I created this little painting the other night at the Rabbis Without Borders alumni retreat.
It draws inspiration from the Book of Esther, which is the one book of the Hebrew Bible that never mentions God’s name. However, the word “melekh” (king) appears frequently; on some versions of the scroll, each panel of parchment in the scroll begins with this word (melekh/king). Thus, God’s hidden presence is seen to fill the entire story with a motivating purpose and a pervading sense of connection between the characters and parts of the story.
I always believe that each one of us, too, can tap into a Godly energy, a Godliness, that pervades our world and allows us to experience a transcendent connection to one another and to the universe itself, even though that pervading ‘spirit’ may be invisible like God’s name in the Book of Esther itself. I wrote the word “Melekh” thus on every visible panel of the scroll in my painting, and in small black letters repeated throughout the painting – representing that often hidden spirit of transcendence.
Near the end of the Book of Esther, we find words of rejoicing still sung by Jews everywhere at the beginning of every week, words which accompany the lighting of a twisted torch-like havdallah candle to light our way into the week ahead. I wrote the words of the verse in ink around the edges of the painting, from Esther 8:16: “The Jews then experienced light, joy, happiness and precious essence [may it be so for us, too].”
The Havdallah candle on the far right of the painting (yes, sigh, I was trying to paint a havdallah candle without any painting skills) is drawing up the word ‘melekh’, king, harnessing the unseen spirit, converting it into light, joy and connection (symbolized by the orange, red and yellow colors radiating from the candle). May it be so for us, as well!