Mel Alexenberg
Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

The Shape of Judaism

Jews need to add the story of an even greater miracle than the Exodus from Egypt retold at the Passover Seder. Liberating one nation of thousands from enslavement in one country after hundreds of years of exile and its return to the Land of Israel pales in comparison with the Zionist miracle in our time. The return of millions of Jews, the indigenous people of the Land of Israel, from a hundred countries after thousands of years of exile to live in freedom in the reborn State of Israel is miraculous.

Three times a day, in the morning, afternoon and evening prayers, Jews have cried out the Hebrew words of the prophet Isaiah during their 2,000 years of bitter exile, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, create the miracle of gathering our exiles and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land. Blessed are You, God, Who gathers in the dispersed of Israel.” The Hebrew language of prayer has come alive as the spoken language of the ingathered exiles in daily life.

What an amazing privilege for me to see my people’s prayers answered in my lifetime and to live the miracle daily in Israel with my wife and our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

crete 069

Keep the Holiday of Matzot. Eat matzot for seven days. (Exodus 23:15)

Passover is called the Holiday of Matzot, the Holiday of Springtime, and the Season of Our Freedom. The shape of round and rectangular matzot can teach us about freedom and creative rebirth in springtime. These matzah shapes give us clues to understanding the structure of Jewish consciousness. I explored these ideas in depth as professor at Ariel University in my courses “Art in Jewish Thought” and “Judaism and Zionism: Roots and Values,” and in my book The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press)

crete 077

The following is from the Torah Tweets blogart project that my wife Miriam and I created. It appears in my book Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life

Circular hand-made matzot and rectangular machine-made matzot are eaten at the Passover Seder

Circular matzot symbolize idolatry. Since words in the Torah are written without vowels, calf (EGeL) can also be read as circle (EGuL).

The idolatrous transgression of the Israelites was their worship of Ra, the sun God represented in Egyptian art as a golden circle.

Rectangular matzot symbolize slavery. The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites in the malben, meaning both brickyard and rectangle.

Mitzrayim, the biblical name of Egypt, means narrowness. The exodus into the wide expanses of the Sinai desert expanded consciousness.

From narrow straits I called out to God. God answered me with expansiveness. (Psalm 118)

As we break matzot to eat them, we break out of the box and circle, both closed forms, breaking away from narrowness of thought.

Jewish consciousness is shaped by spiral forms, from Torah scroll to DNA to tzitzit fringes to ram’s horn shofar to spiral hallah bread.

crete 122

Jews are called Am HaSePheR (People of the Torah Scroll). The SPR root found its way into the words SPiRal, SPiRitual and inSPiRation.

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.
Related Topics
Related Posts