Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Good and Evil


The following paragraph is from Dr. Asher Eder’s book The Star of David, which was published in 1987 in English in Jerusalem by Rubin Mass Ltd. The publication here is courtesy of Oren Mass
Good and evil are not polarities like spirit and matter or male and female. God's creation is altogether good. If there were to be an absolute evil, there would be two opposing creators and creations. The struggle between good and evil does not exist for plants and animals, which can only behave according to their innate patterns. This struggle comes with Man's unique status, expressed in his I-awareness, and his ability to gain knowledge and exercise free will. If this knowledge is partial, darkened or twisted, things will not be seen in their proper perspective. This leads to misjudgments, and these allow forces which may not be evil in themselves to draw men away from the straight path, with all the evil consequences thereof.
Men also have the ability to employ various means to darken or twist the minds of others in order to use them for their own nefarious purposes. Thus, man's natural desire for growth and completion can be directed either towards good or evil. The possibility of desiring things that are still missing (i.e. to long for completion) and to make choices in the pursuit thereof, has to do with Man's being created in God's image, destined to grow into God's likeness - or into his archetypal stature, in modern terms. In this process of growth and education, men and Mankind may make the wrong choices, go astray, commit evil deeds and suffer evil consequences, until the lessons are learned.
All this does not form good and evil into poles. Rather, the human concepts of "good" and "evil" exist in the gap between the potential embedded in original Creation and our shortcomings in effectuating it, between childhood and adulthood. Prophet Isaiah’s blunt saying that “God creates evil”, refers to the fact that we humans got free will, and thus can make wrong or evil choices). This faculty of developing and exercising free will, however, is not given to little children. It comes up in our youth, as said in Gen.8:21 where we read: “…the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”. It is only from then on that humans, although being “made upright” by the Creator, “think out many inventions”). This possibility is given to us for the sake of our ongoing learning and growth. Moses, our great lawgiver, tells us in this respect: “Thou turnest man [אנוש, the fallible man] to dejection, and sayest: return [as] children of Man [=Adam}).The evil plays its Divinely ordained role in that process. It is included in the statement that "everything that He made [including Man]... is very good)
Whether we do good or not, we always draw from the one Divine energy source. Consequently, we are responsible for its use or misuse, and are constantly confronted by God's question to Adam: "Where are you?")

Kennicott Bible

One of many Kennicott "carpet pages" 
(after the books of the prophets)


Picture of Kennicott Bible Jewish Star is courtesy of Ceramic artist Paul Barchilon.
Today I saw a calendar with a design that exited me. It showed Joseph Ibn Hayyim’s micrographic Star of David with six circles inside. It is a carpet page in the Kennicott Bible from the 15th century . May be it exited me because I had a similar idea when I made my Photoshop design of six coins with Lilium candidum. Wanting to know more about this Kennicott Bible I surfed the WWW and found Ceramic artist Paul Barchilon who was inspired by the Kennicott Bible design.
Paul Barchilon sent me today the following inspiring explanation:
The division of the circle into six is the first and most obvious division
possible with a compass. It arises completely organically and can be made
accurately with nothing but two sticks and a piece of string (the first
compass, thousands of years ago). The six pointed star (Magen David) is
hence a natural expression of geometric art and appears in many cultures.
That said, Islamic Art has more fully developed this type of decoration than
any other culture in the world. The Kennicot Torah is a product of its
environment, Islamic Spain. Southern Spain (Andalusia) was a safe harbor
for Jews in the Medieval world. Star of David patterns are found all over
the Muslim world and the Kennicot Torah follows the style of Andalusian
decoration common at that time. The Star of David only became associated
with Jews and Zionism in the 19th century, so it is a modern interpretation.
It is also interesting to note the eight pointed star that is formed by the
intersection of two squares rotated at a 45 degree angle
(http://home.comcast.net/~pbwebsite/platters/amberose.html ). This star is
called the Solomon's Seal. Legend has it that it was on King Solomon's
ring. It was likely the Arabs who named these stars and attributed them to
the father and son monarchs in the Torah. Most people don't realize that
Muslims accept all the Jewish prophets as divinely inspired, and that the
Koran actually recounts much of the old and new testaments in Mahomet's (or
Allah's voice). Respect for Jewish traditions and recognition of Jews as
People of the Book was part of Islam early on. As a Sephardic Jew, my
family's history is one of being protected from the Christians by the
Moslems. The 800 year legacy of Islamic Spain is primarily one of peace and
cooperation between Muslims and Jews, a lesson we could do well to
reacquaint ourselves with in this day and age!
Best wishes,
Paul

P.S.
Joseph Asarfati Illuminated the Cervera Bible manuscript carpet pages circa 1299-1300 in Spain. One of his carpet pages depicts two Stars of David: the one surrounding the emblem of Castilia and the other surrounding the emblem of Leon.
Joseph Ben Hayim who illuminated the Kennicott Bible in 1476, also in Spain, was inspired by him and in one of HIS carpet pages appears also a Star of David.
Portugal government issued on 20 may Jewish heritage stamp series with this image.
Joseph ben Yehuda Merwas finished in 1307 writing and illustrating his bible. At the end of Deuteronomy he drew a Star of David in a circle so that each triangle is made from two lines. Joseph Ben Yehuda Merwas belonged to the school of Spanish Jewish illustrators, same as the Kennicott bible illustrator, who also drew Stars of David.

