Marlene Burns: Art

The Hebrew word, chesed, is often defined as lovingkindness.

According to Kabbalah, it is one of ten sefirot: emanations or qualities of G-d.

In this visual expression, the word chesed is approached from a mystical perspective.

“Peace and Love” and “Be Kind” are not new concepts. They have ancient roots.

The Jewish prayer for peace is Oseh Shalom Bimromav

May He who makes peace on high, create peace for us and all of Israel and we say Amen.”

Daily services, as well as the Kaddish prayer, end with this powerful petition.

Thinking about the meaning of these words begs the question, “What peace does G-d make in the heavens?”

There is a Midrash that tells us G-d keeps peace between the angels Michael and Gabriel.

Michael represents chesed while Gabriel represents gevurah (strength, discipline, judgment).

Keeping the peace between these two attributes creates a balanced union.

The sefirot have assigned colors and signs.

Chesed is white, represented by water. Gevurah is red, represented by fire.

G-d uses a third attribute, tiferet (beauty, balance) to create peace between the two.

Tiferet is purple and is physically placed between them as a mediator.

Look closely, and you will see a scale with chesed and gevurah, and their colors/signs evenly balanced. 

Tiferet forms the base of the scale.

Design-wise, the flames of fire and waves of water are aesthetically similar.

Color-wise, the blues from the water and the reds from the fire create the purple of tiferet.

“Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, 

Who sanctifies us with His commandments and 

has commanded us to kindle the light of Chanukah. 

Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, 

Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers/mothers 

in those days at this season.” 

This powerful image is an expression of Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” celebrated for eight days. The menorah, our oldest symbol in Judaism, is used as the inspiration for this holiday image. A variation of the seven-branched menorah is the chanukiah, with eight branches and a shamash. The light from the candles kindled each evening helps to brighten our way as we discover the true meaning of Chanukah.

The central column alludes to the power of the great miracles of Chanukah. A small army of Maccabees overcame their enemy and restored the Temple. One day’s ration of oil lasted for the duration of the battle. The branches of the chanukiah emanate from that fiery core. They spread out from the source and return to it. This dramatic movement emulates the posture of our people as we celebrate and remember this moment in history.

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