Beginning In the Beginning

Artists Mel and Miriam Alexenberg celebrated their 52nd year of marriage by collaborating on the "Torah Tweets" blogart project. During each of the 52 weeks of their 52nd year, they posted six photographs reflecting their life together with a tweet text that relates the weekly Torah reading to their lives.

Unlike the biblical narrative that begins “In the Beginning,” a blog begins at the end. A blog displays its narrative in reverse chronological order with the most recent post appearing first. This blog was created to reverse the order of the blog posts in the “Torah Tweets” blog to begin in the beginning.

The Alexenbergs invite other couples, individuals, and families to join them celebrating their lives through creating their own spiritual blog.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bible Blog Your Life: Link Two Narratives

PHOTOGRAPH GOD: CREATING A SPIRITUAL BLOG OF YOUR LIFE
teaches how to Bible blog your life by linking your story to the Bible’s story.     

Bible blogging invites you to discover creative ways that your narrative relates to the biblical narrative.   It presents opportunities to use your imagination for discovering how the biblical narrative provides fresh insights for seeing the spiritual dimensions of your story-line.

Seeing your life as a narrative gives meaning to it.  A blog is a web log that can help you discern the significance of events in your life by joining them together in a narrative sequence.   You can make spiritual sense of your life by creating a blog that tells your story through sequences of photographs in dialogue with creative texts inspired by biblical verses.   

The biblical narrative is a rich and multidimensional look at an ancient world that is amazingly accessible to the contemporary reader.  It brings to life fascinating people and their complex interactions that have been the source of enchantment for readers from generation to generation for thousands of years. 

Although the Bible focuses on a particular family, nation, time, and place, it tells stories that resonate in the minds and hearts of people from diverse cultures through translations from the original Hebrew into hundreds of languages.  But it is more than a storybook.  It uses its stories to help each of us come to see humanity in its multifaceted relationships to God, spirituality, and morality. To Bible blog your life, you need to turn biblical stories into mirrors in which you can see yourself. 
Our grandson at the Sea of Galilee
"From generation to generation, they will dwell in the Land of Israel where the wilderness will rejoice over them, the desert will be glad and blossom like a lily.  Her wilderness will be made like Eden and her desert like a divine garden.  Joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music." (Isaiah 35:1, 51:3) 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Genesis 1: Creation of the World at Our Doorstep

Bereshit/In the beginning (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  It was evening and morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

On the first day of our honeymoon, we bought a cactus plant. On the 42nd year of our honeymoon, our daughter Iyrit bought us this cactus.
Red-leafed plants grow in front of our house.  A cat hides in the leaves between our door and a pet shop selling goldfish.

Our dog Snowball sits under our kitchen table.
Miriam frequently reads Perek Shira with its 85 “songs” of God’s creations that together create the great symphony of biodiversity.

The climax of Perek Shira is the song of the dog (KeLeV - KoL LeV - all heart).  We learn gratitude to The Creator from a dog’s loyalty.
Haim Vital’s eulogy for the great kabbalist HaAri caps his vast achievements with his ability to converse with birds.

The mysteries of Creation are best revealed through dialogue with other species. Snowball teaches us daily about these mysteries.
God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for it was on this day that God ceased for all the work of Creation for us to continue. (Genesis 2:3)

Miriam recycled one mitzva for another.  She pressed cloves into our Sukkot etrog (citron) for a sweet smell to mark the end of Shabbat.
There is no seventh image in the blog posts since Shabbat is a Non-Art Day that precludes photography. 

Genesis 2: Tree of Renewed Life

Noah (6:9-11:32)

Noah knew that the water had subsided from the earth when the dove came back to him with a freshly-plucked olive leaf in its beak. (Genesis 8:11)

A leaf symbolizes renewed life after the flood.  Without photosynthesis in green leaves there would be no life on this planet.
Miriam is fascinated by tree barks that document the renewal of life where new leaves grow out from their scars.

For a tree has hope; if it is cut it will again renew itself, and its bough will not cease.  (Job 14:7) 

We photographed an olive branch and ficus trees at the end of our street that have enchanted Miriam for years.
From clay, she formed tree-like, life-size, branchless forms with gnarls, fissures and fractures that were exhibited in a Washington museum.

Mel’s paintings of leaf cross-sections from photomicrographs were exhibited at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.
It is a tree of life for those who grasp it…. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. (Proverbs 3:18, 3:17)

The biblical story of the repopulation of the earth called for multiple ways and paths that respect human diversity.
Not heeding the divine call to honor different languages, ethnicities, and nationalities led to the disastrous totalitarian Tower of Babel.


Genesis 3: Paramaribo and Brooklyn to Petah Tikva

Lekh Lekha /Go for yourself (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Miriam was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, the former Dutch colony north of the Amazon jungle on the South American coast. 
She loved to be the first to walk on the freshly-raked sand on the floor of the Paramaribo synagogue where her father read the Torah. 

Her family made aliyah [return to the Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel] in 1949.
Six decades later, her synagogue made aliyah and was reconstructed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Mel was born in the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital (now Interfaith Hospital) and grew up in Queens.
He celebrated his bar mitzvah at his Uncle Morris’ shul on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn (now a Pakistani mosque).