Spirit and Matter, God and Nature

The following paragraph is from Dr. Asher Eder’s book The Star of David, which was published in 1987 in English in Jerusalem by Rubin Mass Ltd. The publication here is courtesy of Oren Mass
As mentioned, the six-pointed star may also illustrate the relationship between force and form, spirit and matter, Creator and Creation, God and Man.
This is not to imply that the Creator is outside His creation, or otherwise separate from it, even though nature reveals only part of His being. Were He separate from Creation, we would have to demonstrate this by means of two triangles, one on top of the other.
But of course, Creation as such is not God. Just as electric light is not electricity but rather a manifestation of it, Creation is merely one manifestation of God, the Creator.
The Hebrew word teva, usually rendered as nature, actually means expression. God is understood as the Prime Force, the physical universe with its laws of cause and effect being only one expression of His nature or one form of His manifestation. This being so, He can "make clouds His chariots, and walk upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. 104:3,4) or split the Red Sea (Ps. 136:13) - acts which are miracles in our eyes.
Other aspects of His infinite Being include His mercy, His severity and His forgiveness.
Mercy governed the creation of Adam, with in it severity and forgiveness are the hallmarks of the shaping of his life. God's educational process is aimed not at the suppression of nature but rather at its careful guidance, that is, until natural man attains his true and Divine nature. This idea is supported by sayings like: אני יי אלהיך" “, I am the Lord thy God; or ,"יי אלהינו" , the Lord is our God.
By relating the word elohim, to ,טבע teva, we can interpret these phrases as: "I am the Lord thy (true) nature”; or "the Lord is our (true) nature". Both these aspects of our nature are poles of one reality, Adam.
Teva (expression, nature) allows us to learn a lot about the Creator and His laws, but it is not given to us to know Him fully. He remains always above and beyond the knowable and reachable. We know some of the properties of electricity, yet no one has a satisfactory definition of what it really is. How much more presumptuous would it be to think that Man could ever comprehend God!
We may know about God
a) through observation of His Creation and its ways, which is the foremost but by far not exclusive object of scientific research;
b) through His revelations to His prophets, which are, or should be, the subject of religion;
c) through our own observations and experiences in accordance with the two preceding points.
These are the two or three pillars upon which everything is established.
All this shows us that God is imminent in His Creation, but as its Creator and Sustainer He is also above it, transcendent. This is beautifully symbolized by our six-pointed star. Its two equal triangles, although in opposite positions, are balanced and harmonious. If we consider its middle field to be our world of perception, and God as being above the fray, the small triangle above the middle field may then symbolize that part of Him which is beyond our comprehension. Though we are bound to the perceptible world, symbolized by the middle field, we are permeated by His being.
Since there is no above or below God, the other five triangles around the middle field may likewise symbolize His omnipresence and omnipotence.
As we read in Psalm 139:
"Whither shall I go from they spirit?
or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there..."
On the other hand, as we are embedded in His omnipresence, so are His laws in us:"...thy law is in my bowels...".
In fact we can exchange any one of the six outer triangles for the top or bottom triangle, and would always get the same figure of two interwoven triangles.
But since the human mind needs to speak in terms of above and below, we can see the lower point of our Star as symbolizing Man who, "out of the depths", stretches his hands toward God. All human minds are finite, so we can never fully comprehend God. But God "comes down" to meet us halfway, embracing us with two arms - law and grace - and drawing us unto His heart in harmony and peace:
This figure portrays in fact accurately the core of Jewish believe (אמונה, liter. faithfulness), as expressed so picturesquely already in Jacob’s dream. There, he saw a ladder from the ground underneath reaching up to the heavens, with the angels of the Lord ascending and descending on it; and the Lord standing above it, said: “I am the Lord, God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac…” Here, man’s yearning for the Divine met the revelation from on high.
However, we should not imagine the Lord God merely as an overpowering force from above (like a ba’al). The Hebrew equivalent for this term is אדני, Adonai. Its root word דן, dan, judge, describes the authority which establishes right (that is, the right of those who were treated unfairly). From it derives also the word אדן, eden, a base, or window-sill, that is, a kind of support (the word אדן, eden, should not be confused with עדן, ‘eden, of the Garden of Eden). Thus, the word Adonai can well be understood as Lord and Judge, as well as Helper and Supporter in whom we are, and prosper.