relationship based upon loving kindness (hesed).

YHVH as the integrating tiferet was revealed to Moses, while Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob only knew God as El (hesed) and Shaddai (netzah).


The most frequently used word in the Bible that is translated as “God” is YHVH.  Since it is made up of only vowels, it cannot be pronounced.  It is the sound of your breathing.  YHVH should be translated as “Is-Was-Will Be.”  It combines in four letters the present, past and future tenses of the verb “to be.”  When the Bible is studied in Hebrew, YHVH is read as Hashem (the unnamed name). When the Bible is read aloud in synagogue, the reader sees the word YHVH and reads it as another word, the word for Lord Adonai.

The divine response to Moses asking for God’s name is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I Will Be as I Will Be.”  God’s name is no thing, not a noun.  It is a verb that actively points to a future open to all possibilities.

Getting rid of the popular image of God is the essence of biblical consciousness.  In the Bible, Abraham is called the first Hebrew, which means “one who crosses over.”  He crossed over from popular images of God of his times shaped from clay to an imageless God that permeates all of reality and beyond.    As a prelude to the biblical story of Abraham beginning his journey away from his father’s world of idolatry, the oral tradition tells that Abraham was minding his father’s idol shop when he took a stick and shattered the merchandise to bits. He left only the largest idol untouched, placing the stick in its hand. When his father returned, his shock at seeing the scene of devastation grew into fury as he demanded an explanation from his son. Abraham explained how the largest idol had broken all the other idols.

The English word “God” is a Germanic word that often conjures up images of some all-powerful being in the sky zapping us if we step out of line.   Judaism asks us to shatter popular images of God.

The Bible admonishes us not to create graven images that delimit a God that kabbalah calls Ein Sof “Endless” and Ha’efes Hamukhlat “Absolute Nothingness.”  God is no thing, nothing, and has no name.  Different names translated as “God” are different aspects of divine light permeating our everyday world.

Abandon conceptual graven images, idols of God engraved in your mind from childhood.  Free your mind from any images of God.


The biblical passage beginning with “Hear, O Israel, YHVH is our God, YHVH is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), is written by a scribe on small parchment scrolls affixed to doorposts in Jewish homes. These mini-Torahs called mezuzot, a word related to the root zaz, which means to move. Each scroll is rolled up with the biblical text on the inside. On the outside of the scroll at the place on the reverse side of where YHVH is written, the scribe writes KUZU to set God in motion.  K-U-Z-U is spelled with each of the four letters that follow Y-H-V-H in the Hebrew alphabet. K follows Y, U follows H, Z follows V, and U follows H.  It is as if we were to write GOD as HPE, H being the letter following G, P the letter following O, and E the letter following D. In addition to moving each of the letters in YHVH forward, KUZU is written upside-down to invite us to see God in motion from multiple viewpoints.

God becomes even more active in the kabbalist’s prayer book where TDHD is added to KUZUTDHD are the four Hebrew letters preceding YHVH, as if GOD moves backwards to FNC and forwards to HPE.  YHVH spelled backwards is HVHY, pronounced havayah, meaning “existence.”  All that exists, exists within God and beyond.


How can you see a God that you think of as being invisible?  We are fortunate to be living in the digital age that gives us ways to experience invisible worlds becoming visible.  These experiences give us clues that help us appreciate the insightful imagination of ancient spiritual teachers who visualized invisible realms.  Today, what was once metaphysics has become physics.

Scientists and engineers have given us tools to see invisible realms far beyond the narrow band of light that ranges from red to violet.  The entire spectrum of visible light is only a tiny speck on an electromagnetic spectrum that extends from invisible long wavelengths like radio waves that can span our solar system to invisible short wavelengths like X-rays, a fraction of the size of an atom.

Consider that in the very room you are reading this blog thousands of events throughout the world are invisibly happening simultaneously: a baseball game in Los Angeles, a chess match in Moscow, sumi painting lessons in Tokyo, cooking lessons in Jerusalem, carnival time in Rio, a ping pong tournament in Beijing, and a bicycle race in the south of France. You may ask, “What are you talking about?  My room is quiet and empty.  The only event occurring in my room is my act of reading this blog.”

Think, however, that when you turn on your smartphone, computer,  tablet or television you can see all these events that have been silently present in your room all the time.  These events had been transformed into patterns of electromagnetic energy that cannot be perceived by your ordinary senses.  Invisible, they permeate your environment even passing unnoticed through your body.  In today’s digital world, you can tune into these invisible realms revealing them in full color.

You carry a gateway to the world through the smartphone in your pocket.   These super-phone mini-computers link you to invisible realms blanketing our planet that you can make visible with a flick of your finger.   They also provide cameras for you to document what you see by storing them as invisible bits and bytes.   Unlike photographic negatives of an earlier age where images were visible, digital technologies store images as invisible binary sequences of 0-1, off-on.   In the networked world of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, WhatsApp and Blogspot you can share these invisible images with friends worldwide who possess the magical ability to transform them into visual images.  Living in contemporary digital culture provides unprecedented opportunities, unavailable to all previous generations, to conceptualize how we can experience an invisible 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.
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