We were married at a Jewish wedding hall on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn (now an African-America Baptist church).
God said to Abram, “Raise your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward.  For all the land that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever.”  (Genesis 13:14, 15)

After being married for 10 years, we made aliyah with our children Iyrit, Ari and Ron to a two-room house in an orange grove in Ra’anana.
Each morning, a milkman on a donkey cart delivered milk.  The donkey was named Simha because he was born on the Simhat Torah holiday.

From Ra’anana in the west, we moved to Mount Carmel in the north, to Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in the east, and to Yeroham in the south.
Our son Moshe Yehuda was born in Yeroham where our son Ron continues to live with his wife and six children.

Ten years ago, we moved to an apartment in Petah Tikva with a porch facing orange groves as far as the eye can see.
All the orange groves are now gone.  New buildings are rising as far as the eye can see.

Genesis 4: Paradise or Barbeque

Vayera/And he Appeared (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

Abraham rushed to the tent to Sarah and said, “Hurry!  Take three measures of the finest flour!  Kneed it and make rolls!”  Abraham ran to the cattle to choose a tender and choice calf.  (Genesis 18:6,7)

Abraham ran after a calf that ran away from him into a cave that was the burial place of Adam and Eve.    
At the far end of the cave, he saw intense light emanating from an opening.

When he came close to the opening, he found himself standing at the entrance to the Garden of Eden. 
About to enter the pristine garden, he remembered that his wife and three guests were waiting for lunch back at the tent.

What should he do?  Should he trade paradise for a barbeque?
The Bible tells us that he chose to return to the tent and join his wife in making a meal for their three guests.

Abraham realized that paradise is what we create with our spouse at home.  Other visions of paradise are either mirages or lies.
Enjoy life with the wife you love through all the days of your life. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

My wife, Miriam, and I worked together to create paradise in our vegetarian kitchen.
Adam and Eve had a vegetarian kitchen.

Spirituality emerged from our collaboration making a potato casserole for our guests.
We bought potatoes and scallions in Avi’s vegetable store and cottage cheese and grated yellow cheese in Bella’s grocery.    

We baked the potatoes in the microwave, sliced them into the baking pan and covered them with the cheeses. 
Miriam washed the scallions, cut them up, and sprinkled them over layers of cheese-covered potatoes.

After the casserole was baked, we served it to our guests.

Genesis 5: Women, Water and Loving Kindness

Hayay Sarah/Sarah’s lifetime (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

Rebecca came out carrying a jug on her shoulder.  When she went down to the well and drew water, I said to her, “Please give me a drink.”  She hurried and lowered her jug and said, “Drink, and I will also water your camels.” (Genesis 24:45)

This week’s posting from the shores of the Sea of Galilee is about women, water and hesed (loving kindness), both human and divine.
On Shabbat, we heard “Hayay Sarah,” the only Torah portion named for a woman, read from a Torah scroll in Casa Donna Gracia in Tiberius.

We stayed at a hotel built around a museum honoring Donna Gracia, a pioneering Zionist woman who convinced the Sultan to grant her Tiberius.
Rebecca’s water jug linked itself to Donna Gracia’s 500th birthday, Miriam’s well, and religious Zionist women studying the arts.

Rabbi Isaac Luria taught that after moving through the desert with the Israelites, Miriam’s well ended up under the Sea of Galilee.
Rebecca’s hesed linked itself to divine hesed today where Miriam’s well below joins rain from above to fill Israel’s primary water source.

Make the wind blow and the rain descend (recited in morning, afternoon and evening prayers during Israel’s wet winter)
Dark rain clouds hovered as we descended to Tiberius to spend Shabbat with faculty of Emuna College where Mel heads the School of the Arts.

As we checked into Casa Donna Gracia, we were greeted by a mannequin representing Donna Gracia who preceded Herzl by four centuries.
With the water level of the Sea dangerously low, we were disappointed that the rain clouds dissipated as we walked to the waterfront.

On Sunday, we drove to the east side of the Sea where egrets strolled between shells and stones at the water’s edge.
Our oldest grandson Or photographed his youngest brother Razel reaching out for the surf during their summer trip to the Sea of Galilee.

Genesis 6: Children, Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren

Toldot/Offspring (Genesis 25:19-28:9)

And these are the offspring of Isaac son of Abraham. (Genesis 25:19)
 
 
Refrigerator Genealogy:  Mel photographed our youngest grandchildren and great-grandson for this blogart project and for updating our refrigerator album.
Our offspring celebrated Shabbat Toldot at our home in Petah Tikva: 

Our son Ron, Miri and their six children Or, Yahel, Shirel, Meitav, Tagel and Razel came up from Yeroham in the Negev.
Our son Moshe Yehuda, Carmit and their daughter Elianne came from Kfar Saba.

Our daughter Iyrit came with her daughter Inbal and Moshe from across the street with their son Eliad, our great-grandson.
Our refrigerator genealogy begins with wedding pictures of our parents:  Abraham and Jeanne Alexenberg in New York and Leo and Anna Benjamin in Suriname.

The photo sequence begins with Ron, a rabbi, scientist and educator, making havdalah to mark the end of Shabbat.
It is followed by photos of Meitav (10), Tagel (9), and Razel (5) with Elianne (2) and Eliad (5) in our home.

From generation to generation, they will dwell in the Land of Israel where the wilderness will rejoice over them, the desert will be glad and blossom like a lily. (Isaiah 35:1)
Her wilderness will be made like Eden and her desert like a Divine garden; joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music. (Isaiah, 51:3)